When I first started traveling, I was completely unaware of how my business travel life would affect my family in the short term let alone the long term.
I was simply excited to see a new city or have a new experience and wanted to share it with my family and friends – who wouldn’t, right?
But their response was a “good for you” or “wow, must be rough to travel for work.” They saw the highlights and of course, that’s all I was sharing with them.
I somehow forgot that their lives back home continued as mine took a pause while I hopped on a plane, stayed at a nice hotel, and had my meals prepared for me with no responsibilities at home.
They quickly grew weary of my updates that only seemed to highlight their mundane life back home. Another day just like yesterday.
But when the weeks became months and the months became years, distance started to grow more than just the miles from home and my next city.
One of the areas I hear Road Warriors struggle when they open up and are truly honest is staying connected with those you love back home. It’s a challenge to maintain a relationship where you’re simply not there.
Author, Andy Stanley, talks about learning the difference between Problems to Solve and Tensions to Manage. Often there is a clear difference and with relationships on the road, this a clear Tension to Manage with tension as the keyword many times.
When I talked to other Road Warriors about this challenge, their feelings were strong. Maybe you can relate…
Ever Felt This Way?
“I’m killing it on the road but getting killed at home”
“I’m important on the road but invisible at home”
“I’m in control when I travel but lose control in my own home”
“I tell others what to do on the road but only get told what to do at home”
“The guilt of being gone is just overwhelming and feel my kids will hold it against me someday”
Other “off the cuff” comments went something like this…
“After a week or two home, my wife would ask me when my next trip was scheduled because I was messing up her groove at home.”
“My spouse and I are just house managers now. I do my road thing and she does the home thing. Not ideal but it is what it is and we make it work.”
“My marriage didn’t make it because we just grew apart with my travel and being gone so long. We both didn’t try but I feel the most guilt for not trying hard at all when I was on the road. Oh, the regrets.”
“This is the ideal marriage – you have direct deposit and rarely home!”
Hard but true comments from real Road Warriors.
It’s easy to have the road become a place of escape from the busyness and the responsibilities back home. And when you have some of the above feelings or can relate to the quotes, it makes the business travel life all the more appealing.
Three Mindset Shifts to Stay Connected With Those Back Home
1. Respect Their Lives Are Continuing Back Home Without You
It is hard accepting this simple reality but it’s true. Just as you’re gone doing what you do on the road, they’re at home doing their lives, business as usual with or without you and often they have the exact same routine every single day when our schedule on the road is often the complete opposite.
The longer you travel, the more those back home “get used to” you being gone and they adjust, adapt, and make the best of it. I don’t like to be replaced so I have a hard time with this one.
Too often my schedule is the only thing at the forefront of my mind and I need to be reminded my daughter has volleyball tonight and my son has soccer. My oldest is studying for a big test and my little one’s cough is getting worse.
When you come back home, there’s catch up to do with family and friends. You do what you can on the road, but the more days you’re gone, the more life events you miss, this reality becomes all the truer.
Respect may look more like asking and listening than talking and impressing.
2. Realize Those Back Home May Not Want to Know Everything
I had an opportunity to apply this one and blew it albeit with good intentions. My wife loves sunsets so I drove to the coast so we could FaceTime and enjoy it together. (yeah, you see where this one is going, don’t you?)
Well, it was picturesque, my kids were soaking it in and my wife starts to cry and not those tears of joy kind. The sun could NOT have set fast enough, and it’s still a joke between us now but I sure didn’t get it at the moment.
I remember when I finally got this point – I was in La Jolla, CA for a business dinner in a restaurant that overlooked the cliff into the Pacific Ocean. And like it couldn’t be any better, the sunset was amazing, the wine was great, and the two professional athletes were sitting next to me.
Then my phone rings from my wife. Of course, she calls now. And I didn’t want to answer but I did. I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut. I was gone all week, this was my last night and the last thing she needed and wanted to hear was what an amazing night I was having when it was below zero back home and one of the kids was throwing up.
I finally got this lesson to realize they may not want to know everything. We need to realize and be guarded what we share from our highlights. If they do seem to enjoy it, they may be doing it just to be nice!
The key is knowing when and how to involve those back home in your life on the road. I’ve learned to ask my wife just how much she wants to know about my dinner or location – this question is from doing it wrong way too many times.
3. Reaching Out Should Look Differently
The road limits us on how and when we reach out. But often we can use this as an excuse because of the limitations and inconveniences.
I was better than the average at “checking in” back home but it was usually just that, checking in. And when I did, sadly I was often distracted and not giving what little time I did have for those back home, my full attention.
My wife knew and often my kids unintentionally would call me out: “Dad, what are you reading right now?” Caught.
The Check-In is necessary but the bare minimum. But the Connect-In goes over and above and requires so much more of us but worth every moment of it.
At some point on the road, we need to move from the Check-In Guy or Girl to the Connect-In Guy or Girl. They deserve us reaching out differently that is more about them, not about fitting them in “when I have a moment.”
There are many creative and thoughtful ways to Connect-In but this comes with maturity and commitment to truly stay connected with those you love back home.
In the End…
I challenge you to really think through if you’re a Check-In Guy or Girl. Be honest. Do you fit those back home in the margins? Do you give them your full attention and fully present when you are connecting with them? Are you respecting their world without you while you’re gone?
My hope is you’ll be motivated and inspired to become a Connect-In Guy or Girl who learns to excel in this key focus area of the business travel life.