Saturday, November 1, 2014

Working to travel and traveling for work

Working to Travel and Traveling for Work

Every twentysomething of this generation is obsessed with travel. In the first few years into their careers, the greatest investment they have made is in the education that comes with traveling and experiencing different cultures and places. Gone are the days when tenure in a company is what peers would admire. In this here and now generation, what is very much aspired for is to see more of the world, or even what lies beyond one’s own city. There seems to be a burning desire in the core of most twentysomethings to get out of their comfort zone, even for just a while, through travel.

The word “budget” is the best friend of every twentysomething traveler - budget airline, budget hostel, budget meal. Roughing it is part of the charm that comes with traveling, as twentysomethings actually welcome the experience of shared accommodations and living off a backpack. All it takes is a long weekend and an online deal to message fellow travel-smitten buddies, pack one’s bags and jet off to the nearest oasis to escape the cubicle nation.

Some twentysomethings work to travel, but what if one gets the chance to actually travel for work? And no, it’s not by becoming a flight attendant.

The first time I traveled for work, I was assigned to a research project where I had to fly to a different city. Although it’s still within my country, it was different enough in terms of geography, culture and pace of life. It was surreal for me because as I boarded the plane, my hand carried luggage was not my trusty travel suitcase that is usually borderine overweight, but a roomy one comprised of my work laptop and files, and I actually had checked in baggage for my stay. Instead of studying the bus route to the city from the airport to save money, I leisurely took a cab and reimbursed all transportation fees. I had a very comfortable hotel room all to myself (television, minibar, bubble bath and all) and did not have to worry about taking the top of bottom bunk or sharing a communal bathroom. Instead of eating breakfast from a convenience store (or skipping breakfast altogether), I had breakfast buffet in the morning, amongst other tourists traveling in style or curious business travelers like myself. It was a very surreal experience for me, because I had that same feeling of “I may be part of something bigger than me” that comes from traveling, but this time around, instead of saving up to travel and glorifying the nomadic lifestyle, being paid to travel to achieve an objective while still being able to explore a different place was a source of accomplishment. It was a different kind of “living in the moment” that usually comes from traveling, since you are where you are because of your talents and skills. And that realization alone seems to be the real destination of this memorable trip I had.

Both working to travel and traveling for work are great experiences to have. Both teach you new things about yourself, stretch your limitations, test your capabilities. Both broaden your perspective of the world and of life.  The greatest lesson I learned from traveling for business is that working hard, being patient, staying focused and cultivating your strengths can literally take you places. I used to think that travel was a distraction or escape from work, but through my experience, I realized that it could be an opportunity because of work.

Soon I will travel just because. Hopefully soon I will travel for work again. But regardless of what the purpose may be, I think that whenever you can, travel. The realizations that travel can bring you about yourself are worth more than that ticket you bought or those extra hours you put in work, as you meet a new and better version of yourself every time you explore the world.   

 Cebu City's Lights, Cebu, Philippines