I’m standin’ here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome I could die. - John Denver, Leaving on a Jet Plane
On Thursday, I’ll stay as long as I can to soak in a drop or two of Halloween with the boys. But by early evening, I’ll be on a train to New York where I’ll take a cab to a hotel near JFK to be ready to fly to China the next morning. I’ll be gone 11 days, making the trip the longest for me — both in terms of miles and time away — from everything safe and familiar. To be clear, the trip is a fantastic opportunity and unequivocally of my own choosing. I will visit Shanghai, Xian, and Hong Kong before returning home, taking in sights I never dreamed I would ever see. But as I have come to understand, everything is a trade-off when you travel for work. And what seems from the outside as glamorous and exotic is indeed that— but it always comes with a touch of anxiety, a sprinkle of melancholy and a pinch of dread.
I know the drill – and so does my husband. About a week before a long trip, I start to clench as I await the imminent loss of control over everything that matters to me. It is the price of admission for the exciting journey that awaits. I get irritable and begin micro managing the household, as if asserting and inflating my presence now will make it last while I am gone. What it actually accomplishes is nothing of the sort. Rather it likely makes the boys happier to see me go so that they can go back to a normal life without their mother scurrying about like a squirrel collecting and storing emotional nuts in her cheeks for upcoming winter.
I’m getting better at letting the fear wash over rather than grip me as I have come to realize that the anticipation of leaving my family is really the worst part. Now, when I start to feel the need to iron my sons’ underwear, I simply say to myself:“Once you get on the road, you will be fine. Put down the angst and step away from the crazy.”
That helps. Still, I know full well the ups and downs that await me in the upcoming days of travel.
I know I won’t regret my decision to go. I’m traveling with like-minded colleagues who I adore and who carry with them the same sensibilities as I do. The last two years brought us to Dublin and Israel/Jordan together – both trips of a lifetime. I’m certain this journey will yield a similar quota of amazing experiences and inside jokes which will be well-played on my memory jukebox for years to come.
I know I will miss my family most on days 4, 6 and 9. Actually, I’m not that much of a predictor, but there will come time when exhaustion gets the better of me and when what I am seeing or doing is so incredible that I will be sad not to be sharing it with those I love most. Ever want to take a test to find out who is most important to you? Stand in front of the Treasury in Petra or Trim Castle in Dublin or the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian and fill in the blank: Oh my. I wish _________ could see this!
I know I will completely lose it on the inside at least once. I will be busy enough not have this happen often, but sometimes when it gets quiet, my inner voice fills the void with crazy shit that is the manifestation of every action movie, newscast, or Internet story I have ever seen.Now is the time when the plane crashes. Now is the time when I get attacked by killer hornets. Now is the time they mistakenly arrest me for spying and throw me in a Chinese prison.
I have already asked those closest to me to wear yellow ribbons in the event the last scenario comes true. You laugh, but these are the things I think about when not distracted by the reality that everything is just fine. Articulating them out loud inoculates them from happening. So there. Checked THAT off my list.
But above all else, I know that I won’t squander this gift of travel that I have been given. I know so many people whose wanderlust aches to take these trips that have been handed over to me, Mrs. Homebody. I know other Moms who could never leave their teenagers for an extended period of time. I know my boys are in the best hands with their Dad. (Although I am thinking of imposing a Motorcycle Moratorium upon said father until I return.) And I know, though I loathe admitting it, that the world does keeps spinning, even when I’m on the other side of it.So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you’ll wait for me Hold me like you’ll never let me go
Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go.
See you back here in a few weeks.