Psalm 145:21 (NIV)I don’t travel for business much, and fortunately never alone. I have spent a few nights at home alone when Kristie has all three boys at her parents’ house, and while I appreciate the luxury of washing dishes and having them stay clean, or picking up toys, then being able to turn around and still see the carpet, I get pretty lonely pretty quickly. The silence is deafening, and I actually feel my jaw hurt by the end of the night because I haven’t said anything to anyone for hours.
My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.
But the little travel I do is enough for me to observe the behavior of others. Most folks try to take advantage of time away from home try to do things they can’t when ensconced in their regular routine. My dad likes to tell me how when us kids were young it was a luxury for him to sit in a hotel room and watch ESPN. We didn’t have any cable at home until I left for college, and I also remember being glued to the TV during any overnight school trip. So many channels and shows I’d only heard or read about!
Many business travelers see each trip as a chance to be a little indulgent. Maybe that’s a factor of the expense account or a lighter professional load than usual. And while it is true I tend to eat better on the road than your average weeknight at home, and I rarely have a beer with a weekday dinner unless I’m traveling, my true indulgence is the us of “me time,” and in the last few years, that manifests in exercise.
I try to work out at least five days a week when I’m home, usually in place of a lunch hour so it doesn’t interfere with family time. When I do exercise on nights or weekends, it usually involves strapping Charlie into a carrier and power walking through the neighborhood. In the winter I was regularly doing kettlebell workouts or Tae Bo DVDs late at night after I got everyone to bed; now I use that time to write.
But tonight, for example, with dinner in the books early and the promise of an 8:55 p.m. sunset, I set off at 7 p.m. local time on a route the hotel suggested in a handy little document. It wound up being an 8.69 mile walk — a borderline hike — through some hilly parts of Portland (total ascent, 499 feet) and back down to the riverfront a few miles south of our hotel. The weather right now is spectacular, there is so much plant life the smell is enchanting, there were wonderful views of the mountains and the river… I was a few steps away from calling a real estate agent and telling Kristie pack up the boys and meet me out here at the end of the week.
(I took a similar walk in April in San Diego with a few exceptions. One, I did not have a handy guide from the Marriott and instead relied on my own sense of direction to get me back safely, which surprisingly worked. Two, I had no desire to move my family to La Jolla. Three, that walk was after a gym workout and right before dinner, and I worked up enough of an appetite I’m pretty sure I took in at least as many calories as I’d just burned off.)
Of course, if we lived here, I’d have no more time to enjoy the scenery and trails than I would the Des Plaines River trail that runs behind our subdivision. My workouts would be limited to outings like my morning run, a nearly three-mile loop up one side of the Willamette River and back down the other that I more or less raced through so I wouldn’t miss any work obligations. And while that jog was far more scenic than your average suburban subdivision, it wasn’t the kind of soul-refreshing experience of spending nearly two hours hoofing it through unfamiliar yet endearing Oregon terrain.
I guess part of this writing is to say “Look at me, the guy who travels for work and doesn’t see at it as an excuse to throw down seven or eight beers, charge it to the company and toast to not being responsible for bath and bedtime for half a week.” Part of it is just an appreciation for God’s handiwork and the blessing of a chance to visit a different part of the country for a few days. And — though this may sound weird — when I spend my free time hiking through the foothills, it helps me avoid the “Oh, man, I wish Kristie where here, she’d love this” feeling I get when I sit down in a grown up restaurant with no children.
So maybe this indulgence — a perfectly wholesome activity that just happens to provide solitary enjoyment — is just another guilty pleasure. I’m out here having fun and being energized, she’s at home trying to get all three kids to bed at once and then loading the dishwasher so there’s enough clean bowls for breakfast, not to mention umber crunching for her business and worrying about how many kids she’ll have to wake up early tomorrow morning. Wholesome or not, I have free time — what else could parents covet more?
There are a lot of things I miss about being home, and there are a few I am happy to leave behind for a few days. I consider myself lucky the travel is so rare that each trip seems somewhat special; I am sure those who travel once a month or even more often quickly grow weary of the grind and of being gone so often. Home is where the heart is, but you have to be there often enough to put down those roots.
A prayer for July 16:
Lord, I praise you for the glory of your creation. The mountains, the trees, the river and sky, the Earth is glorious and it is a blessing to be able to see the results of your majesty. I thank you for the chance to be refreshed, to take time to enjoy life in a way I cannot during times of routine — but I also thank you for the stability of the every day, of knowing where my family will be and what we will do and having the security of being able to touch them and care for them and show love. I hope one day to be in your presence as well, but I remain overjoyed at the ability to love on Earth as you first loved us. Amen.