Since 1989, I have traveled for business frequently. I am truly a road and sky warrior. For many of my travels, I am accompanied by employees, other consultants, and people who are not friends or family members. In the past few years, my spouse/business partner has traveled with me more than in the past (due to the departure of other consultants who were employed by my company and my decision never to replace them), but I still travel far more than he does. I learned, early on in my traveling lifestyle, that it is crucial to the success of a long term relationship for the person who is on the road, in the airport, or at the hotel to phone home. Sometimes, these check in calls last only a short time; often they are at the end of a busy work day and there is time only to say “I miss you, I love you, and I can’t wait to see you.” In my spouse/business partner’s lives, I, as the traveler, have usually been the person who makes the call because it is difficult for my spouse to know when I will be free from client related duties and thus, able to speak freely. I know other couples who adopt a “no news is good news” policy when traveling, but for my spouse and me, it is important to check in with each other and keep the home fires burning.
As technology has evolved, the ability to keep in touch has never been easier. With “smart” phones evolving from “bricks” there is hardly any excuse not to communicate. Regardless of the technology, the important part is being in touch, especially with a spouse or family. My spouse and I live and work together – thus, we are in touch on many levels. For others, however, work that requires travel may be foreign to those staying at home. My Dad traveled extensively during his first career (30+ years with the Interstate Commerce Commission) and his second career (20+ years in the trucking industry on the private side) so I grew up understanding the separation caused by work travel and, though he kept in touch by the means available, landline long distance phone calls, I think it would be interesting today to be able to email and text photos and share lives electronically even when separated. That is, he could have sent me photos of the underside of trucks he was inspecting and barbeque joints he was checking out! And, while this post has mainly been about the life – work balance issues caused by traveling, it is also important to note that communicating with the office is very important as well. And, surprisingly, this is not second nature to some people. There have been many times with various employees who had to be trained on the importance of staying in touch with the office to be able to respond to and manage things that happen when they are away from the office. Our research days and related travel are a prime example of this; these days are intense and demanding whether with clients or traveling. But, the world doesn’t stop and the next case/client may require attention while one is away. Again, there are presently so many ways to communicate, some asynchronous, that not keeping in touch and being responsive is unacceptable in the workplace or in one’s personal life.