Congratulations. You just took a job that includes 25% travel (or maybe 50% or even more). But you’ve never really traveled before and frankly you are a little unsure if this is a good career move or not. In this post I cover benefits of business travel as well as some of the downsides.
Before we get too far let’s define business travel. Here’s how we define it:
Business Travel is when employees travel (fly, drive, train, etc) for some company related activity. Often this involves meeting w/ a customer, visiting a project site, installing something, training, or meeting w/ staff in other locations.
Wikipedia has a more straightforward definition that we like to:
Wikipedia defines business travel as: “Business travel is travel undertaken for work or business purposes, as opposed to other types of travel, such as for leisure purposes or regularly commuting between one’s home and workplace.” I think this is a fair definition of business travel.
There are no shortage of jobs where frequent travel is a key element. But, when considering a job that has frequent travel it’s important to look at the pros and cons. What are the benefits of business travel? To you? To the company? What are the downsides? In the remaining sections we examine these very questions.
The Benefits of of Business Travel
Let’s start first with some of the benefits of business travel…and there are many:
- You will raise your profile inside your firm. Being willing to travel lets management know that you are an all-in kind of employee, willing to go the extra mile. It will start to let them view you as more than just a “doer.”
- You will be exposed to higher profile projects. By traveling you will likely get to visit and be involved in higher profile projects. For example, I got my big break by traveling unexpectedly to a customer’s site where an install was going wrong. I was with the CEO, the head of Sales, and the big dog’s from the customer. Great exposure. Especially when I delivered.
- You will learn to be flexible. Traveling involves a healthy dose of “crud, that happened.” You got to roll w/ the punches and travel will help keep you flexible which is always a good thing for the business world.
- You will meet new people inside your firm. I like this the most. Lots of good network opps on the road and the chance to build your virtual Rolodex.
- You will get 1:1 time with important people in your company. I spent 4 hours in a car w/ our national sales director – excellent bonding time. We now trust each other and I have an internal coach when I needed one. When you are on the road you often will be there 1:1 with key members of the firm. I once picked up and dropped off the CEO from the airport. Later he hired for me a very senior role.
- You will rack up points and miles that you can use to book personal trips. If you gonna travel you might as well get the points. Use those points to pay for your personal or family vacations.
- You can brag to your friends (via Instagram, of course) about your “glamorous travel life.” Hey, it’s not that glamorous, but what do they know. Give ’em the ole duck face photo at the Hampton Inn in Bismarck, ND and throw a sweet filter on it. They will think you are living the good life. #Sarcasm. Or if you are actually at some place sweet those photos will be awesome. #Millenial (not me!)
- You get to see a lot of interesting places (bucket list!). Through business travel I’ve been able to visit almost all 50 states, and check off quite a few bucket list destinations. Sometimes you gotta rush through them given the business constraint, but its still far more economical than you could do on your own.
- You will gain a more global (or at least “National”) view of the world / country. If you live on the left coast (like I do), you might have a tendency to get a skewed view of the universe. I’ve spent so much time in all parts of this country that I know that there are equal parts good and bad people everywhere. Travel will bring you into contact with all kinds of folks.
The Downsides of Business Travel
Yes…it’s not all glitz and glam and unicorns. In fact, often it’s not. Here are some of the downsides of business travel:
- Time away from family. This is the biggest drawback. And one I’ve struggled with. I love my family and I love providing for them. I know for a fact that I could not provide the same quality of life that I do today if I didn’t have a job that involved business travel. All the same, it totally sucks being away from your family.
- The hassles of business travel. Non-business travelers often think the business travel life is glamorous. And I suppose that parts of it are (like getting a sweet upgrade to first class), but the reality is that it’s a job and it has its own daily grind. You are cramped in airline seats, shuttling from one location to the next, tired, etc.
- You will be tired. Different time zones, jet lag and having to the “up” and “on your game” for you client meetings is taxing on the body. You learn to live with, but it’s still difficult.
- You will occasionally miss your kids events. This sucks. No two ways about it. I’ve made more events than I’ve missed, but sometimes you will miss a soccer practice or a midweek game. Not fun.
- You will travel to places people don’t really want to visit (like Minot, ND) – but I see this as an upside, honestly.
- You will be alone a lot. All of those bucket list places are often done alone. I’ve seen cool lighthouses…by myself. I can honestly say while it was cool to see, I wished my wife was with me. It would have made it so much better. At the end of the day, you are alone in your hotel room with your email and your TV.
For more thoughts on the downsides of frequent travel consider these articles:
- Travelling for Work: The Dark Side of Work Travel
- 9 Crazy Myths About Business Travel – Debunked!
- What to do on a Business Trip Alone – 7 Ideas to Never Be Lonely on a Work Trip
- Travel Tip Tuesday #19: Staying Connected is Important (to your loved ones!)
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Business Travel
There are a lot of pros and cons to business travel. I have been doing it for many years and the impact it has had on my career has been significant. The world is pretty flat these days and many corporate jobs require some level of travel.
If you want to really advance in your career it is better to embrace the benefits of business travel. Find a supportive partner (my wife is amazing and we have a great routine! I could not do this job w/out her) and jump in headfirst. Your career will thank you.
Don’t forget to read my post on 11 Tips to Crush your First Business Trip for ideas on how to get the most out of your first experience and to avoid making those rookie travel mistakes.
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