What if I don't want to travel the world anymore?
January 15, 2018 11:10 PM   Subscribe

At a juncture in my career where I should probably be looking at spending some more time abroad for the sake of professional advancement. However, the instability from traveling so much for my job in recent years is kind of sucking away most enthusiasm for this concept. Did you face a similar choice and choose to stay put? How did that go?

I am in a job where I do international trips usually of 2-3 weeks every few months, though have done longer trips in the past year as well. Previous to that, I lived abroad for a few years at a time for school and for work - probably altogether this adds up to 4.5 years or so abroad in the past 10-12 years.

I initially pursued this line of work and study because it fits well with my interests and allowed me to see the world a bit. And I do really like my job and find it interesting and feel lucky to have the opportunities I've had. However, the instability is starting to get to me... of the past year I've been gone from my home base about 1/3 of the time, and am currently on an extended trip of around 4 months.

I have been feeling very conflicted lately because while it seems that the next logical step in my career would be to move abroad, I just have a hard time really getting enthusiastic about this concept. I know if I were to move abroad (and I'm getting some pressure from various corners in my organization to do so or pursue that as my next step), my career would be likely to pick up a lot faster and I would gain a deeper understanding of the field that I'm in. The fact is that despite having a fair amount of experience living abroad, I only have limited experience working abroad for extended periods in my current industry/domain. However, I'm also to a point in my life where I'm tired of moving every 2 years. I've been in the same city now as a home base the past 3 years or so and I really like it/feel like it fits me well. I was finally feeling recently as if I had some friends and had found some pursuits I enjoyed in my free time that I wanted to get into more deeply.

I have this feeling that there are new levels of satisfaction to be reached in the fact of establishing roots somewhere and being more part of a community, but right now it's really more of a hypothesis than anything, since I haven't stuck around anywhere for more than 2-3 years at a time since graduating university. I'm kind of introverted so I feel like it takes 1.5-2 years generally to really get settled in somewhere and start building a network of people. Let's not even get into my romantic life, but I have not found thus far that constantly leaving town is good for getting to know new people generally, and build on potential relationships of all sorts - and I feel like the same can be said for meeting new romantic interests. (I know! On principal, the vague possibility of meeting someone as a romantic partner is not the right reason to not pursue professional opportunities!)

Everyone I talk to about this recently seems to encourage me to see how things evolve and not turn down a chance to go abroad again for a few years: I'm still young (ish), I should see the world, pursue all the opportunities, etc. And I have a feeling myself that if I don't pursue that possibility it could start to feel somewhat like this particular career was/is an unfinished thought. I also have a bit of a hard time imagining what I could pursue professionally if I don't stay with my current organization/in my current field. But a large, potentially dominant part, of me just wants to go home after this current trip and stay home for a few years with fairly minimal travel and let things develop how they will/live my life a bit. I think about going home after the current trip and immediately looking for something else abroad that would last for a few years (or just staying here, abroad, if that possibility arises), and I just feel kind of "blah" (for lack of a better term).

Did you face a similar choice before? Any words of wisdom? Should I stay or should I go?

I am asking this question now because I feel like there might be some decision gates in the next few months...
posted by knownfossils to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like your heart really isn't into to the whole living abroad thing at this time. I'm kind of in the opposite position from you. I have been "landlocked" as I call it and have been home for several years but feel the itch get back out there which I have been working on this evening. I love living overseas and have made it my academic area of study.

If you are not into it, you are not into it. It sounds like you've been there and done that and expatriating is not necessarily an easy thing. If you are not enthusiastic about it then the stresses of moving and living abroad can really wear you down.

So if you don't want to travel, don't. I'm sure you have some pretty unique career skills and experience from what you have done and where you have been already.

I'd like to know about what your domain is and where you have been, If you you feel like it please Memail me. If you just want to trade war stories about the expat life too let me know.
posted by Che boludo! at 12:22 AM on January 16, 2018

I work in a field where international experience is similarly valuable. I ended up making a kind of compromise. I moved to a new country, but I travel much much less than my last job in my country of origin. I've been here for four years now and just accepted another 3 year hitch. At least for me, best of both worlds.
posted by frumiousb at 4:25 AM on January 16, 2018

I spent the first decade of my career travelling. For half that time, I was on the road 49 weeks a year (3-5 days a week). I switched to a low/no-travel position in the fall of 2011.

I'd love to tell you it was easy, but.... It was an incredibly rough transition. My spouse and I had to redefine our relationship and figure out how to live together. It felt like Groundhog's Day going into the same office every day, sitting down at the same desk, seeing the same people, over... and over... and over... and over... and over.

But there were upsides: I wasn't constantly tired anymore. I didn't feel like I was wasting money on my house payment and car payment, because I was using them a lot more. I had enough consistency and predictability in my life to take up side projects (got a graduate degree, edited a book, etc.). I got to play with my dog a lot more!

I travel for work now, but infrequently. I enjoy it a lot more than I used to when I was doing it every week. All in all, I'm glad I made the switch, but it took a long while for me to get to that point.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:57 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I did this two years ago when I returned from a two-year overseas posting. turned down two overseas jobs that might have set me up for life, both in terms of tax free earnings and in future career path. but for similar reasons to you, namely "wanting to live my life", instead of the extended hiatus overseas postings can be for the single person, I wanted to come home. I'm now settling into a new exciting city in my home country in a job with international travel 2-4 times a year. new life, new friends, loving the city and no regrets. i could give up the travel tomorrow as well. it's OK to roost if that's where you feel you're at. but also, be prepared for those doors to close, or at least swing back hard. also, I think coming to a new city helped ease the transition - it was home, but also new, so filled with opportunity!
posted by trotzdem_kunst at 12:41 AM on January 18, 2018

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