“What’s it like to travel for work?”
“Going to different cities all the time must be exciting!”
“Your Instagram feed is popping!”
“You must meet so many people!”
When I tell people that I travel for work, I think what they hear is, “I fly first class to exotic private islands, dine in five-star restaurants, and check my work email for a total of 5 minutes a day.”
I have no idea how Instagram travel bloggers dine in Michelin star restaurants every night in exchange for Snapchatting pretty photos of the meals they get to eat for free. But I can share with you what traveling for work is really like!
I travel 100 days out of the year to college campuses at different states to recruit students at college campuses and market my company’s offerings. I’ve been able to see different regions of the country and many cities that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Below, I share with you the full experience of what it’s like to travel frequently for work – the good, the bad, and the downright unglamorous:
Traveling for work is still work. You’re just doing a job in a different place. You’re still going to have to complete that report that your supervisor wants by Monday. You will be expected to answer client emails, and you will have to attend meetings via phone or Skype. That 9 am staff meeting may be 7 am for you if you’re calling in from Montana and your colleagues are in Manhattan.
Life on the road is messy, hectic, and all-consuming. If the majority of your team works remotely, you do not get a pass to hand in things late. You have to be flexible and creative and find ways to finish the job on time, even if that means working until 2 am after a 10-hour day of travel. You will learn a lot about yourself during this time.
The majority of companies will cover your meals. So be adventurous and try new things! I actually should follow more of this advice. I have the unfortunate tendency to skip meals if my flights are during meal times, and when I do eventually get a chance to sit down & eat, I usually order GrubHub to my hotel room while I pore over my work emails. But I’ve been working on making the effort to meet more people while I’m on the road, and eat out more regularly. At the end of a work meeting, I’ll usually ask for recommendations, and sometimes the person recommending the restaurant will come along with me to share a meal together.
My office has a home base in the greater Philadelphia region. Some people work in the office, whereas a smaller contingent of us are on the road 100 days out of the year.
Being a remote worker is like being an expat American. As a remote worker, you will always be just a little bit out of the loop. You will be aware of what happens in the home base office because the work that you do on the road will support the home office; however, it will be harder for you to stay on top of updates as they unfold and follow office politics.
If you’re starting a job that is 100% remote or involves a lot of travel, my advice is to make friends during orientation! Get to know as many office-based people as you can while you’re in the office, and keep up with those relationships once you start working remotely via email, web chat, or phone calls.
Depending on your company policy, you may be doing the majority of your traveling alone. Companies may not have the funds to send more than one person to a conference or business meeting, so prepare to board planes solo and request a table for one at restaurants. Sometimes it’s exhilarating and fun for me to be an independent woman making business decisions alone on the road. And other times, it gets lonely and I miss home. Harvard Business Review has a great article on dealing with loneliness during travel.
I’m guilty of skipping workouts when I’m on the road. Truth be told, when you travel for work, it’s hard to know when work begins and ends. I may leave my house at 5:30 am to catch an 8:30 am flight to make it in time to Chicago for a 12:30 pm meeting. I may have a fair (a recruiting event) until 6 pm, then a work dinner at 7 pm. I may not get into my hotel room until 10 pm. At which point, doing a 30 minute workout is the last thing on my mind! I just want to take a shower, check my work email for anything I may have missed, and knock out in bed.
Thankfully, not every day is that crazy. On days that are shorter, I do my best to start my day with a YouTube bed yoga routine and/or finish the day with a simple cardio workout like squats or jumping jacks to cleanse out my lymphatic system.
I never would have thought to travel to Pittsburgh if my job didn’t take me there. Pittsburgh is such an amazing city! I had always imagined it as an industrial, nitty-gritty city, with no sparkle. Turns out Pittsburgh is a lot more cosmopolitan (and hilly) than I would have ever imagined! While there, after my business meetings I was able to explore the profound Harlem Exhibit at the Carnegie Mellon Museum of Natural History, and even rode in a self-driving Uber!
In closing, there are so many great things about traveling for work! I meet new people and hear their stories, I have the time while in-flight to read novels, and I get to try food at cool organic, vegetarian restaurants across America. But there are also cons too: I can’t spend much time sewing, which I love to do. Not being able to sew is very difficult for me. Equally hard is missing out on family events, or important milestones in my close friends’ lives, like when my best friend from Kindergarten had her baby. Traveling for work can be a blessing, but every blessing comes with its challenges.
Do you travel for work? What are some of the best parts of being a remote worker to you? What are some of the more challenging parts?
If you don’t travel for work, did any of these things surprise you? Which ones?