How often do you travel?

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is how much work-related travel I feel okay with, and this has me wondering about the work-related travel of Dynamic Ecology’s readers. This is surely influenced by lots of factors, including career stage, family responsibilities, and enjoyment of travel.

For me, I traveled fairly little as a grad student. I went to one meeting per year, for the most part (sometimes two). I went on the job market as a postdoc, and so did a lot more traveling then. As a new faculty member (before I had kids), I still went to 1-2 meetings per year, and then usually did a couple of seminar trips on top of that. Over time, the number of seminar/talk invitations has increased, and I generally say yes, because I find it enjoyable to visit other departments, meet with people, etc. And, to be honest, sometimes I say yes even if I feel a little overwhelmed with travel, because I’m pre-tenure. But my tenure dossier goes in this summer and I now have two kids, so I know that I need to cut back some on travel. I’ve agreed to three work-related trips for the summer and two for the fall already. That’s a lot!

Right now, I’m trying to decide what is the right level of travel for me at this career and life stage, and I’m wondering what others do. Currently, I think I might start aiming for one trip per semester (including summer), which would mean 3 trips per year.

So, my questions for you:
1. How much work-related travel do you do?
2. What is your career stage?
3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
Please answer in the comments!

32 thoughts on “How often do you travel?

  1. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?

    Probably amounts to 6 (ish) wks per year – 1 (ish) week for conferences; 2 -3 weeks field work, 2 (ish) weeks for other reasons (invited seminars, etc)

    2. What is your career stage?

    Assoc. Prof. – 10 years after getting hired at McGill

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?

    Yes, three kids, very busy family life

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?

    A GREAT deal – I was away a lot more before having kids. I used to do more conferences but have now largely eliminated conferences from my travel schedule in favour of field work (i.e, that was the trade-off I made).

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?

    It is “OK” as is – I think more than 6 weeks is too much for me. Especially b/c of (3), above – family, etc

  2. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    For the last three years, I’ve been averaging once per month. And it is exhausting but fun!

    2. What is your career stage?
    This is a weird British thing – but I am a research fellow, which I suppose is the equivalent of pre-tenure.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Nope, just a dog and a really great dog-sitter (thanks Helen!)

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    Less than what I’ve been averaging, but not by much. I hope to level out at 2 conferences, 3 seminars, and 2 collaboration-building trips per year. That seems just about doable for me.

  3. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    I’m away for maybe six to seven weeks per year, including fieldwork, a few cumulative weeks from conferences, working groups, seminars, field course.

    2. What is your career stage?
    Assoc. Prof.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Yes – one kid.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    I’m traveling a lot less compared to what I’d be doing if I didn’t have parental responsibilities and joys. I actually travel as little as I think is necessary, even though it’s a lot I keep is as low as possible. My research site is in a different country, so this necessitates being away from home. This year, my kid is tagging along with me for part of my fieldwork for the first time. I time it so that it’s as non-disruptive as possible, and also I have a spectacular spouse that handles things when I’m away. She travels a couple weeks per year for work, which isn’t as much as me, and I realize I’m blessed in this arrangement.

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    A conference or two per year, and a ton of it, fieldwork and seminars visiting new people and places. There won’t be too much of it until my kid leaves for college, which is still many years away.

      • Well, parenting permeates everything we do, yeah, but travel is the hardest. I’m wondering how being at the field station as a parent will work, I haven’t done that as a solo parent before. I’ve seen others do it, with varying levels of success. I just hope my kid likes being a tech part-time. 🙂

      • My daughter’s daycare teacher reported that she did a great job of pipetting water yesterday. Apparently this was related to painting with water colors, but I am choosing to believe that it is that they are preparing her for future lab work! 🙂

  4. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    I work throughout a few-state region, so “traveling” is sort of relative. A project site or meeting might be 30 minutes away or 2 hours away, warranting a hotel stay for work that will take more than one day. Last year I spent weekdays for 2 months in a different state, traveling Mondays and Fridays to/from the project sites. I also went to 1 extended weekend class and 1 weeklong class.

    2. What is your career stage?
    Early-career environmental consultant.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Nope.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    N/A

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    At this point I don’t mind traveling too much, but I also don’t have much holding me down. The being away M-F for 2 months was a drag, but mostly because the travel involved 5 to 8 hour long car rides twice a week. Yag.

