This post contains my very personal statements. They do not represent those of Puppet or prior employers.
I write from my last flight with Puppet. It was an enjoyable year with a fantastic company. Puppet will be one of those places remaining alive within my best workplace memories. Amazing people, wonderful talent and a culture that should be an example for every business. A touch of sadness is palpable within me as I bid farewell.
Puppet is among a list of companies I have traveled for. Some I traveled extensively for and others a fair amount. When I started flying for work many years ago, I posted on Facebook as Air Xuxo with a dash of cultist pride. I illustrated postcards that I published with hints related to cities and countries. Then, after a long series of treks, I simply dropped my laptop, said goodbye and went underground. I even deleted all the pictures I had taken and removed myself from social networks. That period on the ground lasted about 3 1/2 years.
That time found me adjusting to new places to work, re-introducing myself to circles of people I saw everyday and realizing that business travel can be addictive and you have to fight it. Furthermore, I also went through some changes to improve my health and heal damages I had made to my relationship at home. The wounds had been building, but I was away too much to nurse them back to health. Time at home also saw the birth of my daughter. To be honest, I finally became an adult in my late 30s.
After that period, I felt comfortable trying a position that had a minimal, by historical comparison, amount of travel. Puppet offered that great balance and after consultation with my wife, I went for it. Mountain area was my only region to cover and that was a much better way of “air living” than in prior stages of my career. I had fun, I enjoyed the short trips and learned a ton from everyone I met. It also allowed me to build a community I am very proud of. Then, my daughter turned 3 and some time after I started hearing these phrases: “I miss you all the time” and “please come back soon”.
When you hear such statements from a small toddler that is still learning everything around her, it truly melts you. It makes you think. First you think about how she feels and then about yourself. Realizing that I am not there to teach her stuff, unable to play with her several periods in a month and not waking her up in the mornings made me feel selfish, detached and careless about the real importance of life. I also thought of all the hard days my wife has had handling everything while I am away. About 8 years ago, she drove herself to the hospital and ended up with an emergency appendectomy because I was away for work and stranded due to snow! That’s just one example.
Some of you that have done gigs like these must think: why not bring your family to trips? Because I am not there either. Work trips are series of endless meetings with happy hours and just some downtime at night, probably still slaving away in front of a laptop screen to cram work. Ask that question to my wife instead, who spent a week in São Paulo and barely saw me.
In between the countless boarding pass scans and walks across airport terminals I thought about this type of life (subculture really). I wondered how much business travel, and associated expenses, can be trimmed back if leadership finally embraced our hyper-connected culture. Maybe one visit in person, the next 6 or 7 virtual. Everybody wins: companies, employees and families. Why people do this? Why I did it? Why risk being in a metal container 30,000+ ft above the ground loaded with fuel so often? That metal container can fail at any time and not see your family and friends ever again. It is a risk we, business travelers, have accepted but rarely seem to think about.
During my first grounding, I came across a LinkedIn article that resonated with me. It seems impossible for me to find now to quote but it was written by a business traveler that said he did it for his family. That all those missed important dates were for his family. An especially striking statement claimed he did it for the future of his children. There is no worth on that when you completely missed important moments and experiences on their path to that future. Financial reward and title seem unimportant when you have to see your child singing for the first time through a text with a link.
Farewell to the skies and rewards’ points. It has been a great time and set of experiences. From now on I will only travel for vacations, the 3 of us together.