A quick note that I wrote the vast majority of this on my recent trip to Stockholm but due to jetlag and a busy work schedule, I didn’t get around to posting it until now.
I’m sitting on a flight from Austin to London-Heathrow for a work trip, staring at a picture of Paddington, the new kids movie my son was begging to see (and loved, especially the part with the toothbrushes). It puts a smile on my face, reminding me of fond recent family memories. I’m only a day into a 6-day trip and I already miss my family terribly. This is certain to be a bit rambling. Writing while sleep-deprived in coach can do that to you. But, I hope you’ll stick with it and help me answer this question.
There’s this mix of excitement and guilt whenever I set off for a new destination. It’s not like that on every trip. For certain, I’ve been to Denver enough times that it’s more like a 3.5 hour commute than a new exploration. But it leads to this question.
Should I feel guilty when I’m traveling someplace new without my family?
You see, I was never THAT guy. I was never going to have kids, let alone get married. I came from divorced parents and figured I would never get it right. And, even when I got married, I figured I could buy a dog (my wife loves them) and that would take care of the kid thing. Fast forward, and I now have two beautiful children, an 8-year old daughter and 4-year old son. Showing the world to my family is so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I never saw it coming, and I couldn’t be happier.
But, the reality is that I travel for a living. This may sound funny/obvious for someone who writes about travel and flies over 100,000 miles a year. I was the last one to figure out that I traveled for a living. I’d consistently think of life as broken up into chunks of time in between trips. I also always felt like travel would slow down after “the next set of trips”. It just never happened.
It’s a necessity for me, the in-person meeting is how I’m most productive. It’s similar but for opposite reasons to George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air. But, on a work trip I’m a whole lot less adventurous than him, opting for work in my room over crashing the random party.
Again, it sounds a bit stupid to say I was the last to realize that I travel for a living. But, I’m sitting here in March thinking that this would be the year that travel slowed down and I’d get more time with my family. I’m thinking this as part of a 20-day stretch where just about 13 of those days will be spent on the road. I’m actively debating how much sightseeing I should do since I have just shy of 2 open days to explore (part of the vagaries of international travel). And, I feel a bit guilty.
Because I’m out there exploring the world, going places I know my wife would love to go. While she’s at home making sure our kids have all the support they need, I’m finding the next place for us to experience. I feel a bit guilty when I have that opportunity, yet so few folks get the opportunity to see so much of the world. Each new city I visit is another potential destination for the next family trip.
You see, family travel is just better. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploring a new city. But, for someone who loves travel, I can’t imagine anything better than sharing that with the people you love, especially being able to see the world through the eyes of your children. My daughter recently had a test on Greece after learning about it for a week in school and she couldn’t wait to tell me about it. This lead to a change in our upcoming summer itinerary to include a stop in Athens. The next chapter in school was Rome, a place she’s already been a time or two. It’s so much more exciting for her knowing that the world is completely accessible.
On the flip side, when I’m traveling and the family is home we all miss each other. That same little girl who loves to travel is sad that I’m gone, calling me to tell me she misses me amidst tears. My wife came up with an ingenious way to try to make her feel better, but as you can tell from the look on her face it didn’t accomplish the task.
I’ve still got a ton of work travel throughout the rest of this year, and I won’t hide the fact from myself that it’s likely to be the same next year. I’ll miss so many moments in the lives of my family being gone. Even the greatest things I see or experience traveling the world without my family don’t compare with those moments when we’re all together at home. But, those moments on the road are setting the stage for our next family adventure.
Am I right to be conflicted? There’s so much of the world to explore. A close friend of mine said something recently that stuck with me. He said, “There’s always this adrenaline when I get off a plane, ready for the next adventure.” He’s a travel junkie like me, craving the next destination. And, so do I.
But, I can’t help wondering how much more fun it would be if my family were beside me, passports in hand.
What do you think?
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