Magazine article Training & Development

Till Travel Do Us Part

Magazine article Training & Development

Till Travel Do Us Part

Article excerpt

Business equals travel for many people. In turn, traveling presents both an escape from and a troublesome part of everyday life. Many families and significant relationships today have become dominated by--and suffer from--weekly travel schedules. You can take steps, however, to lessen the stress travel places on relationships.

Excessive travel seriously affects relationships and quality of life. What impact does business travel have on family life? What can the traveler and the family do to cope with the traveling process? How many trips can a person make and still be part of a family? How far can a person go in rationalizing the "quality-versus-quantity" time issues? What is "excessive"?

Problems with the traveling life are exemplified by Andrea, a very competent management consultant who flew 90,000 miles last year.

"You start losing touch with things," she says. "My work is in leadership, which is at its best reflective. If you get into this mode of running around, you don't have time to reflect."

She complains about being chronically tired and feels overwhelmed by the increasing number of demands placed on her. The quality of her life outside of work has suffered. Many once-important friendships have died of neglect. The things she used to like to do around the house no longer get done or no longer give her the satisfaction she once knew. She is not sure what to do, but she is sure that this is not the way she want to live.

Andrea has lost control. She needs to take charge. Earlier in her career, she says, there was a certain magic in telling someone. "I've been asked to speak in San Francisco next month." As she hit her mid-forties, however, she has found herself struggling with the traveling process. She says, "I feel as though I'm always going somewhere, never being anywhere!

Some business people justify the traveling process with glib rationalizations like these:

* "I spent only 20 percent of my time on the road--that's about one day a week--which is only one night away."

* "Actually, time zones don't affect me all that much. I'm fit and can shift gears when I'm on the road."

* "It's not the quantity of time I spend with my family; it's the quality of time that counts."

* "After all, I'm really doing this for the family."

How about you? Has travel disrupted your relationships? Do you hear yourself feeling or saying such things?

The trade-offs

The trade-offs or excessive travel are clear. Chronic travelers know all too well the day-to-day effects of the stress they endure to keep up with their travel schedules. Travel burnout is a common malady. For many of us, finding symptoms in our relationships is easier than we would like.

Peter, a successful executive, is an example of travel burnout.

He says, "My wife and kids love me; there is no question about that. But we have so little time together that it's like starting over when I come home from a trip. There is no continuity in our relationships. It's like building a house and constantly starting over on the foundation."

Some people travel more than they have to because they want an escape from pressures at home as well as at the office. Few stop to analyze or even recognize that they travel for personal as well as for business reasons. In the long run, the investment of energy, the opportunity for intense human connections, and the seductiveness of travel as a way to escape office and family pressures can actually kill real quality of life.

Chronic traveling is exhausting and numbing. Travelers often work harder and longer than they would in a usual day in the office.

Peter says, "I feel as though I'm 'on' all the time and am expected to be 'on' all the time! I get so tired that I become numb. I shut down. When I get home I want to be left alone. I clam up. My family doesn't really understand what I am going through. …

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