Business Travel

I know that I’m lucky to have seen so much of the world, but you know what? That still doesn’t make business travel enjoyable.

This blog entry is brought to you by the “friend” who seems to think that I’m ungrateful for the chance to be going to a conference in Europe later this year.

Oh wow! You must be so excited to get to travel to [insert country here]!

Eh, not especially. I’ve been there before and I don’t really care. It’s work.

That’s so selfish. How can you be so ungrateful?”

Yeah, no. Aside from the fact that I’ve already travelled around most of Europe on holidays before and I’m kind of over it, this is a work trip.

This is perhaps something that only business travellers truly understand: it’s mostly boring long hours on planes and in airports, there’s tedious, tight, and overloaded schedules, and it’s tiring. After spending about 32 hours in transit, I arrive on Sunday afternoon at 2pm, the conference opening is at 4pm, goes till 8pm, and then the conference proper starts at 8am Monday morning. Business travel means getting off the plane and hitting the ground running. You don’t get the luxury of a couple of days to get over the jetlag. You’re then in meetings and presentations all day and all night from Monday to Friday, so you have to be on your game the entire time. Then it’s back on the first plane home on Saturday morning, get home Sunday night, and back to work again 8am Monday morning. You don’t get any time to recover from jetlag once you get home either.

Not to mention that constant business travel is notorious for destroying relationships. I am lucky enough to have a partner who understands this, because they’re in a similar situation with their job. However for those with a partner who doesn’t really get it? For those with kids at home? I’ve seen business travel tear relationships and families apart. Your family doesn’t get to go with you on these trips, you’re usually alone. I think people romanticize business travel and think they’re going to get to go see these places with their friends or family. You don’t. If you’re lucky you might be travelling with a work colleague. But most of the time, it’s lonely. Make sure you know how to use Skype – assuming you’re actually lucky enough to be staying somewhere that has wi-fi.

I don’t especially like the place where the conference is being held, but a conference is a conference, and as an academic, I do need to attend at least one major international conference every year. Not only to disseminate the results of my research to the scientific community, but to network and hit people up for jobs and funding.

So yes, I get to go to Europe – and all I’ll get to see is airports, train stations, the hotel, and the convention centre. And before I’ve even recovered from the jetlag, I’ll be on a plane home again.

And sure, I get to go do fieldwork a few times a year. But that’s not any different. I’ve had people tell me how much fun it must be to travel to such exotic places…Trust me, it loses its appeal really quickly when there’s no toilets, no showers, the food is barely edible, and you’re out in the bush or jungle 12 hours a day. Don’t kid yourself, just because I might get to go to Africa for work sometimes, doesn’t mean I get to go play safari.

Despite what some people seem to think, I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity to travel for my job. But business travel isn’t this luxurious lifestyle that some people seem to think it is. Most business travellers see little of their destination other than the inside of airports and hotels.

Yes, I know… #firstworldproblems

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