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I was offered a job as worldwide head of business development for X. I was offered twice my current salary, plus a bonus. It's a very attractive offer, but I will have to travel 50-70% internationally (US, EMEA and APAC). I will not have a "machine behind me", as the company has very few people with a background in X, but will have to work together with each country's general manager and their teams to develop the business.

I am not afraid of travelling a lot, but I am wondering about the impact on health.

So the question is: what is the impact on physical and mental health of travelling internationally 50-70% of the time?

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    Ask professional pilots who sometimes spend 100% of their work time traveling internationally. There are plenty of stories from those online. – Tymoteusz Paul Jan 11 at 13:17
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    @TymoteuszPaul it's not incremental. Travelling 50%, 70% or 100% belongs to different categories and enables different lifestyles. Travelling 100% of the time is completely out of scope for this question. – Monoandale Jan 11 at 14:01
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    @joestrazzere, I disagree, this is one of the most general problems in business and I don't believe there are billions of best answers. repeated observations of business travelers should lead to ground rules. – Monoandale Jan 11 at 15:41
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    Curious: how do you measure the traveling time? Unless the job is actually traveling, more than 50% (according to my understanding) sounds insane. That is, while your job is business development, not car driver or airplane pilot. – virolino Jan 17 at 13:41
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    I don't believe there are billions of best answers there may not be billions of best answers, but different people will react differently to travel, in both the mental and physical sense. That makes it hard to answer this question. I traveled about 50% for 5 or 6 years and totally hated it. I was sick all the time, and not in a good mental state. Another consultant I worked with literally traveled 100% (he had no home and flew from client to client, in a different city every week) and loved it. He had been doing that for nearly 20 years and had no negative impacts. – dwizum Jan 17 at 15:59
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+200

There are a lot of good answers and comments already.

I won't quote studies since the others did that already. Instead I will bring up my own experience. I spent several years working 4-5 days a week in various European cities. I understand you will be spending less time travelling, but your distances will be bigger:

  • Most people do experience negative consequences of travelling so much. Among my colleagues we all agreed that the beginning is easy, but after 3-4 months of regular travels at the latest you are just tired. I was so tired I was just able to sleep on the weekends.
  • Stress is actually an incredible important aspect. When you travel, there are plenty of things you can't control. Flights get cancel and you normally learn about it in the very last moment. You miss your connections. There are problems with your booking. Your hotel doesn't want to issue you an invoice for whatever reason. Especially if you don't have a machine behind you to help you with the organization, you will be spending a lot of time and energy for that. Long-term stress mixed with lack of sleep isn't really conductive to a good health.
  • The fact you will lose many of your personal connections will contribute to stress. Your support networks will decompose.
  • Other answers mentioned the lack of healthy food, which is also a big issue.
  • Hygiene levels in hotels are frequently low, even in good four star - five star hotels. What does that mean? Personally one shower without bath slippers cost me months of painful dermatological problems. Don't even think about accepting the position if no good international insurance is offered.
  • You can have problems with check-ups and doctor appointments. Even if you have a good international insurance, it can be complex to organize doctor appointments if your travels aren't planned much in advance unless the healthcare system in your country is excellent.

I don't know anybody who travels so much for reasons different than money. If the money is great, accept the position and try to cope for a year or two. Maybe you will be one of the few who love it. If not, leave it.

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  • yes, this is it. – Monoandale Jan 20 at 9:19
  • money is more than my whole mortage – Monoandale Jan 20 at 20:06
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I spent a few years in my career doing a lot of business travel. It was hard hard work. After a few weeks I definitely got "road burn." It made me irritable and, honestly, my relationships with family and co-workers suffered.

Here are some things I learned about staying healthy and happy.

  1. Recognize that it's hard to stay healthy / happy when traveling all the time, and cut yourself some breaks.

  2. Pace yourself. Don't try to do too much useful work after an overnight flight. Don't work extra hours just because you're away from home.

  3. Develop some personal strategies for coping with jet lag.

  4. Use hotels with fitness rooms. Or, just walk up and down the stairs ten times.

  5. Try to avoid a Friday night overnight flight as the start to your weekend too often.

  6. Be careful with restaurant food and drink. Most of it is designed for feasting or celebration, not for daily sustenance. If you travel to one place frequently, it's smart to tell the waitress / waiter where you eat you're on the road a lot and ask for help choosing the healthiest food.

  7. Inflight wi-fi is a curse. Pretend it doesn't exist so flight time can be downtime.

  8. Sanitation: wash your hands a lot to avoid infection. A small bottle of hand-sanitizer is helpful.

I also found that paying for access to an airline's first class lounge ("Admirals Club", "Gold Member Club," whatever) was worth a lot in saving health and sanity. The desk clerks there have time to help with various issues, and some of the seating is suitable for sleeping if you need to. Get your employer to pay for it if you can, but if not, pay for it yourself.

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    This answer could be improved by adding some advise for maintaining relationships with family, friends and co-workers. – Philipp Jan 17 at 14:53
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    @Philipp: No, it wouldn't improve it, because it's not part of the question. – Chris Jan 17 at 15:42
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    @Chris Mental health is also health. – Philipp Jan 17 at 17:11
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    @Philipp The question is about the impact not countermeasures. That is hardly scratched by this answer. – Chris Jan 17 at 17:46
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    Just a sidenote: I know a person whose marriage improved when he started to move a lot. Instead of being unnerved by each other, they were happy to see each other, had new topics to talk about etc. Even after his travelling calmed down again this positive effect kept on, as she's got hobbies now. Living too close can stress a relationship, too. – Jessica Jan 20 at 16:34
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That depends on the type of travel, the work you are doing, how many timezones you are serving, your relationship status, your personality, your talents, the frequency (not percentage) and your aptitude for this.

So i expect the impact to be dramatically different between

  • you have no permanent health conditions, are married for 30 years with grown up kids and while you have 50%-70% travel, the travel happens planned every week (e.g. from US westcoast to Canada or east China) or for a few months at a piece, and it's a stable industry, and you know the foods in the region.
  • You are freshly engaged, your fiance is pregant and you can not plan/emergency departures with 12h notice and an unknown number of days, hav a lot of allergies and the job is physical and you don't have access to healthy food.

So the reality is probably somewhere between these scenarios, and without further details it's difficult to tell, but be prepared that in any case you will loose some friendships or personal relationships.

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    So the impact will be between "no impact" and "life will be miserable"? Why bother to post, if you don't have an answer? This should have been a comment. – Chris Jan 17 at 17:49
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There are a lot of studies showing that working at night shifts can have long term damage which could be irreparable.

I think your type of job, while not a night shift, would probably qualify to be somewhat similar to that.

While I am pretty sure that are a lot of research in the field, especially with people that travel a lot, like pilots and flight attendants, you don't have to read them to see that it's probably not very healthy to travel so much.

It's not just about not being able to maintain consistency at a gym or about eating well. It's also about not being able to see your friends at a weekend because you are more than a week traveling and you "lost" your weekend. It's about being far from family or even worse, wife and kids, and not seeing them grown up or develop a proper relationship with them.

I have an uncle that works in another state and flies every week or 15-days to spend the weekend with family. It is tough. But pay him the bills quite well and has allowed him to provide well for the family.

So I'm not saying you should not accept it, but you should definitely check what are the conditions (short trips, long notice, great daily stipend, good hotels, space between trips, etc etc) and see if they fit you. Otherwise you might regret later on.

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