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Getting the Most out of Academic Travel: The Ideal Work Trip

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I have been traveling a lot for work lately, which is great, but it also means I need to make decisions about which invitations to accept, a...

I have been traveling a lot for work lately, which is great, but it also means I need to make decisions about which invitations to accept, as well as what to ask of my hosts to make travel more feasible and enjoyable. Jet-setting around the world can be fun, but also exhausting.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post about my "ideal day," inspired by Barbara Sher's book, Wishcraft. I think of this exercise often, although my ideal day has shifted a bit since 2011, as I have gained clarity on what I want and need, and what makes me happy.

During a recent work trip, I realized I could use the "ideal day" exercise to think through what my ideal work trip would look like. What kind of work trip would I look forward to?

Envisioning what an ideal work trip would look like allows me to try and arrange my visits to reflect that - and to actually enjoy traveling for work.

Here is what I came up with for my ideal work trip:
Photo from a recent work trip to Costa Rica!

Tuesday evening:
Pack for my trip so that my travel bag is ready to go.

Wednesday morning:
6:00am: Wake up at home and write for an hour
7:00am: Go outside for a jog.
7:40am: Have breakfast with my family before they leave for the day.
8:00am: Shower, get ready.
8:30am: Write for another hour.
10:00am: Leave the house for my work trip
� travel to my destination �.
6:00pm: Have an engaging dinner with hosts
8:00pm: Back at hotel, relaxing with a novel

Thursday morning:
6:00am: Wake up and write for an hour
7:00am: Go outside for a jog or to hotel gym if weather is not suitable
7:40am: Have breakfast.
8:00am: Shower, get ready for the day.
8:30am: Write for another hour.
10:00am: Leave the hotel for a day of engagement with hosts and other guests
� this day can include meals, talks, meetings, and downtime �
8:00pm: Back at hotel, relaxing

Friday morning:
6:00am: Wake up and write for an hour
7:00am: Breakfast
7:30am: Shower, get ready.
8:00am: Write for another hour
9:00am: Leave the hotel to do something enjoyable - preferably a long nature hike. If I'm in a city, visit a museum or something I can only do in that location.
12:00pm: travel back home
�.
6:00pm: Back home with my family

My ideal workday at home involves waking up early, exercising, and getting a couple of hours of writing in. My ideal work travel visit also involves having some alone time in the morning when I am writing and not skipping out on my exercise routine. If I can travel and keep my writing routine going, I feel better about my projects. If I can travel and find time to exercise, I feel better all around.

I enjoy engaging with others. But, I have also realized that one full day of engagement with people is plenty for me. So, I can request that my meetings be limited to one day. I enjoy having meals with people and trying new food, so I also try and arrange my travel such that I can make it in time to have dinner the night before.

When I travel, I also enjoy doing at least one activity that I can only do in that place. During a recent trip to Oregon, I went on a hike up a butte, for example. And, when I went to Costa Rica, I was able to visit a volcano!

I travel a lot for work, and often miss my family when I do. It thus works better for me to travel during the week so that I am home on the weekends and can spend time with my partner and three kids.

Now that I have a sense of my ideal work trip, I can aim to mold my future trips to emulate this as much as possible.

Of course, I am dependent on airline schedules, conference schedules, and my hosts' needs and location. However, knowing what I want makes it easier for me to make decisions about which invitations to accept, as well as when to schedule my flights.

For example, I have an upcoming trip to give a public lecture on a Thursday evening. I am unable to leave on Wednesday for that trip so I will have to leave early in the morning on Thursday. I have a three-hour flight, so hopefully will be able to get at least an hour worth of writing done on the plane. I have asked my host to schedule all of my meetings on Thursday so that I have Friday to myself. I will wake up on Friday, write for a couple of hours, and then find a great place to hike and have lunch before getting on a plane back to California.

Now, I am looking forward to that trip and especially to finding a cool place to hike!

What about you? How are you handling work travel these days? What does your ideal work trip look like?

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