Travel For Work: The Reality of Consulting [Myths and Facts]

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about being a consultant.  It seems a lot of people view it as glamorous or prestigious.  Normally I would have no problem with this, however recently I’ve been feeling torn between the lifestyle I have and the one I want.


For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of common myths about consulting to answer some of the questions that have arisen within myself as well as others.  Is all the travel worth the time you give up?  Is the higher salary worth the extra hours you put in?  Is the stress worth the name recognition of the firm or client you work for?  Is the free food worth the extra weight you will inevitably put on?

Travel for Work:

  • Myth:  You get to travel all over the country (maybe the world) on the companies dime.
  • Fact:  You HAVE to travel all over the country (maybe the world) and usually to an underwhelming location like Cleveland or Houston.  Even if you did get sent to Paris, you would never see it since its rare to leave the office before 7PM.

Food:

  • Myth:  You get to eat all the best food, what ever you want, for free.
  • Fact:  Yes, all your food is paid for.  However, you still end up eating a lot of airport food and late evening take out.  As a result, people end up gaining a lot of weight.

Money:

  • Myth:  You make a LOT of money!
  • Fact:  Okay, this is mostly true.  But if you work for a large firm, they take the lions share.  And the client still wants to make you work like you are receiving most of what they are paying for you.  Also, when you figure in all your travel time, it’s hard to say if you come out ahead.

Prestige:

  • Myth:  You are treated like an expert and a king wherever you go.
  • Fact:  Sure, sometimes you are treated with a lot of respect.  But other times you find your team crammed into a small conference room for weeks on end while being forced to meet unrealistic deadlines.

Travel for Fun:

  • Myth:  You get to travel anywhere you want on the weekends for free.
  • Fact:  Yes, its true.  As long as you don’t spend more doing it than you would if you were just flying home.  The clincher is that when you start traveling for work EVERY week, all you want to do is go home on the weekends.  One weekend trip means that your away from home for 2 whole weeks.

Project Work:

  • Myth:  The work you do is always changing, different and therefore more exciting.
  • Fact:  Yes, it’s true.  When working on projects, the work is always a little different.  But the reason your hired on in the first place is because you’re an expert in something and therefore you will always be doing the same type of work at each client site you go to.  The projects change but the tasks stay the same.

There was a time when I had, what I’ll call a “normal job”.  I remember feeling that everyday was the same and as a result, felt board with what I was doing.  Everyday I would take the same route to work, sit in the same office and complete the same kinds of tasks.  As things got easier, they got more boring.

From that vantage point, a job that would have me travel looked amazing.  Now that I have one that requires travel, I constantly find myself wishing I didn’t need to.  I guess in summary I would say that traveling for work doesn’t necessarily make things more exciting.  The job itself and even the travel both become a routine.

December 4, 2013