Is that an animal in your pocket? Actually, yes it is.
Business travel can be difficult for both parents, and it can be particularly hard for the kids, but here’s one way to make it fun. Whether your trip takes you away for two days on a one-hour flight or twelve days in Japan, it is always too long.
On one business trip after our son was old enough to talk, he offered me one of his stuffed animals to take with me on my way out the door; it seemed huge. I was heartbroken. I knew I could not take it with me, purely based on suitcase space. I asked him if he had anything smaller, and to my surprise, he came back with a very small stuffed animal, the kind you find on a key chain. He loves giraffes, and this was a mini one, his favorite. We called him Baby Geo. I placed Baby Geo in my pocket, and promised him I would take care of him.
This began a tradition of carrying various mini stuffed animals all over the place. There has been “Baby Geo,” “Baby Bunny,” and “Zücki” (a Beagle). You can find these little stuffed animals at many stores (department or toy stores) and can perhaps even pick one up during a trip. I think it is a great idea that you can really have a lot of fun with.
I thought of the “flat Stanley” cut outs that people send friends and relative to take pictures in front of monuments or historical places, or even the travel gnome. So, I started to take pictures of the animals all over the place with my iPhone. It helped to pass the (in between) time and provided the family with random email updates.
For example, I’ve had “Baby Geo” pose at the checkout at the grocery store, in a business meeting (when possible or appropriate), boarding the plane, or bunny trying to eat with chopsticks, witnessing a Shinkansen race by, or posing with a warrior statue. It has also made for some interesting conversations and dialogs with my colleagues, wherever they have been in the world.
In fact, I have often found that they too express the opportunity for me to take a photo with the animal. And if your business counterparts also have kids, they will completely understand. It has been a lot of fun and it has surprised me that something so small was able to transcend cultural barriers and make our family still feel connected despite our distance.