Pros and cons of an itinerant lifestyle

ON TUESDAY I went for farewell drinks with a grad student friend who’s leaving Vancouver for an overseas postdoc position.

It’s been a bad year for friends leaving town. This aspect of the academic lifestyle affects me more now that I’ve stopped moving and put down roots – it’s always more depressing for the ones left behind. I commented on this at the pub, and we got into a discussion about whether PIs who have supervised more than 50 students and postdocs ever start seeing new trainees as replaceable, interchangeable units who scoot in and out of their labs while the big picture research keeps on moving. Kind of like how tectonic plates would view the constant waves of new species that cavort on their backs. We agreed that, for PIs and random friends alike, it’s important to maintain periods of overlap between different lab generations.

ON SATURDAY I’m meeting up with a former lab-mate in the States.

I have work-related meetings on Monday and Tuesday, but decided to fly out a couple of days early to spend time with a friend who now lives in my destination city. She and I joined the same Glasgow lab on the same day, as postdoc and student respectively, and both subsequently joined the transatlantic brain drain for the next stage of our careers. I managed to meet up with her on a previous work-related trip to the same city, but we only spent about three hours together. This time we get, oooh, about 30 hours!

I need to keep reminding myself that every friend who leaves town is a potential new vacation destination.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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10 Responses to Pros and cons of an itinerant lifestyle

  1. The bean-mom says:

    " need to keep reminding myself that every friend who leaves town is a potential new vacation destination."Exactly.Like you, I've now put down roots. No more moving for my family (unless something *really* unexpected happens). It's been two years now that we've decided on our permanent home, but it still feels a little odd, now and then, to realize that no, I'm not moving on someday the way most people in my lab intend to do…

  2. Lisbeth says:

    Since we're also the ones 'on the move', I'm not bothered by friends moving around – only if they move to very-cool-place-I-would-like-to-visit and then manage to move away from it again before I have the time/money to visit!!

  3. Aurora says:

    The moving around gets to me too. Last year I wrote a post describing my unhappiness at not being able to buy a house because of the unstable academic lifestyle and you gave me some good advice. Thanks.

  4. Mermaid says:

    What a great way to think about it. Yes, every person who goes away means there is another spot in the world that is a little more accessible. Just think, by the time you have retired you can travel around the world without ever paying for a place to sleep! Yay!

  5. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Bean-Mom, it's a strange transition to make, isn't it? I like having roots, but it's hard to always be the one left behind!Lisbeth, I was the same way when I was still moving around – I just thought it was normal! Now that I have more friends who are not scientists, I realise that it really isn't!Aurora, you're welcome! I hope things worked outMermaid, that would be cool! Although lots of the people who've left have gone to the UK, meaning that we now have yet more stops to make on the frantic "let's try to see everyone in two weeks" trips home!

  6. chall says:

    roots…. that would be nice. Although, I try to think that all friends/coworkers who move are potential vacation places, I am not sure about that. Still feels a bit funny. And the whole "where are my friends" question. I guess for the time being I am happy with the ones who are staying in my new place and not thinking too much about on where I will end up in the end (seems a lot like staying where I am right not though , sort of scary 😉 )

  7. Professor in Training says:

    Being an itinerant scientist has it's pros and cons. On the good side, I've lived in some very interesting places and met and worked with a wide variety of people. On the bad side, moving to a new place means not only dealing with new colleagues and a new work environment, but also the stress of leaving friends behind. While I have a personal and professional network that now spreads across 3 different continents, I have no close friends or family in my current city … and that makes life very, very tough sometimes.

  8. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Chall, roots are great – but it sounds like you're doing a good job of enjoying the present!PiT, the mobility is great, and being an academic made it much easier to get my initial Canadian work permit. I'm sorry you're finding things a bit tough in your new city. I'm sure that'll get better with time. And until then, you have all your blog buddies!

  9. ScienceGirl says:

    Through my recent uprootment, I have moved away from some friends, and got (somewhat) closer to others. I am glad that the bloggy friends are all where they are supposed to be!

  10. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    LOL! Yes, there are little clusters of us everywhere!

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