Tuesday, September 17, 2013


It has been real enlightening getting advice from people in the "know" with respect to work travel.  And as it often happens, further understanding of one another has paved the way for deeper friendships. 

In case you missed it in the comments, here's a real time description from psychsarah (Thanks again!):

"I'm probably not the best person to ask, as my husband has always traveled a fair bit for work. We even chose to live apart for about 1.5 years so we could both advance our respective careers. Now DH travels about 50-75% of the time during busy season and maybe 40-50% during the "off" season. I didn't love it but it was ok before we had our son. Now I find it very challenging when he's away for more than a couple of days (and we're expecting our second child in the new year, which I suspect will only make things more challenging). What ended up happening before kids was that I designed my life to do all my outside socializing/activities the weeks he was gone (i.e., meet friends for dinner/coffee/exercise) and spend time with him when he was home. I cooked the food I liked and he didn't when he was gone, and made the bet of it. We spoke every night on the phone (same as when we lived apart) and in some ways, this is more intensive communication than couples sometimes have living in the same house, as they don't make a point of it. It's definitely not for everyone, but you can make it work. Facetime/Skype also helps a lot. If it's sheer misery, after a year or something could you reconsider the move to cut down on the travel? When we lived apart, we thought we'd do 2 years and then I'd try to find something where he was, but after a year, we were both very "done" and he started seeking something where I was (in grad school, couldn't leave before completing my MA and was way easier to stay there to complete PhD). I guess I can only speak as the one at home, not the traveler, but I hope that's a bit helpful. Good luck making this tough decision."

And some excepts from emails we have received thus far:

"Wow, I agree that is a very high percentage of traveling.  I would not be on board with that if it was B, even if it was before we had C. When he worked in (major city 3 hours away) , we found it hard and he could drive home for the weekends!  I found we never had any time together and the traveling was exhausting for him, that by the time the weekend came he would just want to zone out. He was stressed and he hated staying in hotels and not eating proper meals. It did start to take a toll on our relationship.  So I get your concerns for sure. I mean it may all sound okay to D now but a midnight flight and a 2 hour drive home...that will get old pretty soon. and being apart 3 weeks out of month...that is a lot.

I can see that why you wouldn't want to have to start over again, put in the extra time and work harder. So if you guys stayed put, would D be okay with that then?"  (Send from one of my girlfriends whose husband used to travel.  She is a stay at home Mom with a 3 years old.)

"D....  several thoughts.  If the money is really good...  then yes I
would take it.  Being home for the weekends and then working from home the
other times is a definite plus.  You don't have kids. You guys seem to be
committed to one another but yet a little independent so I don't see
MW as using that against you.  Save some of the extra cash for those
together travel times.  No joke though - its work - as glamorous as George
Clooney might make it... it has its downsides.  A lot of alone time but with
technology as it is.. FaceTime, skype etc... its not as bad or tough as it
was 5-8 years ago.  I think your timing is good where that is concerned.  If
its just a lateral move that won't give you growth but something nice for
the resume... I might give it much more thought.

I hope that helps some... keep us posted."  (Sent from friend we met travelling in Europe about 6 years ago.  American.  President of a small company that does business in South America, Asia and Africa.  Travels 95%)

I'm still doing a fair amount of travel. It takes a different mind set for
someone to enjoy a lot of travel. You certainly need to have the desire to
see new and different locales. You have to be able to live outside your
comfort zone and in fact create yourself new ones. You'd be amazed how many
people like the routine of their everyday life - same bed, same time home
etc etc. There is nothing wrong with that but those people don't make good

There is no question that travelling a lot can be tricky. First of all the
location is going to be a big factor in determining how much you like it. If
you are spending weeks on end in a boring small town then the novelty will wear
off quickly. Secondly - be prepared for things to go wrong at home when you
are away. People get sick, furnaces breakdown, deaths in the family (I've
had that a couple of times) and so on. You just have to take those things in
stride. I have never had anything happen while away that was catastrophic
and couldn't be dealt with. Those issues do take an understanding wife at
home though. I've been fortunate in that my wife travels a lot and
appreciates the reality of it. She knows that it is not all fun and games
and understands that it is a sacrifice we both make. Don't downplay that
part of it - I know a lot of guys who absolutely hate travelling because
they have no support at home. Their wives think they are out drinking and
partying with 20 year old bombshells hanging off their arms. Those people
watch way too much TV. My wife understands that after eating in a restaurant
all week the last thing I want to do is come home and go out for dinner. A
lot of guys wives insist on it as their "reward" for being left at home all
week. That mentality is just a breeding ground for resentment in both
party's. By the same token - you have to understand that everything may not
be "perfect" when you get home. She may have had a bad week herself and you
can't downplay it just because you have been away. Remember - it's a mutual
sacrifice - your being away from home isn't necessarily the bigger

You will not be working 24 hours a day every day so you need to deal with
downtime. I have known a million people who travel for business and they
usually fall into one of two categories - they either spend all their time
in bars and turn into raging alcoholics or they spend all their time alone
in their hotel room and resent being away. One thing that I think has helped
me survive all these years of travel is that I use any free time I have to
familiarize myself with the city. Essentially I am a tourist - see the
sights, explore the town, enjoy where you are.

