As I write this post I'm sitting on the patio of a hotel in Miami. It's CMS Week and that means it's time to travel to a foreign country and present my work to the whole collaboration. Since mid August I've spent about half my time away from Brussels, travelling for work, and spending a large amount of time in the air. It's certainly one of the perks of the job and conference organisers go out of their way to make the experience fun. So putting everything else to one side for a minute, the opportunity for travel is something I love and certaintly one of the most fun parts of the job.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to this part of the lifestyle though. Spending so much time travelling obviously means spending much less time at home, so I've barely been to the gym, or even had regular shopping trips for the past four months. My social life has taken second place to shifts at CERN, workshops and CMS week, and that takes a toll after a while.
However I think the biggest advantage of these trips is that it gives me time to think outside of my normal routine for a while. Physics needs a huge amount of innovation and new ideas are not cheap. Taking the time to get out of the lab, walk in a foreign climate for while with a laptop and a notepad, without meetings to attend or deadlines to meet gives me the chance to step back and find new directions for my work. It's very rare that I go for a trip and don't come back with at least three new ideas that can substantially improve my current work, or lead to something new. I love innovating, I love problem solving, and I love physics. Although I'm attending talks and collaborating, this is essentially a working holiday so I'm going to do what I love doing the most- blue sky thinking about how to solve the biggest problems I currently face at work. I wish I work like this all the time, but unfortunately the hard work needs to be done too, and when I get back to Brussels I'll have to return to meetings and documentation and submitting jobs.
For now I can bask in the December sun, chat with the Director of the lab about the "bigger picture", decide what my priorities should be for next year, and take the time to plan it all out. It's good to be back in the USA again, and I hope to have opportunities like this in whatever job I have in the future.