Travel – Even Harder When You Don’t

Though I traveled regularly from my home near San Francisco to the east coast working for AT&T in 2003, it didn’t bother my infant son much.  He had full-time day care all day and mom was enough for him in the evenings.

I started working on Ribbit in 2004 while my first-born was just a year old.  From 2004 to 2008, there was little travel.  A few day-trips, or worst case, two-day trips here and there.  It was hardly enough to impact my (now older) first-born and his younger sister.

But things change and Ribbit is now part of BT, a company with operations in 197 countries around the globe.  Ribbit, of course, is nowhere near ‘operating’ in 197 countries (yet).  But we are a wholly owned subsidiary of this London-based company, and do have business, or opportunities to pursue, on every continent with green vegetation on it.

Still, the frequency of travel is small.  What’s not small is the duration of the trips.  My first trip to London after being acquired was a full two weeks.  It was weeks afterward that my family recovered.  And that’s what makes it hard.  It’s hard because, though I don’t travel frequently, when I do, it’s significant.  That’s what makes it hard.

I’m not talking about having to remember all the little things that make longer travel bearable, like power plugs, extra batteries, headphones, and what clothes to pack.  Those are all within my control.  Lists, dedicated bags, and other techniques reduce the mechanical stress of infrequent yet long travel.

It’s the bit that’s not in my control, the impact on my kids – 6 and 4, and the spillover impact on my wife, is what’s hard.  I think my little ones secretly have voodoo dolls of “Mr. Griggs,” my CEO and co-founder, upon which they practice all manner of ill things when I’m gone (though my daughter just invited him to a make-believe dinner she is holding – so her feelings are clearly mixed!).

So at my house it’s the two week-long trips a quarter that bring the heavy tears and behavioral outbursts, test the relationship between the otherwise loving siblings, and challenge my wife’s ability to hold the crew from mutiny while she deals with her own work life.

I have good friends, like Tom Shields, CEO of Yieldex, who find that they are traveling for three days almost every week.  In some ways, the persistent pattern of coming and going provides a rhythm of anticipation and expectation.  For these businessmen and businesswomen, it’s “easier when you do.” But it comes with consequences.

The children of one of the rhythmic travelers I know once asked their mother, “Is dad visiting our house for dinner tonight?”

This July, it’ll be that way at my house.  My infrequent travel has caught up with me causing me to travel 18 of 31 days this July; missing my anniversary, my wife’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, my sister in law’s birthday, eighteen days of summer, eighteen family breakfasts, eighteen family dinners, eighteen good night stories, and at least fifty-four great hugs.


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