Bottom line is that travelling a lot is like anything else - some days are
good, some days are bad. I do emphasize though that without the support on
the home front it will be miserable. You have to make sure that your family
can deal with you being away first and foremost.

Hope this helps. Feel free to get in touch anytime if you have any
questions."  (Sent from friend and ski buddy of D's who owns a medium size company.)

I'm not the least bit surprised they are making you an offer. As an A you definitely would need to travel especially at the beginning and end of specific projects. I don't mind the travel at all I am wired to be with clients so I really enjoy the face to face interaction. I find that when I'm on the road I work a tonne, then when I'm home I work a bit more relaxed. An example is that when I'm home I regularly take the kids to school, which I had never done before. L and the kids have actually adjusted well, I miss a number of evening activities but in truth I missed a lot of them before as well. I think I'm blessed that L worked at B and understands our world. She doesn't always like the timing of trips, but she understands. For example I need to travel on Thanksgiving Monday to be on site for a Tuesday morning. My advice is to make sure MW is on board and commits to a period of time then reassess. L and I did that first for six months, then yearly after that. Essentially we do a checkpoint to confirm we both want to keep things the way they are. One point you should consider is that you mostly travel on your own time. What I mean is I leave the house at 4:30am on Monday to be in D by 10:30 and leave D at 3pm and arrive home at 11:30pm. I don't work hard on Friday, but I also don't feel like I get the day off because of my travel time.

Bottom line in my case the rewards and personal satisfaction far out way the investment / sacrifice that I make. There is definitely a penalty to live in E, but at this point it is the right place for my family. In your case I think Y could be a great career move, and could create a high paying flexible lifestyle in your future. That said it isn't for everyone.

Let me know what you decide.....Good Luck  (Sent from D's former boss who was the one who made the job recommendation. Travels 50 - 75%)

We've felt so grateful for the outpouring of openness from friends and colleagues by phone, email, blog.  That effort alone has made this search for a different life worth it.  It's not like we are asking for their favourite flavour of ice cream.  This issue touches right into the heart of how families and relationships are and can be very private.  Being allowed in is such an honour. 

***Will be offline for the next 1 1/2 weeks.  Happy Fall!***

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Advice Needed: Work Travel?

We are in the midst of sifting through a job offer D received yesterday from a company out west. 

After telling them I wasn't sold on my own career opportunities enough to want to move, they are willing to have him do this job from our home province. 

Here's the caveat:  If we had committed to moving, the amount of work travel would max out at around 50%.  Being located out of province, it jumps to a max of 75%. 

That seems awfully high to me.  Having no experience with significant work travel myself (neither does D), just leisure, and from hearing friends describe it, it often sounds not near as fun or glamorous than it may appear.   

If anyone has any insight into travelling for work, I'm all ears. 

Pay wise, it will make up for having to give up a pension.  Benefits and bonus structure are fairly parallel. 

Quickly looking into flight options for the various locales he would be travelling to (Canada & US mostly), the best he would be able to do for getting home is a midnight landing, followed by a 1 1/2 - 2 hour drive home.  Otherwise it would mean staying an extra night and landing at 6:30 am plus the drive. 

Travelling is part of the nature of that position and isn't something that will go away. 

I can't help thinking of the impact on our marriage and on the over all balance of our life.

It is a niche industry and would be what D considers a very smart career move as it would be something that would literally mean he won't have to worry about not being able to find a job, contract or full time in the future.  It would open doors to working overseas.

Would that be worth the price to pay?  You'd better believe I'd be worried about his drive in the winter time.  And I'd probably be staying up to track his flights.  We do that now for each other.

I guess I'm well suited to having a husband who travels since I'm pretty independent.  But is that really the point?

Lots of thinking out loud going on around here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good to be Back

Now that we've had a good 4 nights in a row of restorative sleep (8 - 9 hours), life is back to our normal and welcomed clip.  I missed working out last week and am slowly catching up to the rowing machine computer racer again.

Classes (art and hopefully dance) are starting up.  D has signed up for music lessons (classical guitar).  I can hardly believe it.  He doesn't have a musical background but has always wanted to learn.   It will be dueling string instrument practice sessions in our house shortly.

