Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make


I’ve finished my talk at the Council of Science Editors, and am spending a little time in another session before heading to the airport. I wish I’d had time to see some of Austin, but at this point, the most interesting “place” in my world is reading to my kids before bedtime.

Still, the last couple months have been an object lesson in my capacity to balance the demands of family life against travel. In April and May I went to Washington DC (twice), Irvine, Singapore, Davis, and Austin– four of those were either one-night trips or red-eyes– and am off to Europe in early June. This big stack of trips was completely accidental, but it’s taught me a couple things.

For one, while I can do one of these quick trips a month, or two when I really stretch, four of them in six weeks is way over the top. It’s important to balance work, event, and family obligations, and this level of travel makes it perilously difficult to do that. (I don’t know if the kids are really aware of the difference between doing the red-eye thing, and my staying overnight for a couple days; maybe one day, when they’re grown up, they’ll look back and realize it.)

As a personal thing, I’m not so keen on parachuting into a conference, doing a keynote, handing out some business cards, then jetting off again. I know lots of people do it, but I no longer want to be one of them. Leaving aside the high environmental costs of flying for such brief exchanges, I always feel like there are a lot of interesting people I don’t meet, and things I could learn but don’t have time to. I still work hard to make those talks interesting, but I’d rather spend real time at a conference.

And it looks like the travel I need to do for clients and projects is building up, which decreases the amount of semi-discretionary time I have to accept conference gigs and the like. As I ramp up a big new project at work that’s is going to require a pretty fair amount of (very cool) travel, this window is going to get even narrower.

So fewer, longer trips from now on. After June, I’m not due to go anywhere until September, when I’ll be in Europe again, for what seems like an ever-expanding trip.

Gotta get to the airport soon….

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1 Comment

  1. I don’t know if the kids do notice too much of a difference, but I certainly notice! And I appreciate it, even if these trips do make you almost too sleepy to function…

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