While I would love to find a way to travel more than I do I have been able to find ways through my career choice to get out there while also bringing home a paycheck for my wife and 2 kids. My experiences are on the less extreme side of the spectrum to be sure but I will share my thoughts on one career field that can allow those of you working stiffs like me to see things on your own or with your family.
I accidentally found my career path after finishing a history degree and setting a wedding date for 6 months from graduation. I was broke and needed to make money to pay for the wedding. I applied to any job at a university so that if hired I could also go to school for my masters degree for free. Sure enough I was eventually called on a 9 dollar an hour job filing paperwork at a clinical trials research management center.
I had no idea what clinical trials were or what I would do there, just that it payed money and was at a university. I got the job and discovered a field that was quite interesting in that its the part of getting medicine from a concept to your drug store. I worked my way up and am now a study manager for big research studies looking at drugs to cure Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Disease. These trials are conducted throughout the world and thus far have afforded me travel all over the US. Others in this field travel all over the world, it just depends where you work and where your research centers are.
There are degrees of job in this field that dictate how much you could travel. My job gets me out 3-4 times a year but a clinical research associate (CRA or “Monitor”) travels 4-5 days a week. The best part is that your travel is paid for. flight, room, food, car. My family has come with me and depending on how you plan it it didn’t cost me a thing. if a meeting or trip is within reasonable driving distance (8-12 hours) we drive because then we can all go for nothing because mileage is covered and more bodies in the car doesn’t cost extra. If its further than we can drive (without me being a zombie when I get there) then we save up some cash and fly, but at least my ticket is covered. We usually stay in a Marriott Residence in because they allow pets (we have a few dogs), don’t charge for additional people and have buffet breakfasts so that we can all eat for free plus it ends up costing the same or less than the hotels most people I work with stay at. I usually take a day or two off around the weekends to make the trip last longer. The lodging and food part of an extra stay isn’t covered but the flight is since its round trip and they don’t care when I come back.
I have been lucky. One of my trips involved a meeting at a horse ranch in Tucson for 3 days. I got to ride horses, eat cowboy food and walk the dessert mountains for no cost to me. I have visited friends in Florida, my brother in San Diego and gone to places I would never go on my own thanks to work travel (sorry but Iowa just isnt on my list of places to see with my own $$).
Its not exactly a free vacation or anything but I know people who get off pretty well. CRAs travel a lot more than I do and many get to go to Hawaii to inspect research sites… of course they take a week off on either side of the work trip since work paid the expensive part of getting to Hawaii. Not to mention that since CRAs travel very regularly, they accumulate frequent flier and hotel benefits and get to bring their family or friends for free on their FF miles.
A job like this doesn’t get you the traveling lifestyle that is probably ideal but may offer a younger professional or a family bound worker the opportunity to get out there for less $$ than you would pay on your own. I have a job that I like because I am working to help people, I got a free masters degree and I have gotten out to see places that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. There are opportunities to get out much more if you really want to.