The Emotional Price We Pay for Traveling

I traveled on business for 40 years; I was on airplanes twice a week for 30 of those years.  I left on Sunday, worked in the field Monday through Wednesday, flew home Thursday morning.  I did this about 40 weeks a year until 2004, then tapered off to about 35 weeks the final five years of my career.  Like so many of you, I slept in hotel rooms a good chunk of my working life; and when not in the field, I still had a business to run.  No doubt some of you are thinking, “Hey, this guy didn’t work a full week in the field, didn’t go out there 12 to 17 weeks a year, and he’s talking about the emotional price salespeople pay for being away from home so much?”  Yes, I managed to spend less time in the field than many of you; but, believe me, I know full well—viscerally well—the price we all pay for making our living out on the road, and I think it’s important to talk about it.

I’d need a magical calculator to total up all the important events I missed during my career—all the birthdays, Mother’s Days, Father’s Days, Sunday-afternoon barbecues, Sunday-night weddings, little league games, school conferences for my three children, helping them with their homework, kissing them goodnight….I could go on and on but you get the idea.  I missed a ton of their lives, put a heavy burden on my incredible wife, and it was a huge price to pay—for all of us.  There were times I ached to be home with my family, sharing those Special Moments, and I shed a lot of tears over those lost Special Moments.  I must have asked myself a few thousand times: Is it worth it?  It must have been, because 40 years is a long time, isn’t it?

We all have our fears; who’s to say whether or not they’re rational?  I wouldn’t dream of judging yours and I wouldn’t want you to judge mine.  I sold fearlessly to prospects, but my great fear during all those nights spent in hotels rooms was the fear of dying alone out there; that I wouldn’t be found for days, and then by strangers; that my wife would have to come out to identify my cold body and bring it home.  Irrational perhaps, but quite vivid and real to yours truly.

When I total up all those missed Special Moments and place them in juxtaposition to the fear I’ve just shared with you, the emotional price I paid to be a salesman on the road seems…challenging, to say the least.  I wanted to bring it to your attention because I think it’s an issue you should think about, face squarely—for your mental, emotional, and physical well being.  The cliché is “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”; what do you think?