You’re sent to Paris for four glorious days, your schedule’s light, the tulips are bursting at the Champs de Mars – and you feel like a boob because you just want to be home eating meatloaf with your family.
No judgment here, ambivalent business traveler parents! As kids we dream of traipsing around the planet. But by the time we get opportunities to traipse, there are often waist-high imps in our lives, imploring us to stay put. The blare of airport CNN never quite drowns out the parental guilt, the halting Skype chats hardly substitute for bedtime cuddling. For working moms and dads, business travel can slice at the soul, no matter how glamorous the destinations.
An array of websites and books offer solutions, from the obvious (nightly phone check-in – awkward! ends in tears!) to the inventive (a box to collect any artwork brought home during the parent’s absence; a pre-written series of notes for each day the parent will be gone). But of course these are salves. Aside from a law that every conference-planning committee shall have a bright light put in their faces and made answer Is this gathering really necessary? – aside from that, I know of no real fixes.
So instead, in the spirit of reckless advice, I propose the opposite. Live it up! Go out with the gang after the conference, and stay out when they hit the third bar. See a damn movie – remember those? Then catch up on sleep in that huge, weird hotel bed. As you drift off, thumb not through every photo you ever took of the kids. On the contrary think about Gaza, or cold fusion, or that old Marshall McCluhan text from college – whatever you don’t have time for back home.
None of this shortens the distance between you and the family. But presumably you’ll come back recharged, the better to relieve your marooned and heroic partner, and your offspring will learn something about making the best of things. Either that or you’ll just decide to barricade yourself in that kick-ass hotel room indefinitely, in which case I recommend shoving the dresser in front of the door.
Chris Colin is the award-winning author of “Blindsight,” published by the Atavist and named one of Amazon’s Best Books of 2011. See his work at www.chriscolin.com.