Sunday, January 29, 2012

Do you really want to travel for work?

People say to me that they really want a job that involves travel - like being a lawyer or accountant that just happens to have frequent interstate and overseas work. I ask them why on earth would they want that?

Getting paid to travel for work is downright exhausting. Instead of getting up and going to the office, you have to get up at 4am, pack your bag with everything you might need and be super organised, get to the airport and go through the mind-numbing security and airport check in. Wait in no man’s land with crappy places to eat and shop before getting on a cramped plane, getting to your destination, taking a cab to a generic hotel room, and then having to spend all you time in that new location/country with work people who you wouldn’t hang out with under normal circumstances.

You might get a day off to explore the city, but how much can you really see in one day? By the time you get home after a few days you're totally exhausted, have mountains of work and email to do, missed your partner and friends, missed your regular exercise and classes and meeting your friends, and have to unpack your bag and do the pile of washing you have amassed on the trip. It is not that fun, it's not cool; it's exhausting.

You might briefly see a new place, but at the end of the day you are alone in a hotel room, and that is just depressing.

Travelling for work can sometimes be ok

There can be good things about travelling for work, and those good things depend entirely on how nice your employer is, and if your colleagues happen to be your best friends I suppose.

I had a good run at my job in Australia - I would travel every 3 months or so with work all over Australia and my boss would not mind me spending the weekend once I was there.

On Friday I would check out of the 4 star hotel, work from the local office for the day, then check into a backpacker’s hostel in the evening, and start exploring. I went scuba diving off Rottnest Island near Perth, spent a long weekend on an amazing tour of Uluru, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta, saw a Xavier Rudd concert in the rainforest of Kuranda, scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and saw friends in Melbourne for a weekend. All without paying for the airfares to get there.

I was indeed quite lucky - I had a nice boss that thought it is better for me to explore more of my country, and it didn't effect my work. I got to spend more time with my colleagues in the local offices. I saw more of my incredible country. If you have a boss like that, and work in a company that understands flexibility, then you are lucky, and it's not so bad to travel that way.

What you REALLY want is the time and money to travel

The best kind of travel is when you get to choose where you are going, and when, and who with.

And if you have a location-independent business, you can work on a project from an apartment in Buenos Aires for a few days to earn money, and then get to go out and meet people you want to spend time with. There a people right now renting apartments in Bangkok for 3 months and working, then moving on to Berlin for a few weeks – they work along the way in their location-independent business, and explore the world as they do so. It must be distracting to be working in such diverse environments sometimes, but I think I would be incredibly motivated to make it work to maintain such an exciting and inspirational lifestyle.

 THAT IS the way to travel.

I'm writing this from my parent's in law's apartment in Hod Hasharon, Israel, after a huge Saturday lunch. Later this year I'll write to you from a hostel in Cape Town, South Africa. Next year I hope to be writing to you from beside my parent's pool on the Gold Coast in Queensland. And after that, well, who knows... Here are some ideas I have for where I’d like to work from:

  • an apartment in Paris
  • a boat in the Galapagos Islands
  • Sharm El Sheik on the Red Sea in Egypt
  • a B'n'B in the Trossachs in Scotland
  • an onsen in Japan.

I think about these places and I get so excited, I start thinking about how we will find cheap airfares, find the perfect short-term apartments, eat delicious food, see beautiful landscapes, meet interesting people, and constantly be inspired by what surrounds us. I've learnt more about myself, people and the world travelling than I have in any other way.

Where do you want to work from in the world?

Me at Uluru in 2008. Yes, I am holding a beer.


  1. Hi Jo - excellent article! I have very mixed feelings about work travel. There are a lot of places (eg. Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and southwest WA, Phillip Island, Colombo, Phnom Penh) that I'd never visited until I went there for work trips. So I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to go there - and have revisited most of those places in subsequent holidays. That said though, work travel can be MIGHTY stressful. Like you, I'm working toward a point where I can become freelance and telework from anywhere. A farmhouse in the French countryside is sounding good right now ...

    Keep up the good work ;-)

  2. Absolutely loved the post! You are so right Jo, I don't want to travel from work, I just want to travel! I also sympathize with what you wrote about discovering yourself. However, for me at least, it's not about descovering myself, it's about letting myself be ME! I hardly get to do that at work, but when I travel, everything seems to fall back in place. Well, guess I haven't been living the life I should have, at least now I know what I gotta do ;) the hardest bit at this point is to discover how to get there...
    Be big in Japan!