Another year end with so many articles written in the past, offering opinions on the good, the bad and the ugly of working in the industries that takes folk away from home at times like new year and family celebrations, and with the majority of these publications predominately written about an “Oilman” (sorry ladies not now pc) and the “Oil and Gas Industry” in general, but tending to focus on oil exploration, forgetting sometimes about the “constructors” of these rigs and process plants. The entire industry from exploration, construction through production/process is renowned as where hard working honest folks choose a “life away” and miss out on family celebrations such as new year, christmas, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and even the passing of family and good friends including the funerals of these loved ones, take this with the numerous other unplanned emergencies that life throws at us year in year out. These travelling folk pack their bags and off they go to work on rigs, sites or some other remote or overseas destination….living a life apart from loved ones never knowing sometimes when they will return home, or indeed in some cases….if at all.
These folks invariably face sometimes-long travel in planes, trains and automobiles and they accept that over the years what they will miss out on. Working a life away ranks as one of the primary reasons so many marriages or partnerships fail and lead to separation and into the divorce courts. A life away also means not too many sick days or casual days off work, unlike “back in the day” of the historic “Monday Clubs” as usually working away means working all the hours that god sends throughout the year, in what can some times be in dangerous locations or surroundings and very often inclement weather conditions. I was one like many others who chose a “life away” my brief summary amounts to having successfully completed college and an engineering apprenticeship, subsequently embarking into the then unknown world of oil and gas construction, initially onshore before venturing offshore and the start of “a life away” an adventure which would stretch over 35 years. My travels would take me around the coastal waters of the United Kingdom, working on the majority of the offshore platform revamps and major hook-ups of the period, commencing in the early 80s and running continuously through into the 90s, when I would seize my “opportunity” to venture further a-field working in the “tropical heat” of North and West Africa, to the “frozen tundra” of Northern Canada and into the “ostentatious lifestyle” of the Middle East…to name only a few, across four continents engaging and learning from many interesting folks and cultures along the way.
There would be many….but two significant events stand out, in the same year (1988) that would have a considerable influence on my outlook to both working and travel, these being the Piper Alpha Disaster in the North Sea, and the Pan AM Flight 103 terrorist bombing which occurred over Lockerbie, Scotland both resulting in great loss of life, these events would change the way I and others would think regarding life away and the consequences of working safely and world travel security.
So with these tragic events and many more in our thoughts, what continues to entice individuals to travel and a life away, some would say for the “financial rewards” others adaptability or it makes you more flexible or its the rotational life style home and away that suits, or is it that you just like to travel, or you feel good to be outside your comfort zone and the everyday challenges a life away brings, for sure it allows you more chance of meeting new folks and cultures….many though would still argue that it is just the plain old cash in the bank….“studies” by some clever educated folks have uncovered that the truth is, it’s a part of all of these. We the employees and future employers look for the same thing “experience” yes the experience that all crave for…and it would appear that having a life away, demonstrates to employers that travelling folks have additional characteristics, that makes them more employable…..so are these studies or just assumptions, accurate or is it just “A way of life” or “A life away”