The one thing that constantly puzzles me is the amount of people who say “wow, you travel a lot for work!” and then follow up with “how exciting it must be” or “how important you are to travel a lot”. My response is always, try it for 2 months and you will never want to travel again. I’m always reminded of a conversation I had with a colleague and friend about this very subject; whilst we were both separately on the road and on the phone together lamenting travel. He punctuated this by describing his dinner on said trip home being a sandwich purchased at a road stop. Glamorous indeed.
Leaving my family at home is one of the most painful and heart wrenching thing that happens on an almost bi-weekly basis. I remember when coming home would make my son cry because in his eyes, and own words, it meant “Dadda’s just going to leave again!”. I remember very little of my daughters first year of life at that same time, too. It is hard when your own child doesn’t really know who you are and doesn’t feel like they want to spend time with you, something that has taken almost 2 years to repair. Top this off with the seventeen kinds of mental they go trying to process the emotions that they don’t understand after you’ve told them that you need to go away again. Whilst, at times, I’m glad to get away from the emotional roller coaster so I can get on with what I have to do, the worst part is leaving my awesome and super supportive wife behind to pick up the pieces when I’ve left in the taxi for the airport. What amazes me is that I don’t travel half as much as some people I know, I get to be home on the weekends (mostly) whereas some people spend weeks and months on the road, seeing their family fleetingly as they catch a connecting flight to their next destination or have dinner via Skype.
Like those naive few who think travelling for work is glamorous, I originally started volunteering to get on jobs that required travel, thinking I’d get to see more of the world. Very soon I worked out that the most you see is the inside of an office and the hotel room. Also there is no job promise, pay rise or benefit that makes you want to travel. These things take the edge off it all and allow you to put up with the inconvenience at the time.
So why do we do this? I can’t answer for anyone but myself. Like a lot of people who take on two or three jobs or work six days a week, it is rarely done for us alone. In my case I do it because of family. Let me explain. There are the perks of the home time and the advantages that come with travelling. Part of the reason for travel is the pure nature of what I do, you go where the work is. Going to where the work is allows me to break down the communication barriers with those colleagues that I’m travelling to meet and work with. This time is usually intense, working through whatever drama in order to meet a deadline, building strong bonds of trust and friendships that would otherwise take a very, very long time to build up; making my job a lot easier at times.
The flip side for me is that when I am at home I get to stay at home. I work from a home office set up for my personal preferences and work habits (no corporate punch-up over having an office with a door, a standing desk, a couch or multiple displays). But most importantly, whilst most people are off getting coffee or lunch together with their work colleagues, I get to spend that time with my children, watching them grow up, learn and have fun. Unlike most people I get to have every meal with my kids (when I’m at home) something that I know a lot of my friends don’t get. Getting to have 15 minutes of mindless fun running about the yard with them is something I will never get later in life.
This is why I still travel.