Cities of Salt

by Abdelrahman Munif

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Student Question

What difficulties and advantages of travel or relocation are addressed in Cities of Salt?

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Many employees can face a problem when their work requires them to leave a central location for work. For example, while they may live near a central office or headquarters, their employer may need them to regularly travel to locations across the country or even internationally. They might be a management consultant or an accountant who works out of an office in Chicago or New York, for example, but they may need to travel regularly and for long periods of time to be closer to a client. When there is regular travel for extended periods of time, including up to two or three years, employees will often have to make a decision about regularly traveling or simply relocating to a new location. Of course, decisions like this can be influenced by other factors, such as family (i.e. will someone's spouse and children move with them?) and community ties (relocating may require giving up roles in the community as a coach, parent-teacher organization leader, or other volunteer roles).

When employees choose to regularly travel to locations, they make tradeoffs. On one hand, they will spend time commuting, and traveling in a car, train, or plane can wear someone down. They may develop unhealthy habits, and they may end up having to pay some of the travel costs. On the other hand, they are able to maintain ties "back home" so to speak, and their traveling might allow their spouse and children to remain in the home and stay in the same schools. They are taking on much of the burden of traveling while allowing for some consistency at home. Additionally, some employees find regular travel for work a good way to mix up their routine, get out of the office, and even see different parts of their state and country while their company picks up some of the costs.

Relocating is another option. In this scenario, a person might buy a new home or rent an apartment and move their family with them (if they have one). It allows for them to establish themselves in a new community and cuts down on travel time. On the other hand, it can be difficult to move, especially if it is away from friends and family. Many younger workers, who are either single or married with no kids, might take advantage of relocation as they figure out where they want to live.

In both cases, employees need to make tradeoffs on issues like family, expenses, and community. Both options have their pros and cons.

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