I was lucky enough to have traveling parents as a child, parents who loved to see the world, no matter the cost. They took me to Seattle, England, to France, and to Japan, at an age when I was only beginning to appreciate these experiences. These travels made an impact on my life and made me choose travel – this meant interning at travel companies, writing about travel as much as I could, and spending much of my own free time and money moving around when it could have been spent elsewhere. I knew from a young age that traveling was something I had to do, always, forever, no matter what.
Since then, working at Lowfares and the more minor companies before it has been extremely rewarding. I have been to Singapore, China, New Zealand, India, South Africa, Canada, most of Europe, and deep into Brazil, whether to do travel writing, meet and discuss particulars with potential and current clients, or to go on vacation. Luckily, when I did much of my travels to other countries, I was able to write it off or use my industry connections to get discounts.
Despite this, being a travel professional isn’t always bright smiles and great experiences.
A constant, lingering loneliness can often carry with you on the road. You miss your family your friends, and even when you consider yourself a social butterfly, there is a definite disconnect from society when you approach a new friend with “Hello” and they respond with “Nee-hao!”.
My job as a travel professional has fluctuated, but through most of it, I have been a writer.
Unfortunately, this can accentuate the loneliness. When your predicament is great, you spend your time at home next to your kids, reflecting on what you’ve visited. When it’s good, you spend your time looking out at something beautiful you’ve never seen, typing. When it isn’t, you’re stuck in a dirty, mucky room with one English channel and no pictures, pounding on a laptop without an internet connection. Sometimes, this is for the best, as it can help you best reflect the murky reality of the slums of India, China and elsewhere. However, what sometimes makes for great writing also makes for an extremely depressed human being.
Takeoff is still nerve-racking, even after the 3,000th liftoff. No matter how much Superman says flying is still the safest way to travel, I don’t believe him. I’ve been through enough roller coaster flights and ridden with enough brain-dead pilots to believe otherwise.
I’ve realized that with travel, as it applies with everything, you can burn out. Travel 120 out of 160 days and you begin to wish that you didn’t have to do it so often, even if you love it. Travel is seen as a great thing because it is different, and it is different because we never do it. We have fun on Friday and Saturday nights most especially because it is such an infrequent event. If we had to drink every day for a week straight, you would most look forward to not doing the thing you loved doing so much.
But, just like that, when you take a break from the week straight of partying, you long for it again. I love travel, I just hate too much of it. The thing with being a travel professional is that sometimes you get too much.
Luckily, as I have moved onto Lowfares.com, my travel schedule has diminished and I have once again begun to enjoy waiting for baggage claim and experiencing two days of jet lag.
Really, the best bet for a travel professional is to choose your employer wisely – unfortunately, due to the high demand and small job market, few will have that luxury. Your best bet is to put in the work, become reputable, or just plain get lucky, and you will enjoy all the pluses – and so few of the minuses that come with traveling for a living.
By Alan: Ross–couldn’t agree more with this post. I travel 5-6 months out of the year for my job, and as exotic as Turkmenistan, Syria, and Djibouti might sound to friends and family, you’re right, the nature of the situation can get a little fatiguing at times.
I think another problem that many business travelers have, especially when jettisoning to international locations, is staying motivated. After a long day of work traipsing around the city, I sometimes struggle between the comfortable confines of the hotel and doing some leisure exploring. You’re right, sometimes we can get “too much travel,” but if there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that the itch, even though it’s being scratched frequently these days, will never go away 🙂
By Audrey: Although our travel/work situation is a bit different, there are certainly some similarities with what Ross wrote. I can certainly relate to trying to write an article or finish up photography editing in a dingy room with low light and a floor you’re afraid to touch with bare feet.
Anything you do too much of becomes tiring and can be a burden, even if that “thing” is usually a wonderful thing. We take breaks from regular travel – find a place to set up for a couple of weeks where we don’t do touristy things and just focus on work all day. This is necessary for projects (trying to fit in writing at the end of a day of hiking usually doesn’t work too well), but also for our sanity: to have some sense of stability for a period during our usually hectic schedule.
Other travelers often look at us as if we’re crazy – why come to Ecuador to work on your laptop all day? Sometimes they understand when we explain our work/travel situation; other times they don’t. Our lifestyle is not for everyone, just as many of theirs is not for us.
By Marina: It’s funny, before having my family, I always thought of having a job that takes you traveling all over the world. But you’re right, it’s lonely! It’s so nice to travel for the joy, rather than the work!
Now that travel is becoming part of my work, so that I can keep up with the destinations that I’m promoting, I always do it with my family. I don’t get paid for it directly, but from knowing the locations I’m visiting I’m capable of selling them better. However, I don’t know if I’d want it to be mandatory.
And I am sooooooooooooo with you! Air travel scares the sh*t out of me and I’ve put tons of air miles under my belt, and it just doesn’t ever get easier.
Thanks for this honest post. I think more people need to read the realities of life on the road for work!
By Angela: I understand where you come from, I travel a lot, but especially I don’t only visit a place, I settle for a couple of years. It’s weird, sometimes I feel unsettled and think I should stop somewhere and nevertheless I’m not able to decide to stop. I know where I want to live when I’ll stop, but it’s just not the time yet, so I live with a suitcase (two, actually), I stay two years, I make friends, I absorb the society hosting me for that time and then, once I get used to it, I leave.
I may feel lonely sometimes, but I socialize very quickly (thank god!) and I also like spending time by myself. Despite all this, I understand what you mean with your hating “too much travel”, and sometimes I wish I didn’t have such nomadic attitude!
By John Bardos: Frequent travel would be great for a year or two, but if you are traveling alone and staying only a short time in each destination, it would become too much. I guess even dream jobs get boring after a while.
By Kaitlin: Your right on the mark there Ross, travelling even though it seems like it should be different, is just like everything else.
Do it too much and no matter how much you love it, you just can’t help but want to stop and do anything else, even for a moment.
I get that way about writing a lot of the time, you know it’s great – you wouldn’t want to do anything else – but if I have to look at that blank screen one more time.
Thanks for the great post.