Monday, November 2, 2009

I Travel

My work involves travel. It used to be constant. That wore thin. Now I'm more careful about how much I travel and for what reasons. Traveling takes a toll on a family and a relationship and even a carefully monitored schedule can create serious problems. For someone like me who goes on location to earn a living, I have come to realize that distance creates distance. No matter what the means and frequency of communication, being gone creates a gulf that can become a rift.

When our first son, Zander, was born, he and Andrea and I moved about as a compact unit. Accompanied by my photo assistant, we'd move from assignment to assignment throughout the Caribbean and Europe, touching back home between trips to throw in a couple of loads before heading back out to the airport with fresh clothes. By the time Zander was 18 months, we figured he'd been on almost 200 flights. Tucked into a backpack with the sheepskin ("Lambie") that was his bed, Zander slept on floors, under tables, and in corners at some of the finest restaurants my work took me to.

When Simon came along, we simply upgraded from a single stroller to a double. Week after week in hotel rooms, eating out, and being part of a photo crew kept us together as a family, even though we weren't home. "We ARE their home," Andrea told her mother who was concerned about the effect on the kids. We always said our kids became what and who they are because of all the places they have been, the cultures they have experienced, and the people they have met along the way.

By the time Maxie came along, Zander was starting school, and the expense of traveling with a group that size was prohibitive. I did not need to major in Economics (which I did before art school) to know that a job should not cost more than you're paid. The closeness we held dearly as a family had to change. I continued to travel but now it was only me and an assistant. After 13 years of doing it all the time, I had a jarring revelation. Zander fit into a backpack only yesterday and is now applying to colleges, his stroller-mate brother is a varsity soccer star, and little Maxie’s wearing makeup and stressing over what to wear to school. Over the years, I made nearly every soccer, lacrosse, or softball game and felt I was as connected as someone as jet lagged as I could be and the living was a good one for us.

I still love to travel but now, when someone asks me what exciting place I’d just come from, I might still be able to say, the Greek Islands or Patagonia, French Polynesia or Monte Carlo, but I most likely will admit that I’ve been trying to stay home.   I almost always sense a bit of disappointment but while what I do can seem like a dream job, what I like best and what I miss most is being here every morning as they go to school knowing these mornings will soon end.   Then another phase will begin--it'll be Andrea and me back on the road as a unit finishing off the list of all the places we’d love to go or taking on another assignment together.

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