When a journalist hears of government employees going to, say, Alaska or Hawaii for a business conference, alarm bells go off, and the word "junket" floats in front of his eyes.
Inevitably, the image is one of plump public servants lounging on the beach or in the mountains, drinking fancy cocktails, swimming, hiking, generally enjoying an exotic vacation at the taxpayers' (or stockholders') expense, with little to no "real work" getting done.
No-one thinks of five straight 14-hour days. No-one hears about the junketeers having to travel on their own time. No-one knows about the (sob!) lonely spouses left to fend on their own with small children.
Networking, poster presentations, career training, outreach strategies, committee presentations, project ideas, balancing tech and human outreach, previews of new technology, cross-cultural communications, mentoring, networking, networking, networking...
(It's not my schtick. The kind of workshops that make me drool are tips and tricks for database maintenance, programming information, web design, stuff like that.)
Oh, yes, there are those who go and don't do anything. But that's not Mr. OmegaMom. He left on Sunday morning, returned via the red-eye (delayed, of course) Friday night, got home Saturday afternoon. The man who always wakes up at 7 on weekend mornings slept until 10:30 Sunday morning, and was still tired Monday morning when he went back to work.
Perhaps it's different at higher levels. I suspect, knowing the man, if he does get to higher levels (hmm...this would mean moving east) and goes on "junkets", he will plow into it full steam ahead, one hundred miles per hour, full of vim and enthusiasm, and wanting to Get Things Done.
So when you hear of conferences in exotic locales, don't immediately think it's just fun and games and hijinks.