Traveling jobs seem to be the hot topic for most people in their 20’s & 30’s right now. I was one of those 20-somethings that wanted a job that put me on the road to see America and the world. At the age of 28 I landed my first traveling job.
About 10-15 years ago a traveling job, for most, meant either you had to work your way up the corporate ladder for 10+ years to gain that shiny role or you worked for the airlines. In today’s world, a traveling role can be obtained much easier and sooner within one’s career than ever before.
As someone who has been traveling consistently for the last 4 years, there are a few things that I wish I would have known prior to taking on such a demanding role. I do believe their is a difference in traveling for work at the age of 28 versus 32 (even in that short time span), and the below points I think will help you on your work travel journey whether you are seeking a travel job, just started or have been for several years. These are the things to know before taking on a traveling role in your 30’s.
You must keep up with your current health regimens
If you are anything like me, traveling equals vacation and vacation equals an excuse to skip the gym and my meal planning. However when you are on the road at minimum 2+ days a week, it is important that you keep up with your home lifestyle. Invest in some travel workout gear for quick in-room workouts. I have purchased exercise bands that I can pack in my luggage which helps me stay active if the hotel I am at has a limited gym or it is under construction. When in doubt, check out Pinterest for some quick workouts – Hotel Room Workouts.
When heading out for your meals when on the road be conscious of your choices and portion sizes. It is really nice to have a per diem, but that does not mean it has to be entirely spent. If you normally would not eat a steak on a Tuesday night at home, don’t order it while you are on the road. When I am at home I like to have shakes, oatmeal and/or protein bars for breakfast. When I am on the road I look for those types of options in or near my hotel versus going to the breakfast buffet and getting a waffle topped with berries and bananas (OK, some times I do this, you have to live a little right!). Bottom line, you need to be conscious with your travel choice. Create a workout and food plan when you are on the road.
You have to make a conscious effort to make those in your life feel as if they are still right next to you
This point refers to if you have a spouse or significant other. This can also apply to friends as well, but they should be understanding if you go “dark” for a few days due to work travel.
When you are away from home, it can be a challenge to stick to a normal communication schedule with your partner. If your travel schedule is anything like mine, you could be going from 7am – 8pm on a given day. Back to back office meetings, lunch meetings and then ending the day with a dinner meeting. Oh let’s not forget those coffee meetings as well. When your day is done, you tend to be exhausted and do not want to communicate any longer, well guess what….you have to.
When you are on the road for any amount of days, keep these 4 simple things in mind when it comes to communicating with your partner.
- If roles were reversed, you would want to hear from them.
- Make them feel included in your day. Send them a text about an awesome new dish you tried during your lunch meeting.
- Boost up your text message or email communication. It might be easy to shoot your partner a quick informal email just to say hi. I sent my partner song lyrics to one of our favorite R&B songs as a nice surprise. Good morning & Good Night messages are always welcomed when you are away.
- Do not go more than 24 hours without a phone call. Your partner needs to hear your voice, even if it is just for 5 minutes. Dedicating that time will show them they are a priority even when you are away.
Learn to say no
Guess what? You do not have to be at everything. But this is easier said than done, especially in the day and age of FOMO (fear of missing out). Teams are designed for you to lean on when you need assistance. I learned the hard way about committing to work travel immediately without referencing my personal obligations or consulting my partner’s schedule. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to get those frequent flier miles and hotel points, but they should not be at the expense of self-care. Learn to ask for help and delegate those things you can to others. This can also create opportunities and exposure for people on your team.
You will over-extend yourself
When you are on the road, you typically are trying to jam pack 40 hours into 24-48 hours. Be prepared to be exhausted and learn how to recover from that. I tend to hit a point of exhaustion when I have more than 3 trips within one month. If I know this is approaching, I make sure that I am getting plenty of rest prior to my time away from home. You have to prepare to travel, and that does not just mean packing a suitcase. You need to prep a day or two before for what you are going to endure while you are away.
If you are single, know that this can make it a little tougher to date
I think this one was important to include because someone once told me (this was prior to my partner), that since I get to travel to different cities I can meet so many more people. And I would like to say, this is incorrect (to an extent). Once you have been on the road for a while, the one thing you want more than anything is some normalcy in your home life. And if you happen to meet your significant other while in Chicago for work and you live in Tampa, your home life is not going to be “normal”.
Also know that if you are someone who is trying to actively date, you have to make an effort to schedule time when you are home. A schedule of someone who travels for work tends to fill up quickly because days are limited. Unlike others, being able to freely schedule after work happy hours or lunch dates, it tends to be more of a challenge. On top of that you have your family & friends to think about as well, they are going to want your time also. So it really becomes a part-time job when you are trying to meet someone. When you do find that lucky someone, make sure you refer back up to point #2, or they might not be around much longer.
You still have to find time for yourself
This might be the most important point. If you don’t remember anything else, remember this. You have to find time for yourself. When I first started traveling, I was always opened my laptop on the plane, purchases the travel internet, and started working right away the moment we hit 10,000 feet. Now I use that air or train time as time for me to catch up on a podcast, read a book, or even take a nap if I am on a early morning flight out of D.C. On the days I did not have dinner meetings, I would often eat dinner with my laptop next to me catching up on what I missed during the day. I had to learn to stop this for my self-care.
There will be limited time for yourself when you are away from home, so any chance you get to put yourself first, do it. You will only thank yourself more in the long run. If you take that nap or listen to your favorite album while traveling, it is almost a guarantee that when you arrive at your destination you will be in a much better head space. And let’s be honest, airplane internet usually is very spotty or not working. So why not do something for yourself.
Don’t forget to mix some business with pleasure
Ending on a high note. One of the best benefits of traveling for work is being able to explore new towns and cities and re-visiting some of your favorites. Every so often I like to extend my work trips to do something fun. There have been times where my partner has traveled to where I am for us to explore that city together. Trying new restaurants, seeing historic landmarks or just walking around the city, it is a big bonus to be able to travel on someone else.
You do not have to always extend your trip to take advantage of some local eats or adventures. You could plan to have your hotel next to a popular dining area or you could take your workout outside for a walk or run in the city for some site seeing before or after work. Maybe you do want to extend your trip, instead of taking that 2pm flight home, live a little and take the 9pm flight and explore the city for a few hours before you leave. The hotel will hold your luggage for you. But if you really want to enjoy yourself, wait until you accumulate enough hotel points to receive free nights at your favorite hotel chain. Now you have a free flight & hotel for a weekend in a old or new place.