How travel is helping me finish my PhD
No question, travel is awesome. Even though I’ve been a poor grad student with lots of deadlines, I’ve managed to travel during PhD things and wouldn’t want it any other way!
These are the last few months of my PhD before I have to hand in, and travel is helping me get there. How? Let me explain.
Any excuse to travel
While I’ve been lucky to have a major move between Singapore and London built into my PhD program, I’ve also taken opportunities to go to regional conferences while based in both places. When I didn’t have a PhD related reason to travel, I would try to go home to New York. Having a young nephew and niece, this was important for me so I wouldn’t feel like I was missing everything.
I’ve used up any excuse to travel: family, conferences, writing retreats, ultimate tournaments, etc. These were spread out over the past three and half years, so it doesn’t feel like I’m always trying to “escape” from my PhD. But by doing this, I’ve been able to get out and break up the monotony.
How travel is helping my PhD
Flying off to another continent is a pretty hard deadline for life things like moving, and I’m using them as hard deadlines for my PhD too.
Last month, I had debated whether I should take 10 days in September to go home to New York to see my family. I spoke to a fellow student and she advised that I think about it more since it was so near my PhD deadline. I did, and I decided to do it. Leading up to the trip, I worked really hard to send some things off to my advisors. On the trip, I got some work done, but not as much as I had hoped.
Historically, I haven’t worked very well with deadlines until recently. My hand in date in January is a very real deadline, so I can’t “muck about,” as the Brits say. Although we’ll have to see how long my streak of productivity goes for, it’s been pretty good the past 2 weeks since I got back from New York.
T minus 3 months
There’s about 3 months left before hand in, and I have a few major trips planned.
Early November – Vienna
I need to finish analysis for all of my last few chapters by the time I leave for Vienna. I’m presenting a poster there and participating in a hackathon on climate change and infectious diseases. The chapter I’m presenting on is currently a little less than half-baked, so this is a big motivator to get more done and quickly.
November 22 (Thanksgiving!) – New York
I’m leaving my place in London and I’m moving all of my stuff to New York. I desperately want to have a full draft of my whole thesis done by the time I leave. This will let me relax for Thanksgiving and prep for my next conference in early December. Plus, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I had to miss it last year!
December – Melbourne
The first week in December will be dedicated to attending a conference in Melbourne. I haven’t been to that part of Australia before. Most of this month will be spent in Melbourne, Sydney and other random parts! I haven’t made many plans yet, but would like to do some outdoorsy things while also making some last changes to my thesis. Is this realistic? I have no idea. I’ll let you know after…
This works for me, though there is no guarantee that it’ll work for anyone else. For me the major advantages to travel during PhD stuff are:
- having something to look forward to
- taking a step away from my normal working environment for perspective and refreshing the creative juices
- inspiration (because nature and other people’s research)
- breaking up time into manageable chunks
- similarly, having milestones to distinguish the passage of time
To travel during PhD stuff might not be for everyone, but I find that it is well worth it. Some people might prefer to be in the same place for the duration, but I found that having one big move in the middle of the PhD was just enough change to re-energize and get a feeling for how much time has passed. (This is kinda important if you are doing a PhD, because you don’t want to waste too much time.)
Life after defense
Like I mentioned in my post on leaving London, I currently don’t have many plans after January 2017. I’ve applied for a few jobs, but ideally I’ll be somewhere where I can play on a good women’s ultimate team. After that, I’m sure things will work out somehow.
How do you travel during PhD research and writing? Do you think I’m shooting myself in the foot?