Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

Travel, Technology, and the Passage of Time

This month's newsletter is going to be uncharacteristically short for an appropriate reason: I have only 1 hour before boarding time. I'm in Chicago O'Hare Airport, on my way home from my father's memorial service. Dad passed away January 8th, and we waited to schedule a service when the greatest number of relatives could join us for the celebration of Dad's life.

Travel Then and Travel Now

The first time I remember meeting my father's mother was when I was about 5 years old. My youngest brother was just a baby, and Grandma Frida was pretty old by then. It was a seemingly unending trip in the car; first navigating our way from Rockford IL through Chicago, then across Indiana where our toll card was punched at each end of the state. Next was the trip across Ohio and my version of "are we there yet?" Followed by the twists and turns on the road to Ashtabula. The trip was 10 hours by car, and we made it all in one long stretch because we couldn't afford to stay overnight in motels.

The trip to see Grandma Victoria and Grandpa Anton was similar, though not as long. We took old Route 20 across Illinois and most of the way across Iowa. It only took 7 hours, but again, we made it all in one day.

All of our family trips were made by car; I didn't get on an airplane for the first time until I was 19 years old. It was spring, and the Wheaton College Choir was going on a bus tour of the mid-Atlantic states, but first we had to fly to Washington DC to get to the bus. I remember being both nervous and excited on that first trip. I didn't want to confess that I was such a travel-late-bloomer, but I also didn't know the correct protocols, and was afraid I might embarrass myself.

I didn't travel very much until I started working for Microsoft. Then within any 10 hour period in the air, I could reach most destinations in Europe or Asia. Tack on another 3 hours and I could reach Australia or New Zealand. Not only did my travel horizons increase, so did my world view. Going to Wheaton College gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world; traveling for business gave me the opportunity to see where they lived.

What does this have to do with my father's passing? What I am contemplating in this newsletter is how quickly the world moves now compared to when I was a kid. It's neither all bad or all good; it's just fast. Things have changed a lot in my lifetime; they have changed even more during Dad's lifetime.

Technology Overcoming Obstacles

Despite being almost 94, Dad had been busy and active right up until the last week of his life. When illness overtook him, he slipped away in just 6 days. He never wanted to linger, so despite our sorrow, we were OK with that. My sister who lived nearby was there, and my youngest brother was able to break away and join her as they kept vigil. My other brother and I connected with my sister and brother via Skype's video conferencing service, so even though we couldn't be together, we had regular updates.

After Dad had gone, my siblings and I met every few days for an hour or two to handle preparations for this past weekend. We got a room block for the relatives, organized the service, arranged for a family dinner afterwards, and even began sorting through the precious heirlooms handed down from previous generations. Using webcams, we could see the photographs we wanted to put into the slide show of Dad's life, and we laughed and cried together in a way that wasn't affordable or even barely possible 10 years ago.

Keeping Families Together via Technology

It's hard enough to stay close to your immediate family when you're a business traveler; staying in touch with your own siblings and parents can be even more challenging. I'm glad that my family is tech-enabled enough to stay in touch via email, Skype, and now on Facebook. I hope you'll encourage your siblings to stay in touch as well. Life is precious, and time flies. Make the most of the opportunities you have to reach out to those closest to your heart.
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