Sean is back in South America. This is his second visit since we got back from our trip less than two months ago. We all miss him and for me it’s especially lonely being a single parent for the week. It’s his longest trip. He left at noon on Sunday and we won’t see him until Friday evening.
(It also means that I will not get a good night sleep for a few days. There is a demented pattern of sleeping that I seem to follow when he travels: The first night I lie in bed thinking his plane is going to crash and I try to come up with my game plan, the second night I jump at every sound and think someone is breaking in, the third night I start to think about ghosts and by the fourth night I am exhausted which usually means that one of the kids wakes up during the night.)
Even though I know he is on a business trip and not on vacation it’s still hard not to be jealous. Especially since Sean manages to have fun no matter where he goes or what the occasion. (It’s one of the reasons I married him.) I remember a few years ago when the kids were little and he was travelling a lot to Europe he called me from Paris. Before I even could say hello, he began to tell me about the café he was sitting in, what kind of wine he was drinking and how beautiful the building across the street looked. Both kids were sick and I was nearly apoplectic that he had the nerve to give me a travelogue while I was stuck in the suburbs alone with two cranky and snotty kids. Now that the kids are older I am able to act slightly less bratty when he calls to tell me how beautiful the Pacific Ocean looks or how delicious the fish was he ate at lunch.
After a few years of infrequent travel, Sean now keeps his carry-on bag in the closet, ready to be packed at any moment. His passport is bulging with extra pages and filled with stamps. We stand at the door and wave to him when he leaves and wait for him to text pictures of his latest meal or the view from his hotel room. We hug him when he gets home and listen to his stories of crazy taxi drivers and middle of the night mix-ups at the airport. He misses us and can’t wait to get home. We miss him too, but we are also busy and also make sure to do lots of things that only we like to do, like eat breakfast for dinner and watch cooking shows.
Still, I never imagined that I would be the one who would be left behind. When I was younger I imagined myself working as a flight attendant wearing a silk scarf while pulling a small bag through airports around the world. (Note: This fantasy never involved me actually serving people.) Then, I thought I would be a travel writer or a foreign correspondent. Finally, when I was in graduate school studying International Affairs I toyed with the idea of joining the Foreign Service. Now I am a wife who stays at home with the kids while her husband travels and I am little jealous. But, is it fair to be jealous of something that I never actually pursued for myself?
Even though there have been international elements to many of my jobs, I have never been on a business trip where I have had to stay overnight. And truthfully, I would probably hate it. Sean is one of those lucky people who can sleep on an airplane and also operate on very little sleep. I can barely get a good night sleep in my own bed. (See: Demented Sleep Patterns above.) For a few years I was very afraid to fly and would sit gripping the armrest with sweaty palms during every take off and landing. (I eventually learned to push this fear into a little corner in my mind. It escapes every now and again.) I am really bad at figuring out tips and hate asking for directions. I constantly sweat the small stuff so having to travel to three different countries in four days on about ten hours of sleep (Sean’s last trip) would probably cause me have a nervous breakdown. Or, maybe not. I may never know.
As much as this blog so far has been about my travels, wanting to travel, being annoyed when I am not travelling, etc. . . I also like being at home. So were all my travel-related career aspirations just a fantasy? Perhaps I could have been an excellent diplomat or a not completely awful flight attendant or an award-winning foreign correspondent. (Maybe I could still be a travel writer.) It could be that I just like to travel for pleasure. There are a hundred reasons why I am not the person who is racking up thousands of airline miles. But despite some jealous moments, I am O.K. with that. For now, I’m happy to be the person on the home front.