How do you hold a relationship together when you kiss each other goodbye on Sunday afternoon and don't physically touch again until late Friday night, if the airport hasn't been snowed in or your significant other has managed to catch the last flight. Can a relationship survive such separation?
Patricia Stewart, senior account executive with Bisys Group, has been traveling frequently for more than 14 years but has managed to keep her 18-year marriage to John D'Aquanno, an executive with Windsor Capital Group, in good shape. "There's good news and bad when it comes to frequent travel," says Stewart. "The good news is that I've accumulated enough frequent-flier mileage for either of us to visit our families whenever we like. We also go on super vacations."Stewart also says she's a people person who enjoys her Houston company as well as interacting with her customers in various cities.
The bad news is that you don't often get to do things with friends. "Especially if they're having an event on a Friday or Sunday night," Stewart laments. Frequent travel is also lonely, your skin dries out from frequent air travel, it's impossible to eat right when you're running to catch a plane, and it's easy to forget where you are.
"You have to stay connected to each other as much as possible when you're on the road," advises Stewart who calls her husband every morning, no matter where she is. "Sure, the phone bills are humongous. But if I were in the city, we'd spend money eating out, going to a movie, renting a video. This is our mutual entertainment."
Staying connected is important, but you also have to take care of yourself. The stay-at-home partner has a network of friends and relatives to help keep him or her from getting too lonely. You're out there with the meager things you packed in order to keep the suitcase light enough to fit in the overhead compartment. That may be a mistake.
Pack light but pack enough. Get it down to a science. Arrange a small toiletry kit with everything you may need for a week - nail clippers and file, shaving cream, razor, tooth brush and paste, cleaning cream and moisturizer, and your own soap. It's bad enough that you have to keep changing environments; don't add to the problem by trying to use the various soaps provided by hotels. Purchase small sizes of everything. Sure, they cost more, but you don't need one ounce of extra weight when you're running for a plane.
Hotel rooms can dry you out. Fill the bathtub with water and leave it in there all night. It also helps to fill the ice bucket with water and put it on the night stand next to your head. This will add moisture to the room.
Entertain yourself. Get a massage. Work out in the hotel gym. Get to know your clients and after a while couples may invite you over to their homes for dinner or out to a movie. Get caught up on your gift shopping. Hang out at book stores. Always have an interesting paperback handy.
Get to know your corporate travel consultant. Let him or her know your travel preferences. Ask to be booked on one or two airlines. That way the crew will get to know you, which may make for a friendlier flight. You'll also be able to accumulate more frequent-flier mileage on a particular airline. The same is true of hotel chains. While Stewart favors Marriott Courtyards, many chains are now following the same consistency concept.
Schedule time off the road. If possible travel one week and spend the next in the office or at home base. If you can't do this, schedule at least one week a month off the road or schedule three days on and four days off. Your mental health will suffer if you attempt to be a chronic frequent flier.
Most importantly, plan for the time when you will stop traveling. One frequent traveler said, "Sometime I look out at the runway and think, "I can't do this for the next 20 years. I'm burning out." Set a deadline for when you'll take that desk job so you can dream of the day when you can put your suitcase away.