Business travel with kids

When my wife and I decided to have my 8 year old daughter join me on this trip to New Zealand, I didn’t know what I was in for.

I’d traveled to some professional gigs with my family. It’s always a mixture of stress and reward. Stress because you feel torn between being with a conference and being with your family. Reward because you have shared memories with each family member.

I’ve even traveled a few times with my son, the first time when he was 7 or 8. I know it can be really rewarding to have him with me. Making memories, introducing him to my work, seeing cool sites. He’s a great travel buddy and I love the one-on-one time I get when we’re on the road.

But that had been all in the U.S. And all for only a few days.

This trip is 2 1/2 weeks in New Zealand. My daughter hasn’t ever been away from the rest of our family for even overnight camp. I knew I was in for a different trip when on the runway in San Francisco, she started crying and saying, “I want my mommy” and “I want to go home.” She was quiet enough to not disturb people, but seeing her like that tore at my heart.

That was a couple weeks ago. The tears still happen daily, but we’ve had some great moments too. I didn’t expect having to teach her things like:

  • it’s ok to feel sad but you have to move on anyway
  • some things you simply can’t change (like travel dates) and you need to find the good in the situation
  • just because you feel sad doesn’t mean you need to inflict that on people who are trying to be nice to you

But I also didn’t expect:

  • skipping across the street in Auckland (really skipping with her hand in hand!)
  • playing “yellow car” and “punch buggy” while in a foreign country
  • learning how serious she is about wanting to learn about rescuing animals and
  • seeing what a calming, centering influence animals have on her

And I didn’t expect the impact we are having on people, even in the airport in Boston. Parents were looking at us longingly. You could read the “I wish I’d taken my daughter on this trip” in their eyes.

Everywhere we go, my daughter brings a smile to people’s faces. Without even knowing it, she brightens their day. We’ll be walking down the street and you can practically see people’s countenances lift. It’s been fun being able to point out the impact her very presence has on people. She doesn’t “get it” but I try to remind her that she doesn’t have to “get it,” it’s still real.

Having kids on business trips does force me to slow down. I normally work more-or-less 24/7 when on the road. Not so with a child in tow. She is insistent on getting her school work done, some of which is dependent on me. And I want her to see more of the places we visit than I might if traveling alone.

A huge benefit of traveling with kids is that I don’t feel as homesick. As the kids get older, traveling is getting tougher. I still love life on the road, but being away from my family gets harder and harder. So having at least one with me, makes it much easier.

And it’s so much fun seeing her grow. At the last seminar, she manned the book table. People automatically started giving her money for the books they were buying. She just did what needed to be done without even checking with me!

I’m really intrigued to see what she remembers of this trip a few decades from now. But I’m definitely enjoying having her with me! (And I’m treasuring the fact that she still wants hold my hand!)

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