There are two old adages about romantic love that seem to contradict each other: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and “Out of sight, out of mind.” Until my husband Steve became a regular business traveler, I didn’t understand how in the world both of these sayings could be true.
Before long and without realizing it was happening, we began to drift apart.
About ten years ago, Steve’s IT consulting job began to require him to travel every couple of months. The destinations were mostly within North America, and he was rarely away for more than a week. A few times when he travelled to an exciting destination such as Montreal or New York City, I would tag along. His trips delivered a few solid benefits including extra travel reward miles, a good supply of duty-free alcohol, and so much free hotel soap, shampoo, and body lotion that I never had to buy the stuff. We spent just enough time apart that it gave our relationship that extra absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder spark.
Several years later Steve was offered a position that would require travel globally. He was very excited about the work and the opportunity to see more of the world. Although the job would mean a bit more time apart, we figured we could handle it. He took the position. As things unfolded, Steve’s business travel stretched into longer periods – Bulgaria for two weeks, Dubai the following month, back-and-forth to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania several times. On average, we were apart for about two weeks a month.
I kept busy with my public relations practice, but the isolation of working from home and longer absences from Steve began to take its toll. Before long and without realizing it was happening, we began to drift apart. What was once a short break from each other that made us look forward to reuniting inched towards both of us living largely separate lives. Out of sight, out of mind.
It turns out there’s a fine line between what makes both of those two adages true.
After one extended business trip – it might have been when I had to deal with an unexpected car repair and a leak in our roof while Steve was away – I confessed to him that I thought all the time apart was affecting our relationship. He agreed. I knew he loved his job and the travel. What was the solution? As we hashed it out, Steve said, “You just have to come with me more often.”
I initially rejected the idea with a number of objections. How is that possible? All my clients are in our home city. I couldn’t just take off every other month. How could we afford my travel expenses?
As we continued to discuss it, the objections began to fall away. Other than the occasional face-to-face meeting, most of the work I do is online. Steve argued that I could do what I do from anywhere in the world with a good Internet connection. By using Steve’s frequent flyer miles, and by making all of our regular purchases on a credit card with travel rewards, my travel expenses would be minimal. What was there to hold us back? We didn’t even have the excuse of kids to care for. We decided to give it a try.
Steve argued that I could do what I do from anywhere in the world with a good Internet connection.
I had believed that my clients would abandon me when I was regularly jetting off somewhere. In reality, none of them cares. They get it – as long as the work gets done and I am available to them to talk or meet via Skype – it doesn’t matter if I’m across town or across the continent. To tell the truth, most of the time I don’t even tell my clients when I’m working remotely anymore.
The benefits of me tagging along on Steve’s business travel go far beyond what we anticipated. I am grateful for the privilege of the travel lifestyle Steve and I now lead. We have experienced many enriching adventures because I said yes to giving remote work a try. I don’t tag along on every trip, which is fine. I stay behind just often enough to make absence make the heart grow fonder.