Life on the Road: Mental Health and Business Travel

Perhaps you do not like being chained to a desk all week. Maybe you’d like to add some stamps to your passport, and get paid while you’re doing it. Maybe you’ve got an international bucket list. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself looking for a job with travel perks – maybe you’ve already done this before. There are some jobs with obvious elements of travel, but you may be surprised by some others.

Types of Jobs with Travel Built In

Travel-related Jobs

These are probably the first jobs you think of when getting paid to travel. Cruise ship performers and staff, flight attendants, tour guides and pilots are just a fraction of the people who make travel possible.  Travel agents and writers can help you make decisions about and plan your own vacations before making a single booking. Nature photographers might inspire you to go somewhere you’ve never been before. Finally, a freelance writer, photographer or designer (also known as a contractor) can travel around the world to take a variety of assignments.

Scientists

The stereotypical image of a scientist is a person in a white coat sitting behind some expensive equipment in a laboratory. However, there are many reasons a scientist would travel – not the least of which being that their chosen field may be location-based. Archaeologists, paleontologists, sociologists, primatologists (the list goes on) all need to travel for site-specific research and discovery. Even forensic scientists, who do spend a lot of time in the lab, need to travel for court appearances, visiting other labs with varying equipment or even consultations, or even field work at crime scenes (BrightKnowledge).

For more on scientists who travel, visit this link.

Do-Gooders

There are many countries with programs for native English-speakers to teach ESL to students. Programs vary in teacher/student ratio – some are one-to-one lessons and some are class settings with groups of students. The support that the programs offer also varies, from offering only compensation to assisting with accommodations and visa applications (Saxon Court).

If you’re more interested in caretaking than teaching, you may be interested in positions as a travel nurse or au pair. Working abroad as a volunteer can also be a great way to travel. The Peace Corps, Greenpeace, and WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms or Willing Workers on Organic Farms) are just a few examples of organizations that offer volunteer services around the world. Finally, there are still many religious groups that travel on missions around the world, with a huge variety of causes.

International Relations

As the world becomes more and more connected, international relations become more and more essential. Translators and interpreters travel with high-level business and government officials. Of course these jobs require a strong understanding of multiple languages and cultures. If you’re more business minded, import/export and day trading are great options – though both require long hours and neither is easy to break into.

Wildcards

In addition to the jobs above, there are tons of jobs that don’t fall into any of the previous categories. Teaching scuba diving or skiing, recruiting athletes, working as a mixologist or professional chef, business or the military are just a few of these “wildcard” careers. The Expert Vagabond lists some of these, and many others, in his blog post “33 Best Travel Jobs to Make Money Traveling”, but many other sites such as Lonely Planet have recommendations as well.

What are the Mental Health Effects of Life on the Road for Business?

While a travel-packed career may seem glamorous, there are also negative elements. Many of the problems associated with business travel tie back to jet lag – constant travel with little to no regular sleep can cause you to age faster, weaken your immune system and put you at higher risk for obesity (Fast Company). Frequent fliers are also exposed to more germs and higher levels of radiation than those who stay grounded, and in-flight meals are packed with unhealthy preservatives.

In addition to the physical problems, constant travel disrupts your circadian rhythm, which affects your ability to get good sleep. In turn, your mood, ability to concentrate and make well-informed decisions are all affected. Scott Cohen, deputy director of research of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey, studied 15 years of data on what he calls “hypermobility” in a paper titled A Darker Side of Hypermobility. He delves into the negative mental health effects of frequent travel, including heightened stress, loneliness and guilt from leaving friends and family so often (Cohen).

These negative effects are described as “travel disorientation” – caused by traveling between different time zones and cultures and effectively destroying any routines in your life. Even when frequent travelers make it home, they often have to recover from fatigue rather than make up for lost time with friends and family (Inc.com)

Is a Traveling Job Right For You?

Before you quit your job and renew your passport, there are some serious things to take into consideration. For instance, if you have a family or those who depend on you for caretaking, you should at the very least discuss the change with them before making any decisions. You may also need to make arrangements for extra caretaking while you are away.

Business travel can cause stress from start to finish–from preparing for the trip to recharging after you return. Making sure you remain flexible and calm through even the most unexpected road blocks can help alleviate this stress and making traveling more fun than frightening.

Some of the negative side effects can be counteracted by efficient time management. Making sure you spend time outside, get in a little physical exercise (even if it’s just walking around the airport), and making thoughtful choices about food can all help–but they require that you work on yourself when you aren’t working on your work (Psychology Today). And finally, the more you care about your job, the more rewarding you will find the extra dedication it takes to work from the road.

References

Grothaus, Michael. Why Frequent Business Travel Is So Bad For You. http://www.fastcompany.com/3050543/hit-the-ground-running/why-frequent-business-travel-is-so-bad-for-you, Fast Company.

Friedman, Michael, Ph.D. How to Make Frequent Business Travel Healthier. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brick-brick/201410/how-make-frequent-business-travel-healthier, Psychology Today.

Karsten, Matthew. 33 Best Travel Jobs to Make Money Traveling. http://expertvagabond.com/best-travel-jobs/, The Expert Vagabond.

Mochari, Ilan. The Hidden Toll of Frequent Business Travel. http://www.inc.com/ilan-mochari/10-ways-business-travel-is-hurting-you.html, Inc.

My Job Explained: Forensic Scientist. https://www.brightknowledge.org/knowledge-bank/science-and-maths/chemistry-careers/forensic-scientist-jennifer-mcdaid, Bright Knowledge.

O’Carroll, Etain. The Best Careers for Travelling the World. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-tips-and-articles/the-best-careers-for-travelling-the-world, The Lonely Planet.

Schusterman, Michelle. 23 Awesome Travel Jobs And How to Get Them. http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/20-awesome-travel-jobs-and-how-to-get-them/, Matador Network.

Saward, Brooke. The 20 Best Jobs for People Who Love to Travel. http://www.worldofwanderlust.com/20-best-jobs-people-love-travel/, World of Wander Lust.

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