It’s crazy to think that I’ve been a road warrior for over 20 years. Prior to that I loved traveling for fun but only occasionally traveled for work. Over the years, I’ve had more elite status than I can probably remember. The very first loyalty program I signed up for was the Best Western Gold Crown Club. Even back in the early 90s I understood these loyalty programs had value.
Along the way, I’ve had top tier elite status with:
- American Airlines (I think that was the first program I was ever an “elite” member of)
- United Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- Starwood Preferred Guest
- Marriott (Bonvoy and Rewards)
- Wyndham Rewards
- Hyatt Gold Passport/World of Hyatt
- Hilton Honors
- Hertz (Platinum)
I’ve earned lifetime status with many of these programs, something that has proved to be extremely valuable and nearly useless. I’ve been stuck in more airports than I can count, booked flights, hotel rooms and rental cars for the wrong days, to the wrong destinations. If there’s a travel mistake, I’ve probably made it.
As travel ramped up over the years, I started piling on life events. I got married, then had a kid. A second child followed and they grew up. All of those things made life more complicated. Elite status is excellent, and can solve many problems. I can’t count the number of times the American Airlines Executive Platinum desk found a way to get me home early to a sick kid. That was during a time when agents like that had the authority to help loyal customers, a time period that has since mostly passed. Even the greatest of agents couldn’t solve all of the problems life can throw at you.
Recently, I was invited to spend a weekend on a private island. As I flew home after the long weekend I looked out the airplane window and could see the islands fade behind me. I couldn’t shake one thought. It’s not a new thought. It has crossed my mind frequently over the years.
My Wife Michelle Makes My Travel World Possible
Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting my wife knows this (and probably doesn’t need to be reminded). Countless times I’ve walked up to Michelle and said something that resembles, “Hey, I know I said I was going to be in Denver Monday and Tuesday of next week, but now I need to extend until Thursday. Can we sit down and figure out how to make that work?”
Her answer is always the same, “I’ll figure out how to make it work”.
I’m sure there are times she hates to hear me ask her how to rearrange things. I know there are plenty of times she’d rather be coming with me to someplace exotic (like that private island I mentioned). Most of all, I know there are plenty of times that she’d rather have me home co-parenting our children. After all, we’re a team and we didn’t start out this journey to build a family with the plan that I would be gone half the time.
You see, I don’t just ask Michelle to accommodate my travel needs for the traditional work trip. I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of some crazy adventures.
There was that time I flew to Djibouti to deliver UNICEF supplies. And, the crazy fundraisers at Disney for Give Kids the World. Did I mention the private island? I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes as someone who truly loves travel, seeing me pack up the suitcase to go do something fun without her.
But, the story is far from complete if we just talk about how Michelle has made an impact on my ability to travel for work, fun and everything in between. Our family has been lucky enough to travel to some incredible places. Italy is one of our favorite spots, and I can recall recreating the same photo with our daughter, almost 10 years apart, atop the beautiful town of Taormina.
When we land in a foreign country, I’m quick to turn around to Michelle and say, “Oh, crap! We forgot to pack the……” fill in the blank with dozens of critical items. Her answer is always the same, “I packed it.” It amazes me the things she remembers and how often she just…..gets it right. Instead of scrambling around a foreign city looking for sunscreen or medicine, we have a pouch for that.
On a trip to Australia before the pandemic, my daughter and I both contracted strep throat. We had to go to the doctor and get medicine. Michelle was sick as well, but never got strep. Like many moms out there, she didn’t “allow herself” to get sick. She had a family to take care of. Oh, and there was that time at Disney where I laid on the floor of a restroom for hours puking my guts up. She had been sick with the same bug the previous days, but was determined not to ruin our Disney trip by getting sick. Who thinks that way? Who has that willpower? Obviously, I didn’t on that day.
The Final Two Pennies
As Michelle and I close in on 20 years of marriage, I marvel at what she’s managed to accomplish. The sacrifices she makes for my job as well as all the travel adventures are unimaginable. All this while parenting two kids, training for marathons and making sure I always have a hat on vacation even though I never remember to pack one.
You might wonder why I’m writing this today. It’s not our anniversary, it’s not Mother’s Day. It’s a normal Wednesday, which means we’re running around doing all those normal life things. We managed to squeeze in a quick lunch date together at our favorite deli, even though I misread my calendar and had to be on a conference call for the first 5 minutes.
Part of why I write this blog is so that my kids will have a timeline of our travel adventures. I don’t want them to lose sight of what their mother has made possible, both for me and them. But, most importantly, I don’t want to forget those things. Love can be fleeting, and finding “the one” can be elusive for many. I don’t ever want to overlook how lucky I am, no matter how many times I test the boundaries of what my wife can manage.
She’ll be embarrassed this story is about her and she’ll hate that I included so many pictures of her. They’re some of my favorites. She always seems to find a way to smile in these incredible moments, even when she’d rather the camera were pointed elsewhere.
At the end of the day, travel is a huge part of who I am (for better and for worse). I believe in face-to-face meetings with employees, with working alongside them at difficult moments. And, I believe that stepping off a plane in a new place is one of the most exciting things I’ll ever do.
As our kids get older and leave the nest, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to Michelle being in the seat next to me as I stand up, grab my bag out of the overhead bin and head out on the next adventure. If you’re looking for her, she might be at the spa while I’m typing away on my computer. After all, she’s earned it!
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