My life, and career, to date have given me the opportunity to live, study and work in a number of different countries – specifically, but not necessarily in this order: France, Spain, UK, Croatia (briefly) and USA. This has meant that I have a large number of international colleagues, ex-colleagues and friends – I think when you start to see things at an international level be it at work or at school, you never really revert to a purely national view of things.
What does this mean in reality?
It’s a small world.
The world really isn’t that big, when you think that they’ve built a tunnel connecting the UK and France and a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, it won’t be long before the Mediterranean is an inland lagoon and shortly after that the causeways of Florida will cross the Atlantic. What I really mean is that in this day and age, it can take just as long to travel from Paris to Marseille as it can from Paris to New York (depending on which metro line you take) so you start to have friends all over the place and national boundaries are simply arbitrary ways of ensuring that there are enough phone numbers to go around.
Friends all over.
Having been through two international degree programmes – the first the CESEM course in Marseille with partner universities in London, Bremen, Valencia and Charlotte and the second the UPF MBA in Barcelona with students from Spain, Italy, Mexico, Germany, Uruguay and Argentina (where part of my family happens to be) I can tell you that I have really do have friends in the four corners of the globe – just imagine how people start to migrate once they realise that the world isn’t really that big.
A weekend in the country could be the other side of the world.
For some of my more nationalistic colleagues, a weekend break could be a trip to the Normandy coast – a quick 3 hour drive away. Or for something further afield a jaunt down to the south coast where if you’re lucky the TGV could cut the trip to only 4 or 5 hours and if you aren’t you could be in the car for up to 8. So when I drop the suggestion that I fancy a weekend in New York, specifically to have a Saturday night dinner with some friends they look at me aghast – everything is relative, if I’m sleeping on the plane then the travel time is almost equivalent and a break is after all a break!
A short move could be to the next country, and a more serious move could be across the world.
So when it comes to changing job or moving house, where I look (compared to those nationalists) has a much wider frame of reference than most people might be used to. London, Paris, New York might sound jetset to some people, but to me it is the front of those rather chic Smythson address books and also the cities I tend to consider in my first list of places to look for a job.
But now… back to the real subject of this post… Blessing or burden?
From the outside, it’s clear that this jetset lifestyle looks wonderful and with it come certain benefits; although these tend to be limited to business perks and regular travel can get old very quickly; there are on the flipside some negative features associated with living this life and I’m starting to wonder at what point the cons outweigh the pros – and whether there is a way back to… the simple life.
Business travel isn’t like in the movies.
International outlook tends to mean international business, virtual teams, conferences in Bangkok, finance meetings in New York and site meetings in Mexico; depending on where your home is this can be a fair few miles to cover in a given week and airport bathrooms and hotel dinners suddenly become more common than curling up in your favourite armchair with the weekend papers. Business travel in the movies always looks like limo drivers and arriving home with souvenirs, but in reality, being a road warrior is exhausting, limits your social life and can at times be expensive in your own pocket.
Too much choice make choices difficult.
Twenty years ago choices were different – paint came in 3 colours, jam in 4 flavours and car brands had only a few models. The 20th and 21st centuries have seen an explosion of choice, and when you add our international variable into the equation, choices become almost endless. Making a choice is about assessing, understanding and comparing the options, which when done properly even with only a relatively small number of options can be a painstaking task for a serious decision like buying a car, moving house or accepting a job. In today’s market with endless options it is hardly possible to make an informed decision, and so our best guess is all that remains – making choices, difficult.
Friends far and wide sometimes mean few friends at home.
When your close friends are spread across the globe you seem to always have someone to go and visit, or someone you know in that strange corner of the world – but more and more it seems that this means fewer friends at home. As the international group moves to new cities or is posted to the latest company outpost, they are spread thinner across the cities that we know and finally there are only a few at ‘home’ and we are forced to make those long trips simply to catch up for a few days.
Travel costs & increasing complications.
Finally, post 9-11, travel really isn’t getting easier – between the explosive costs of oil making air travel almost prohibitively expensive and the unending security checks looking for illicit substances in your toothpaste and the heel of your shoe a short trip can quickly turn into a long one.
Are you a jetset, high flying, international businessman? Is it all it’s cracked up to be? Or would you rather be home enjoying some of life’s simple pleasures? Let me know.