You are at the airport, or maybe you’re driving someplace that isn’t very close. You have an owner presentation, or maybe it’s a construction meeting – either way you won’t be sleeping at home and chances are pretty good that you will be eating something of questionable origin at some point in the very near future. Welcome to episode 109: Traveling for Work
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Today we are going to talk about traveling for work – which should be an interesting topic because depending on who you ask, people tend to have wildly different opinions on this topic. Is it awesome? Is it terrible? Do you look forward to it, or do you dread it?
What is the Expectation? jump to 1:09
Not everyone travels for work but there is definitely some fantasy associated with traveling for work when you are young. … and that includes me. I didn’t travel – at least not to anywhere exotic – when I got out of school but I did have my fair share of road trips in those early days. Andrew started traveling for work after he bought his firm – maybe 5 years or so until it became something regular. For me, it wasn’t until my early-40s and it really only began when I started this blog and began lecturing and giving presentations.
Due to the nature of Andrew’s work, flying wasn’t even really an option so he would end up getting in his car and driving 12-16 hours in a day!! He and I have had a few conversations about the number of times he would end up driving 6+ each way to go to a remote project and attend a 1-hour OAC (owner/architect/contractor) meeting. Luckily I never had to do anything like that – but I have DRIVEN from Dallas to Big Sky, Montana (1,395 miles and 22.5 hours) and from Dallas to St. Petersburg, Florida (1,137 miles and 17 hours). In both of those instances, we were bringing a large model with us as part of the design presentation and my boss at the time liked to drive.
The work-to-vacation ratio is typically not in the percentages that people are hoping for when they imagine how their work travel is going to go but that doesn’t remove any of the initial enthusiasm. Andrew and I spend some time on the podcast talking about why there seems to be less enthusiasm for work-related travel as you mature into your career.
Types of Travel jump to 5:07
There are a lot of reasons why an architect would head out of the office and not all of them are project specific. For both Andrew and myself, at the beginning of our careers pretty much the only reason to leave the office was to head out for a client meeting or visit a job site but as we became more involved in teaching and for me specifically, the opportunities this website has brought me have become the bulk of why we leave the comforts of home.
These days I tend to compartmentalize the type of travel I do with project-specific travel, and then there are lectures, conferences, and conventions. Once I started Life of an Architect my travel schedule was drastically impacted. While I didn’t consider this blog “social media” I will concede that my travel obligations had more to do with being an “architecture social media influencer” (yes … that was a gross sentence for me to write – probably far worse than you having to read it). This sort of travel still happens but not nearly as much because truthfully, I am over it … unless it’s something that can impact me as a human being and add to my life experiences bucket (i.e. going to Vegas ain’t it).
Should I be surprised that when I think of any sort of convention or conference travel, Andrew is typically right there with me? This goes back almost ten years and because of the podcast, I know that he and I can count on visiting a few conventions a year – but there is one main difference now from how these trips went 10 years ago. Originally we just entertained one another and had a convention buddy so that you didn’t have to go to things by yourself – but these trips are almost always dedicated to doing some sort of podcast or blog site work. As a result, they simply aren’t as fun or “recharging” as they used to be.
Is it worth it?? jump to 9:44
Getting out of the office is probably one of the biggest upsides to work travel. Change of scenery, not staring at a computer screen. Michelle and I used would travel quite extensively for no other reason than because of what she did for a living. She traveled every week for work and as a result, she racked up frequent traveler bonuses for everything – airplane miles, hotels, rental cars – and she had status at all of these places. The idea that we would go to London for a 3-day weekend wasn’t a big deal because we didn’t have to pay for anything other than what we ate and how we entertained ourselves. It might have taken a bit of the enthusiasm out of me when it came to work-related trips since it wasn’t even close to the best sort of traveling opportunities presented to me.
There is also the ability to unplug a bit while you are at of the office and singularly focus on a single project. This is definitely more true when you are young or if you are working on a large project and don’t have ten other projects that you are working on. A change of scenery can be an incredibly valuable tool to recharge – which is particularly valuable in creative industries – and just heading out for a few days is sometimes all you need to hit that reset button.
I don’t know how we can talk about traveling for work without acknowledging that there is a “scoreboard” aspect to it when you get so tell your buddies that “I’m going to [fill in the blank] for a few days, enjoy checking those shop drawings at your cubicle!” Young people definitely see it as a reward and neither Andrew nor I are so far removed from those days that we can’t recall the excitement of the possible adventures associated with leaving the building and heading out of town.
Let’s Discuss the Reality jump to 17:10
What I find somewhat amusing is that I fantasized more about how awesome traveling for work would be when I was younger, but the reality of that idealized work trip was never what I had hoped. Fast forward 20 years and now a far greater percentage of my work travel now resembles those idealized trips. I suppose like almost all things in life, there is good and bad that can occur simultaneously – the good is definitely better, but the bad is equally worse.
As I sit in my office writing this post, I feel like I am focusing on the negative even though my travel experiences are typically the main source of my adventures these days. I am still a fan of getting out of the office, but I simply can’t bring myself to recognize it as much other than “working remotely” … but without all your normal stuff that makes your tasks a bit easier. Sitting at a desk in a hotel room working on a laptop isn’t awesome – there’s really no go way to spin it.
Most of the time when I am doing project-specific traveling, my days are really, really long. The idea that I have traveled to meet with a client and spend the day presenting ideas, visiting the job site, and generally focusing on that single project – that part is awesome and I almost always love it. What I don’t love is that I still have a half-dozen projects going on and I know that when I call it a day and leave my client and head back to the hotel (typically after dinner) I know that I have a few hours of work still to accomplish before my head hits the pillow. Am I complaining? Maybe a little – enough to acknowledge that it isn’t awesome, but hopefully not so much as to convince me to quit doing it.
What the Rank jump to 53:27
In my continuing effort to rank something other than food, we decided to go in a different direction. We will also acknowledge that the answers to today’s question is highly dependant on where you live. So what are we ranking?
[drum roll please]….
What are the Worst Three Months of the Year?
|Andrew’s Worst 3 Months||March||February||August|
|Bob’s Worst 3 Months||July||August||February|
It appears that the weather was the largest determinant factor in the rankings. There was some agreement on the worst months, which is surprising, but they were mostly based on the weather of those terribly hot months! Then just by pure happenstance, we both agree that February is not a good month. We cited the shorted number of days, the ridiculous magic that adds a day every 4 years, and again some of the weather issues. Interestingly enough, neither of us really used holidays, family birthdays, or any truly personal information as a consideration for our choices. (if you are my daughter, apologies that I put your birthday month on my list of terrible months …)
Ep 109: Traveling for Work
Traveling for work can take many different forms, and it will definitely evolve over your career. Andrew and I both agree that it is usually a positive experience and definitely a positive part of working. So when you get the chance to hit the road (or skies), take the time to enjoy what you can and take stock of the good parts of any work travel. It may not all be glamorous and fantastic, but there is still always something worth your enjoyment. In those rare instances where there is not any positive, just be appreciative that you got the opportunity to get out of the office and away from your desk!