  5. 1. If you count PhD vivas. external validations, conferences, committe meeting etc then I guess work related travel is about 40 days a year

    2. Full Professor (33 years since PhD awarded)

    3. Seven kids, but now all grown up – youngest 20 still at University

    4. It did when they were younger, although I probably still did about 10-15 days a year

    5. Certainly less than I do now!

  6. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    Way too much and I keep getting asked to do more. Right now I think I’m around 2 months/year and next year I agreed to a lectureship that requires a guarantee of at least 6 trips. And that’s without a major fieldwork program going right now, but I will need to build that too! I’m involved with a distributed center, a few long-distance collaborations, an international panel and go to 2-3 conferences and give lectures.

    2. What is your career stage?
    Assistant Prof, halfway to tenure decision

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Yes. I didn’t travel my child’s first year, but since then it’s been a bunch. Thankfully he’s not in school yet and my hubby is a SAHD, so sometimes we just all travel together. My son’s been to great zoos and museums while I’m working.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    Yes. I joined twitter so I could “experience” conferences without going. I still travel too much. I try to say no to things that don’t benefit me in more than one way. (ie: I’m more likely to give a seminar in a town where I have family or friends that I can visit!)

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    A lot less than I do now, but my field is interdisciplinary and I feel like I can’t let things pass me by, so I do it. When my son starts school I may have to rethink things, but I’m really lucky my family can travel with me if it’s close!

    • I think it’s really interesting that that’s why you joined twitter! Last summer, I didn’t go to ESA or Evolution, and I definitely enjoyed being able to follow some of what was going on at those meetings via Twitter.

      We haven’t tried the whole family going on a work trip thing yet, but we might try that for a short trip I have planned for the fall.

  7. Wow, some of you travel a lot!

    I don’t travel for field work — I discovered, while living in Georgia, that I really don’t like traveling to do field work. And, here in Michigan, I don’t need to, which is great. If I did need to travel for field work, that would definitely make the travel time add up in a hurry!

  8. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    As a Masters student I went travelled to one conference in a total of 2.5 years
    As a PhD student I spent 10-12 weeks per year travelling for work for 3 years. The amount was so much because I was part of a EU Marie Curie Initial Training network, which involved collaborating with people spread all over Europe.
    2. What is your career stage?
    Just finished my PhD and back in the US.
    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    No
    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    One week of travel during my masters was way too little and there were not many opportunities to meet with other ecologists working on similar topics. The travelling during the pHD was an amazing opportunity and was a huge net positive on my research, but I imagine 12 weeks a year would probably be too much to do throughout my career. Six weeks would probably be optimal.

  9. I don’t really have enough data points to talk averages, so my response applies only to this year (2013)

    1. How much work-related travel do you do? ~2 months: 1 week for a conference and 7 weeks of field work in Siberia.

    2. What is your career stage? Very early career; I finished undergrad in 2012

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)? Nope

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel? n/a

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel? Lots. I love traveling and try to take every opportunity I can. Obviously this is made a lot easier by the fact that I am not a real adult and don’t have, like, lots of responsibilities and stuff.

  10. Amazing! I was just thinking about that, while waiting here for my flight…

    1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    One trip a month. In January/February, the “defense season” in Brazil, I travel more often.

    2. What is your career stage?
    University professor (1st level) since last year.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    One kid and a spouse.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    Yes, for sure. I say no to most invitations, in order to spend more time at home with my family.

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    I really enjoy giving talks and courses at other universities, as well as participating in conferences and doing collaboration in person. However, the ideal level for me would be half my current traveling; but it’s been hard to cut down even more.

  11. 1. I go to ESA every year. My wife takes our son and visits her folks during that time, I join them after the meeting. That’s my one guaranteed trip, other trips are targets of opportunity. I’ve gone to Evolution a couple of times in the past few years when the location has been convenient, but most years I don’t go. Some years I’ll get invited to give a talk, some years not (which is too bad, because I really enjoy doing them). I was involved in a working group for a while, but that’s done now. This fall I’ve got my eye on a very small workshop in Banff (so, close by), and I’ve been invited to come to China at some point. So some years just ESA, some years ESA plus a couple of other trips.

    2. Tenured associate professor (since 2009)

    3-4. Our son is 2. I suppose it restricts my travel, although I am spoiled in that my wife is happy to structure family vacation in Aug. around the ESA. But my relative lack of travel is overdetermined. I don’t get many invitations to give talks, or serve as an external examiner at other universities. And even before our son was born I just never made much effort to seek out smaller meetings to attend. ESA has always been my one meeting, and I’ve grown to love it over the years. I love that everybody I know is there, and that without even trying I can fill a whole week full of great science and hanging out with friends.

    4. My ideal level of travel is probably a bit higher. I’m getting an urge to seek out more small meetings to broaden myself and have extended interactions with people. And I do wish people invited me to give more talks. But given my teaching schedule, location, and family responsibilities, even if more opportunities for travel came up, I’m not sure if I’d be able to take advantage of them or not.

