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I’ve been in the corporate event marketing business for a little over 12 years now. It’s a fun industry to be part of. The thrill of a live event, being a part of a global product launch and traveling around the world can be very exciting.
That life can also be quite draining on your relationship with your family.
I’m writing this as I’m traveling on a week-long trip to Europe for a global sales opportunity. If we win this business, it could be a big deal for our company. But honestly, all I can think about is my family and how I can’t wait to go home.
At the start of my trip, I was chatting with my sister about our Dad traveling abroad a lot for work when we were growing up. He worked for an automotive company that required him to travel in Europe once per month and travel around the US quite a bit as well. Sometimes we wouldn’t see him, speak to him or connect with him for quite a while.
As adults, we now know he was working hard to help our family become what it is today. But at that time in our childhood, the distance and time away from him was quite difficult for us.
Now, I’m in a very similar situation. I travel for my job on a semi-frequent basis. I want to provide for my family and strengthen my family tree like my father did. At the same time, I’m fearful my kids won’t get the time with me that they need.
To put my family first, I started thinking about what I could do to ensure Nicole, Zoey and Calvin get the most from me when I am home. Additionally, I thought about what ways I could keep a strong connection with them when I’m on the road.
Here are 6 areas that I’m working on to help me put my family first when it comes to my business travel …
Limit Travel Time
As of late, when I’m booking my work trips, I think… “What is the absolute least amount of time that I can spend on this business trip while still meeting my goals?”
With that thinking in mind, I have opted for a lot more ‘day trips’ where I fly in the morning and back home at night. Man, it makes for a long day, but I would rather spend time with my kids the next morning and sleep in my own bed than eat another dinner alone at the Westin hotel bar.
For longer trips, I factor in the amount of time I’m absolutely required to be in attendance. If there is a “nice to have you there” situation, I now avoid these at all costs. I’m a better producer for my company when I’m happy, taking care of my health and getting quality time with my family. That extra travel time is unnecessary.
Individual Time with the Kids
If travel is a part of my job, then so be it. When I’m home though, I want to make the most of my time with my kids.
Recently my son and I signed up for a program called the Little Gym. This place is awesome … it is essentially a 45-minute session of father-son bonding time through exercise. Calvin gets to learn how to play basketball, football, soccer and gymnastics with other children his age and I’m right there with him as he’s experiencing it all.
This quality time together is priceless. When I see his face light up after he “dunks” the basketball and then runs across the room to give me a hug, I’m in flippin’ heaven.
My goal is to develop a similar bond with my daughter where we have focused Daddy-Daughter time on a weekly basis. We started a program together at the library called “Little Foodies” where we can create fun themed food treats together and eat them. I still have a lot to learn about reading recipes, but we’re having a good time together.
We had a blast and I’m looking forward to next month’s session.
This “father-son” and “daddy-daughter” time helps me and my kids have solid core memories to hold onto during those times when I’m on the road. It also gives us something to look forward to when I get home.
One area where I’d like improve is identifying a specific date night for my wife Nicole and I each month.
When we do get this quality time together (without kids), it reminds us why we feel in love in the first place.
On our dates, we reminisce, we laugh and we rekindle our love. She is the best thing that has ever happened to me and having more dedicated time with her is a top priority.
Like the focused time with my children, our date nights give us something to look forward to when I’m away.
Technology is Your Friend
One advantage I have over my father’s old travel situation is that technology has advanced rapidly in the past 10 years …
When my Dad was traveling for work, he was not able to text his wife a quick message of love and gratitude for supporting him while he was away. There were no photo or video messages he could send instantaneously about his adventures on the road.
I’m leveraging all that technology has to offer when it comes to maintaining contact with my family.
During my trip this week to London and Berlin, I took a 30 second video on my iPhone for each of my family members to tell them how much I love them and how I can’t wait to be with them soon.
I used FaceTime and spoke to my wife and kids every day during my trip.
I know texts, video and FaceTime are no replacements for my physical presence, but it did make them smile and it helped to keep my spirits up during my long work days.
Enjoy the Homecoming
There is absolutely no place like home when you get back from a long business trip.
Undoubtedly, you’ve worked some long hours, stood in crazy airport security lines and had some sub par sleeping nights because you couldn’t get the right temperature on the thermostat in your hotel. Your arrival home should be a breath of fresh air.
I do my best not to rush off to work again that day or the next morning. Allowing myself to decompress and spend some fun time with the family is a necessity for me.
Bring the Family
My father used to bring us on his work trips and they were some of the best memories of my childhood. We experienced some exciting places and saw some amazing things.
In the past, Nicole and I have taken advantage of my banked up air miles and hotel points to add an extra day or two onto the trip for some memorable family time.
Our kids are very young right now, but as they get older I plan to bring the whole family more and more. Who knows … These adventures may become some of our best memories together.
According to this screen in front of me, I’m in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with 4 hours to go.
When I get back home it’ll be 55 degrees and sunny. Sounds like a perfect fall day to get outside with the family and experience life.