Is Out-of-State Commuting for You?

Job searching, but can’t find a job in your city? Your state? No problem! Location makes no difference if you’re someone who is flexible--and adventurous--enough to spend hours on planes and in cabs each week to travel to an out-of-state job.

Interstate commuting is par for the course for Kari Ryerson. For the last nine years, Kari has been a well-respected and sought-after electronic medical records consultant. She works with hospitals to move them from paper records to electronic ones, transition them from one record system to another, or optimize the system they have in place.

When I first met Kari, she lived in L.A.. However, that soon changed. She and her husband bought a new home in Las Vegas, but she kept her job at UCLA in Los Angeles. That meant weekly plane rides to California, where she’d work the week and fly home on weekends. That was just the beginning, though. In time, Kari and her husband relocated from Vegas to Anchorage, Alaska. Yet (get ready to gasp!), Kari still had her job in L.A.. That meant a weekly commute from Alaska to Los Angeles!

Kari Ryerson with her dogs Baily and Mesa
(and their canine friend) on a hike in Alaska.
But, this year, Kari took on a new client in Indianapolis, Indiana. And, again, she is commuting from Alaska. With such a long commute time, Kari spends most of her off-hours in transit, trying to get home to spend as much time with her husband and four rescue dogs as possible.

Kari’s lifestyle has always intrigued me. I hate long commutes, so Kari’s weekly schedule just makes my head spin. However, at the moment, it works for her and her family.

I caught up with Kari as she sat in an airport on a long layover after her flight was cancelled. Her story fascinates me and I hope it does you, too.

Q:  How many air miles do you log each week/month/or year?
A:  Week: 6,300. Month: 26,000. Year: 300,000.

Q:  How many days of each week do you work, travel, and enjoy time at home?
A:  I fly out on a Sunday red-eye and return home on Thursday night. I sleep in my bed three nights, in a hotel three nights, and on a plane one night.

Q:  What is your travel routine? 
A:  I’m all about the perks. I use the same airline, hotel, and rental car company so that I earn points and get upgrades. I try and fly direct, but currently I have a layover in Chicago. It’s great on Monday mornings because the United Club has showers. I am able to use my layover time to refresh, wake up, and make myself presentable. I have another layover in Chicago on my way home. I tend to make this one a bit longer because the short flights get delayed and cancelled often so I am weary of booking too short a connection on the way home. I take a cab to and from the airport. It’s faster than driving and parking.

Q:  How do you afford the travel costs associated with an out of state job? 
A:  Travel costs are covered as part of my contract, I get them all reimbursed.

Q:  What is the toll of being on the road so much?
A:  You can never participate in activities that happen on Monday through Thursday nights. No sports leagues/classes etc. You also miss your family a lot.

Q:  Are you frequently jetlagged?
A:  I’ve decided that my body lives on Mountain Time, exactly half way between the time zone I live in and the time zone I work in.

Q:  Why does this unusual work arrangement work for you?
A:  It’s what I have been doing since I left college other than a few years in which I worked in hospitals where I lived.

Q:  Would you recommend out of state commutes for others?
A:  Not unless you really know what you are getting into. I am weary of first timers because a lot of them decide they hate life on the road and quit projects part way through.

Q:  How do you choose which out of state contracts to pursue?
A:  It depends on the hospital, project, and who is already working there. It’s rare for me to work on a project and not know a single person already, they tell me a lot about what it’s really like so I can judge if it will be a good fit or not.

Q:  Is this a routine you intend to keep up throughout your career?
A:  I hope not, but I have been saying that since I started.

Q:  What does your family think of the long commutes that you endure?
A:  They are used to it. I have always been nomadic (I spent a year of high school abroad as an exchange student). For my husband and me it’s normal. Even when I did live and work in the same city, he worked nights (other than a short period of time) so we only had weekends together.

Q:  Do people think it's crazy that you commute to the Midwest from Alaska each week?
A:  Absolutely, more so that I commute to a place on Eastern time so it’s a 4-hour time change each way.

