How much do you stay in touch while traveling?
The kids and I leave tomorrow for a month-long trip to Canada, our first trip to Nana’s since the Epic Family Roadtrip of ’09. This time, we are taking one of those new-fangled flying machines, which will whittle our travel time down from seven days to one and a half. The packing is as least as much hassle, maybe more, since the FAA gets a say. I’ve warned the boys repeatedly to make sure there are no knives or explosives in their backpacks, but there’s no telling what’s going to get turned out of a pocket once we get to security.
Whichever way we go, it’s a major undertaking to get from Little Rock, Arkansas to Corner Brook, Newfoundland. And hugely expensive. It’s not something that can happen every year, and when it does, we try to stay as long as we possibly can. Last time, Patrick facilitated that by bringing his office with him, which made for a working vacation that didn’t quite cut it as either. This year, he’s decided he’d rather stay home and work, and have a real vacation with us at the tail end of our stay.
That makes for three weeks apart. We’re spinning it to each other as an adventure and a challenge, but I’m going to miss him so much. The fact is, we’ve never been much good at being apart. You only have to see our lives before we met to know that.
When we were in Ireland a few years back, I asked one of our traveling companions how things were going at home with his wife and kids. He said he hadn’t spoken to her, and that when one of them travelled, they didn’t contact each other unless there was an emergency. He framed it as a kind of gift they gave each other: permission to truly be away. I was both horrified and fascinated. I don’t think Patrick and I have been out of touch for twenty-four hours since the day he met me at the airport in Mexico in 1996. When one of us has had to travel, we constantly ping back and forth.
I like that we like to stay in touch. But I’m also aware that it can keep us from being fully present where we are. Maybe the key to getting through this separation is to embrace it — enjoy the time with my boys and Newfoundland family, and let him enjoy the quiet time at home. Catch up at the day’s end or beginning, but not be checking in with each other every hour in between, as we tend to do. I’m expecting my teenage son to unplug from his iPhone while we’re away, and immerse himself in the experience of being where we are. It seems like his Dad and I should be able to do the same for a few hours at a stretch, without freaking out.
What’s your communication style when you travel apart from your family? Do you tend to stay in constant contact, or do you prefer to be untethered? Which makes for the easier absence and the sweeter reunion, do you think?