Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traveling Too Much

Three recent happenings made me think about the amount I travel.

  • I hit the 50K club (Premier Executive) in United for the first time last year. At first I was excited about the extra perks. But then got depressed over so much time away from the family.
  • The movie Up in the Air
  • A family friend recently died during a business trip. In his hotel room. Alone. Could have been me.

And according to United I've already traveled 18,641 miles in 2010. 

I don't like the hassle of traveling. The excitement of visiting new lands has long past.

So why do I travel? The one-word answer: People. I like to meet my fellow colleagues, talk with them, make myself, my group, my field known and help shape future research. When you travel people make time for you and you make time for them in a way email and conference calls can't do.

Nevertheless I will make an effort to travel less, certainly while I have those last few precious years before my kids go off into the world. If you invite me some place and I turn you down, don't take it personally. I'm just trying to bring back some sanity into my life.


  1. "So why do I travel? The one-word answer: .... make myself, my group, my field known and help shape future research."

    I wonder how much did Perelman travel in his life ...

  2. Its almost the end of the hiring season. Where are people ending up for faculty and postdocs?

    Its been announced that M.T.Hajiagayi --> UMD. Anyone else?

  3. I've felt similarly, for quite some time, as I've perhaps too infrequently expressed on my blog.

  4. There is a peculiar disorientation to air travel. "Lost in Translation" captures this even better than "Up in the Air". This is a sense that is not restricted to the specific culture differences with Japan used in the movie. (I've never been to Japan but recognize the feelings that Bill Murray portrays though, unfortunately, I don't recognize the Scarlett Johansson character.)

  5. Paul Beame, I agree totally with your comment. well observed.

  6. I think academics fits well with air travel. Nowadays, so many academics are postdocs, moving constantly. People cannot hope to find an academic job anywhere close to their families, or even sometimes their spouses, and often not in the same country.

    I feel at home when I'm on a plane.

    I know certain airports and the electrical outlets like the back of my hand. Air travel is always a good conversation topic, between scientists in any fields.

    Even if we don't fly as much as Clooney in Up in the Air, I think we still identify with his disconnection, from friends and community. Also like the movie, scientists have a hard time explaining what they do.

  7. perelman is genius
    the real mathematician

  8. I recently went to a 4 day conference that was a 3 hour car drive from my university.

    Even though I was gone for 3 nights, I was pleasantly surprised at how relaxing it was compared to similar length of travel on air planes.

    So I agree with Paul Beame that air travel seems to be a particular cause of travel fatigue.

    Obviously time difference is an issue as well all the hassles and stress caused by airports and airport security.

  9. I wonder how much did Perelman travel in his life ...

    This places the conclusion ahead of the arguments. You've decided that "real mathematicians" travel little, and then make up one example in your head that is likely to support your predetermined conclusion.

    Perelman is a singleton in so many ways that even if your argument wasn't so flawed it would still say nearly nothing. To top if all off as it turns out, before he became a hermit he did travel a bit. In fact he gave a series of lectures on his solution to Poincare's conjecture at Stony Brook in the USA.