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Keeping the Family Bond During Extended Travel

Josh Bullock
Jun 16, 2022

"My heartbeat’s rhythm is a lonesome sound" - that is the life of the traveling professional strength and conditioning coach. As Chris Stapleton harmonizes in his song Traveller, the miles of jet-setting and ground transportation can increase the physical and metaphorical distance between loved ones. This life can be challenging for those at home and those who leave their loved ones behind. But, that is the life chosen; that is the iron game. 

All of this is no big deal if you're used to looking after yourself, have few obligations at home, and enjoy life like a leaf in the wind. I am not that guy. I am blessed to have an amazing wife I have been married to for over 12 years and a beautiful daughter who recently turned six years old. Being in touch with them when I was living this life was my highest priority. 

For half a decade, I would pack my bags and depart for a distant and remote mountain every few weeks. Including air and ground transportation, most of the places I traveled were 24 hours or more from my home in Park City, Utah. I typically logged between 100 and 120 thousand airline miles each year, resulting in between 180 and 250 days sleeping in random hotels and rental houses across the globe. But, I am here to tell you that maintaining family values IS possible when a little creativity meets the day's technology.

What follows is my best advice if you find yourself looking for a better way or somehow, as I did, find yourself abruptly thrust into a life on the road.

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Before You Go

Before you go, drop a pin! Rather than flipping open your phone to share your current location, show your loved ones your future location. My daughter loved to know where I was going, my travel route, and the countries I was visiting. She had a map of the globe on her wall at the time. Each time I would prepare to depart, she helped me pack (I always got to take something special!), and then we put a pin on the map at my final destination. We talk about the airplane, the different languages, the flags, the food, the culture, and some things that make people from that part of the world special or unique.

Laying the groundwork ahead time created critical touch points for our conversations during the road trip. Those conversations hinged on the availability of my mobile device and you need to make sure you have everything in place before you go. 

If you travel internationally, choose the right cell phone and plan before you go. For a more detailed explanation, I like this article. However, here are the basics:

  1. Contact your carrier's customer support line.
    1. Make sure you have a phone capable of use during international travel.
    2. You can also request to have global data roaming enabled.
  2. When you arrive:
    1. Connect to Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is global these days. It's like finding a fly at a barbecue - it just lands on your plate.
    2. If you want data and your phone is unlocked, many local carriers allow you to purchase a sim card you can swap with your current carrier.
    3. If you have an international plan and want high-speed data, you can purchase them through your carrier upon arrival. You can log onto your carrier's website, and in most cases, carriers will send you a text message to activate a high-speed data plan.

If you travel domestically, no worries! Just make sure you have a full charge and power bank! If you are interested in my packing list and travel plan that I sent my athletes - here you go

While You're Gone

Using multiple methods of communication at the same time adds a lot of fun to the day. My favorite communication method is a video call. No other method replaced great video calls with my wife and daughter. The most common apps for this are FaceTime, Skype, or Google Meet. Wifi is usually fast enough to accommodate this type of communication, and nothing makes you feel more like you're at home.

My second favorite form of communication is Marco Polo. Marco Polo is an app that allows you to share videos, or Polo's, with family members or members of your contacts list. Videos can be edited and enable family members to quickly share moments of their day or drop a quick love note. When you're on the road, few things top the surprise Polo that lets you know your loved ones are thinking about you. The feeling from those back home is undoubtedly mutual.

My final go-to communication method is post-card. The classic with a modern twist! I like the app Touch Note. Touch Note allows you to send postcards, birthday cards, thank you notes, or any other snail mail you choose from the convenience of your mobile device. The best part, you can customize the pictures and messages to share your experiences with loved ones. I liked to take photos, and my daughter loved to get postcards in the mail. She still has a shoebox with all of them in it! 

When you Return

Returning home from a long trip is one of the best feelings! I can only describe it as the warmest hug wrapped in a cup of hot chocolate - with extra marshmallows! Returning home is another excellent opportunity to show your loved ones you care and share your experiences with them. Here are some simple ideas:

  1. Make a slideshow or short video. The creation of simple media can be done in minutes using your device's photos or movie app. So pop some popcorn and enjoy!
  2. Bring home some themed gifts. Each year I brought home a themed gift from the places I visited. The themes: 
    1. Year one, a paper currency. 
    2. Year two, a fun pair of socks.
    3. Year three, a piece of local artisan jewelry.
    4. Year four, local chocolate or candy. 

Next, have something to look forward to upon your return. Whenever I returned home, my daughter and I loved to get Slurpees, or "smooshies," as she still calls them. It was our "special thing." We made a day of it. We got our smooshies, we had a picnic, and we played. It turned out to be a fantastic way of reintegrating into her daily life. 

I won't tell you that life on the road is easy, because you will dearly miss your family. Everything in the middle is both challenging and memorable at the same time. These tips help ease that burden. 

Safe travels!

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