Q:  What are some of the biggest challenges of commuting out of state?
A:  The biggest downside is that vacations become not as great. Every week I get on a plane, stay in a hotel, and rent a car. When I have time off I don't want to get on a plane, stay in a hotel, and rent a car. I want to stay home. That’s the hardest part of a relationship, my husband is home all the time and wants to go places. I am away all the time and want to be a homebody when I get the chance.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us don’t have the stomach to do what Kari does each week, but her story is a great reminder that we shouldn’t be limited by geography. Opportunity may not be right in our backyard, but who’s to say we can’t hop a plane to visit opportunity in another state?

To learn more about Kari, and the exploits of her family and rescue dogs (including book reviews of the many books she reads while waiting in airports!), be sure to check out her blog, Dog is God in Reverse.

Being Brave Enough to Say No

This month I said no to a lucrative opportunity. It was hard, but I think it was the right move for me.

As a freelancer, there are busy times and lean times. The work isn't always steady and, sometimes, when things are slow or a little uncertain, freelancers may be tempted to take on work they don't want to do. When I first started freelancing, I told myself I never wanted to wake up and dread the day ahead. To do that, I had to summon the power to say no; no to any project that didn't seem like a fit--no to the money that came with it.

Throughout my career, I've always been the person to say, "Yes, I can," "Yes, I will," and "Yes, you can count on me." It's not in my nature to say no when someone asks for my help (unless it's a completely outlandish request). However, to be true to myself and best serve a potential client or employer, sometimes no is the best answer one can give. If you're not truly interested in the work, or you can't perform the task with the level of enthusiasm and skill that an employer deserves, there is no winner if you say yes.

Just because opportunity knocks doesn't mean it has the right address.

Have you ever said no to an opportunity? Did you feel uncertain about your decision? Or did you know it was the best move for you? 

Are Consumers Becoming Too Touchy?

It's back to school season and the advertising has begun. Kids need school supplies and new clothes to start the year and every business wants your bucks. But, will JCPenney be left out in the cold because of the backlash on their latest back to school ad?

This week, consumers cried foul as a television spot insinuated that not wearing the brands that JCP carries could make or break your year. The ad then cuts to all the kids disappearing and one young boy by himself. If you haven't seen the spot, check it out here:

* Can't see the video? Click here.

Frankly, I think the uproar is ridiculous. I'm sorry, but no matter how politically correct our world becomes, kids are kids and school is school. Children will always notice other kids' folders, lunchboxes, backpacks, and clothes. It's how kids are.

When I was growing up, if you had a Trapper Keeper you were cool. That sound of Velcro as you got your homework assignment out constantly reminder the other kids that you had one. It was the must-have item. I remember when I got a lunchbox that I was really excited about and the feeling it gave me when another kid said she liked it. I also remember the horrible year that my mom got me a hideous backpack and how I'd try to hid it coming and going from school. Boy, I hated that thing. The year I got my first pair of Nike's just like all the other kids had was a landmark. Were they amazing shoes? No. But all the other kids had them and the reality is that kids like to fit in (something as a grown-up I try to avoid at all costs).

As adults, most of use know better than to judge people based on the clothing they wear. This is something that comes with age, experience, and maturity. And, as much as we can try to teach our kids not to judge others based on superficial things like the jeans they wear, the fact is that school is a universe unto itself.

I'm not making excuses for bad behavior, but the critics who are saying the JCPenney ad promotes bullying are just silly. It does no such thing. It simply is reminding parents how important back to school purchases are to our kids. No kid will ever say they want the knock-off instead of the name brand. That's just not how kids are. And, although, not every parent will be able to buy their child ever item they'd prefer (I know my mom couldn't afford to), don't think that what your kid wears or takes to school doesn't matter to them. It does.

So, cut JCPenney some slack. There's nothing wrong with their ad in the least. It just depicts the world as it is. Don't like that world? Change it.
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