  12. 1. Not as much as I’d like, maybe one conference per year where I stay overnight for 2-3 nights. I hardly have to do any overnight travel for work itself, one thing I’ve always wished I had more of.

    2. Mid-level wildlife biologist at environmental consulting firm.

    3. Yes, 2.5-year-old twins that keep my wife and I VERY busy!

    4. Not really, since my current job never really required me to travel that much before having kids. I know a lot of people complain but how much travel their job requires, but it’s one aspect I wish I had more of in my job, simply for the sake of seeing new places with different vegetation types/wildlife than I’m used to, finding fun places to eat, etc.

    5. 2-3 trips a year of 2-3 nights each.

  13. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    -Last yr I traveled for 2 interviews, 2 conferences, 1 wk field work, 1 grant panel. My new position has much less travel due to gov’t restrictions, but hopefully 1 conference.

    2. What is your career stage?
    -Postdoc

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    -Yes

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    -I have 1 child, I didn’t travel the 1st year. The 2nd yr my husband and I went to same conference (I found the family conference thing to be very stressful and distracting). I have since traveled alone, and as a postdoc I feel like I have to accept any chance possible to travel, but luckily I don’t have to travel much for field work.

    I’m currently wondering how the hell I could possibly do any of this as a single parent w/o family near by.

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    -I think 4 or 5 traveling events a year is about my max. The prep for travel and decompressing after a trip can be pretty disruptive to my work & home schedule.

    • I’ve been noticing lately that, in the period leading up to a trip, I start thinking maybe it was a bad idea to agree to it because I feel overwhelmed with juggling things. But then I go and inevitably enjoy it. I need to remind myself of that, so that I stop being anxious ahead of time!

  14. 1. Counting both over night stays (inside and outside the country) and trips that take up a whole day in the UK, probably 5 to 6 weeks a year on average at the moment. It’s always varied a lot though; in the past I’ve done field trips of 3 to 4 weeks in Africa and South America, whereas at the moment many of my trips are for examining PhDs etc. One of my constants for the last 12 years is to lead a student field trip to the Canary Islands each April. As well as being great experience for the students I’m building up some great data sets.

    2. Full Professor (in the UK system) since summer 2012. PhD completed 1993.

    3. Yes, 3 “kids” aged 22, 18 and 15, plus a stepson (19). And 2 cats and 5 chickens which also need to be factored in 😉

    4. Yes, it’s added constraints to what I’m able to do, but that has become less so as the kids get older and more independent. But I’ve tried to take them along on field work or conference trips when I can. And just after my PhD I travelled across Australia, New Zealand and California for 9 months, part holiday but part collecting data, giving seminars and interacting with other ecologists. That was with my ex-partner and our 3 year old daughter (I don’t recommend having a kid when you’ve just started a PhD, but it’s not the end of the world either!) I took my eldest kids with me on five weeks of field work in South Africa in 2000, paying the expenses of a couple of grad students to (a) help with data collection; (b) help with the kids! That worked well but was tiring! Got a very well received paper from that work though, with the kids thanked in the Acknowledgements 🙂 Last year I took the family to Tanzania on a TBA field course which also worked well, by and large.

    5. Probably what I do at the moment or slightly less. I’ve (reluctantly) turned down offers of trips to Mexico and China in the recent past because my travelling started to get a little silly. It may increase sharply over the next couple of years, however, as my department has committed to delivering courses in Nepal, India and Kenya and I’ll be part of the “flying faculty”.

  15. 1. 4 to 5 weeks of fieldwork. Occasionally, an extra week for a conference or meeting. Possibly 2 weeks for teaching a field course. I guess it adds up to around 4 to 8 weeks.

    2. Lecturer

    3. Yes, two sons.

    4. Yes! A lot! When my sons were babies, I’d bring them along (to meetings, conferences, fieldwork…). Now that’s more difficult, so I try to minimize time away (I rarely go to conferences and meetings). I think there will be a time in the future when I get to bring the boys along on fieldtrips again, but the toddler/pre-school years are difficult for that I think… I have an awesome husband, though, who makes both the kids coming along and me going away possible.

    5. I love traveling, so I hope to be able to juggle things to keep this up or maybe even increase traveling time if I can.

  16. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    During the recent field season (2009-2011) I was away for three months each year and travelled home every 2 weeks (5 hours each way) for 2 days to visit home/husband (except when I was in a remote fly-in only areas). CBC kept me company for many hours on the road! Outside the field season 2-3 trips/year for conferences and 2-3 trips for contracts/outreach talks.

