Sometimes, living and working abroad to follow your career passion has its difficulties, specifically concerning the people you leave behind. Of course you make new friends and associates, but your old friends and your family are the constants in your life that make it hard to be afar from. My Mother and sister live 7,000 km from me, and 8 time zones away in Edinburgh, while my Father lives even further in southern Spain and 9 time zones away. My greatest friends also all still live in Edinburgh. This makes it difficult to see everyone as often as I would like, as I very often have to make a choice between the UK or Spain each year, whether to see my Father or my Mother and Sister. Of course nowadays with Skype and other such devices, it is easy to talk face-to-face on a regular basis, and in fact I probably have more talk time with my parents than I did when I lived in the same city as them. However there is no freedom to have the kind of spontaneous family and friend activities that one likes.
So this year I am in luck. It just so happens that I will take a vacation to Spain in June for two weeks to stay at my Father’s house, where my Sister will come down to join us. This will be the first time I have seen my Father in the flesh for two years. Also, a few days later one of my good oldest friends from Scotland will join us for his vacation. It doesn’t end there. My Mother just happens to be vacationing in the North of Spain for a week at the same time, so I will also get to see her for a couple of days! There’s more: my friend from Jordan will be in Spain at the same time and would like to join us also. I feel an embarrassment of riches all of a sudden. So long have I felt that I don’t see all of the people I miss enough, and they are all going to be packed into the same two weeks! Amazing!
I may also be extending my stay to work on some particle detector tests in Madrid, with a group of collaborators, if they manage to book beamtime at the small accelerator there, so I could very well end up staying for up to 30 days in Spain, half vacationing, half working. I am very privileged to work in a job which is international by its nature and requirements. Physicists need to travel all over the world as members of collaborations and groups all working towards a common goal. In fact we travel less than the typical business traveler, but we may go to a more diverse range of countries to attend meetings and conferences where we share the latest knowledge, hatch plans to improve existing experiments or come up with novel ones. The internationality of science is what makes it tick – everyone brings different skills and ideas to the table. Governments pledge funding for different aspects of projects. The LHC is a good example, as is TRIUMF, where we receive scores of international scientists visiting us each year to help advance our knowledge in certain areas of physics.
All this said, I do enjoy travel not connected to work, where I can dissociate myself from work for at least….oh a few days, and enjoy the warm pleasantness of the country where I was born. I am very much looking forward to it. :)