Fall is also the time I start arranging my work/life spreadsheet for the following year.  I like to know how many working days I have each month before I inject trips.  My travel budget next year is slimmer due to my "borrowing" from it this year in order to add northern Norway last minute.

It's always a tug of war between "old favourites" and the "exciting new spots" tempered by time at work.  When you work part time, I do find I need to watch it as time off represents a larger percentage.  Not complaining here, just wanting to make sure I can still do my job properly.

In order to fit everywhere on my list in, I am considering travelling during my Christmas holidays this year.  I know I'm signing up for a complete gong show at the airport but I just stumbled upon a good enough "deal" that I may not be able to refrain from. 

Man, it's good to be back.   

What you'll see while waiting in the line for the funicular back down to central Bergen.  The model trains move to show the actual positions.  An elderly lady behind me got my attention by touching my hair (another first).  She didn't speak much English and just wanted to comment on how dark my hair was compared to her complete white and that her hair was dark once.  Ended up having a great conversation with her husband.  The were from Ankara Turkey and was on the 3rd week of an European tour, covering most of Scandinavia (how jealous was I!).  We discussed the recent demonstrations in Istanbul and he helped me understand why.  Such a gentle couple.  He was happy to hear how fondly I thought of his country and encouraged me to go to his home city.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Short Answer is "No"

It has been intense (insane).  My brain felt like it wanted to blow up with all the thinking and running around we've done. 

We spent last week out west.  D had interviews while I continued to rule in/out existing options.  Looked at more real estate and neighbourhoods.  Surprisingly the one we liked the most wasn't downtown.  We rented a top floor condo and neither of us enjoyed high rise living and underground parking.  Did our best to enjoy ourselves but it was a serious work trip, no getting around that. 

Short answer is I didn't get the overwhelming desire to say "yes" to this move.  D is still enthusiastic but understands why it isn't a clear "win" for me.  Truth is, my current work-life balance is hard to replicate, much less beat.  And he knows that.

What I imagined being able to do didn't match what I wanted to do nor reality.  Don't a lot of ideas look and feel so great in the mind?  Sure I could get into an educational program -- Signed up to sit in on 3 classes and a lab as a taster.  Sure I could work hard under different sets of rules, contribute lots and be a great team player.  I can do all that but did I really want to or have to?

No I don't.  I am employed.  Have a lot of control.  Net pretty much the same as D but work half the hours a week to do so.  I would make less and have to work harder there.  And if I embark on a new career/role, I'd have minimal holidays for years.  The eventuality of being "given" a few weeks off a year won't sit well with me, no matter how interesting the position may be.  Plus I'm not used to full time hours anymore (When it came right down to it, the part time opportunities weren't really pt).  The mental excitement of a new challenge isn't going to override those facts. 

Seems easy now as I type it but the process was gut wrenching because I struggled with feeling like I wanted to be less complacent and here was an opportunity to really shake things up and feeling bad because I don't want to take it.  And feeling guilty for not wanting to really support D's work ambitions by moving.  D thought I was being ridiculous.

In the end I couldn't help feeling I would be trading something great (I see the design of my life as a work of art) for something potentially much less beautiful.  There's something about actually seeing some work environments to realize how different things can be as well as the real time financial constraints some places have.

The loss of personal time is a biggie.  I've dedicated many years to chipping away at my work schedule to free it up and this step would for certain mean a significant step backwards.  An increase emphasis on work again for years but more money by virtue of the sheer number of hours I'd be putting in.  I haven't been all about work and money in a long while. 

Would likely have to give up my hobbies until I could free up time again.  Conquering a new field is exciting but to admit I really am not ambitious enough to give up what I already had was hard.  That it is OK to not wanting to start again.  Reproducing what I already have is possible but would require an amount of effort I am unwilling to put in.  I still have work energy left in me but not enough for a "start up", if you know what I mean.

Whereas any position D has interviewed for will mean he'll be busier but he is excited about potentially having a new role with more control, responsibility and being a key part of a smaller company.  And there are lots of those around there to chose from.  He wants to be able to actually make something happen, rather than push paper and fight people.  I get that. 

So I had to say "No".  It isn't a win for me even with a better climate.  It could be if I gave it 7+ years.  However those years will look very different from my current life.  At the risk of sounding like a complete wimp here, I think I'd feel horrible/sick from the loss of free time.  I've paid my dues and peaked years ago.  There isn't a strong enough "why" to justify why I'd voluntarily do it again.

I told D it would have been much easier if he was married to a stay at home wife or one who had a more corporate type of profession ie.  accountant, pharmacist etc because they could perhaps make this move easier than I.