    2. What is your career stage?
    Final year PhD.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    No children… yet.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    After 10 years of fieldwork I don’t think I want to be away from home/husband for months at a time anymore – but I hope to always be able to get into the field for 2-3 weeks/year or more if I can take advantage of local study sites. Once children are the picture I think the ideal would be 3/4 trips a year with the ability to take husband/kids on 50% of the trips. I travelled a lot as a child and it was one of the best gifts my parents gave me, thus I hope I can do the same with my children!

  17. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    Currently about a half dozen short (five days or less) trips per year.

    2. What is your career stage?
    Ph.D. student. End-stage.

    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Yes! A three-year-old reduces travel. An academic husband increases travel. I am no longer physically located at the university where I am enrolled (so as to accommodate his post-doc and keep our family together in one place), so I need to travel back to my university occasionally.

    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    Yes! Yes! It influenced what work I’ve done as a grad student. I decided I couldn’t do far-flung fieldwork and be parent to a baby, and so nixed working in the Serengeti. I haven’t done any major traveling in three years — just conferences and workshops and so forth. I traveled not at all my kid’s first year of life, only once his second year, and a bit more his third. I try not to take more than one trip every month or two, and I try to keep them short. I also have to coordinate with my husband’s travel schedule, which sometimes makes things tricky.

    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    I get antsy when I haven’t traveled in a while, and get burnt out when I travel too much. Ideal for me (pre-parent) was one big (2 weeks +) per year plus a few smaller trips. Now ideal is maybe one 2-5 day trip every three months — enough for some variety and escape and idea-exchange, but not so much as to throw the homefront into chaos.

  18. At the last few conferences I’ve been to (AGU fall meeting, ASLO, etc) I’ve seen lots of people with kids. I try to give them smiles and nods – and if working at a booth the kids get stickers! And when inviting seminar speakers I try to ask if we can help make things more family/kid friendly. I think (as a young parent myself) it helps to try and set the tone. I’m bringing a speaker to town and he let me know his wife and kid would join him – I happily booked him a room at a hotel with a great pool. Another speaker asked if we minded that he stay with his brother that lives locally – it’s always great to think that work travel can also be fun with family.

    • Asking seminar speakers about making things more family/kid friendly is a great idea! I will have to start doing that. Thanks for the idea!

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  21. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    This year, a lot: going to 2 overseas conferences (one after the other basically; = 3 weeks total), one day only at another within-country-but-international conference, two national conferences of 3 days each that serendipidously were both in my hometown otherwise I would not have attended, and one more out of town national conference for 2 days. This is a lot for me, but I have skipped almost all conferences for the past two years so I’m doing a catchup this year with an eye to networking and new collaborations.
    Field work has got less and less at the moment unless we work it in as a family, but if I can replace that with some lab work I don’t mind too much. To start with, though, when my kids were first born I missed it hugely. It was an enormous change, and I felt really lost about it.
    2. What is your career stage? Early career (7 years post PhD), but no tenure in my very enjoyable research job- its totally reliant on soft money, hence the emphasis on networking given the big financial closedown in science funding which currently permeates our country
    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    Three kids.
    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel? Strongly – both PhD plans (essentially, no fieldwork possible while breastfeeding each child) and all fieldwork and travel plans since. I was also primary/sole caregiver for several years which was hugely difficult and I went nowhere during this time. Had a very understanding mentor. Having said that, all my children are accomplished in the field, as they have acted as field assistants on weekends and holidays for a number of years. However, there are only some types of field work I consider suitable for them. I look forward to doing more, varied fieldwork when they leave home!
    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel? Without family (child) obligations, I could easily spend two-three months in the field. Perhaps one-two conferences/yr, and other day trips for PhD examinations, meetings etc.

  22. 1. How much work-related travel do you do?
    This post led me to calculate an average over the course of my PhD – about 8 months over the four years. Half of that was a 4-month visit to Tasmania in what my advisor calls an “internship” (and what I call “Awesome!”)
    2. What is your career stage?
    Last year of PhD – 2 months of fieldwork planned, heading North at the end of this month.
    3. Do you have children or other major family responsibilities (e.g., care of a parent or sibling)?
    No. And no plans to ever have such responsibilities.
    4. If you answered “yes” to 3, has that influenced how much you travel?
    5. What do you think is your ideal level of travel?
    More. I travel for fun every chance I get, typically at least a long drive every week (my “Sunday Drives”). So far this year my GF and I have been pretty good about getting in one good trip each month, of at least 2 nights away from home. Doubling that, plus longer trips (a month or two) once or twice a year would be ideal.

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