As anyone who has travelled with us before can vouch for, being a Travel Director is a very challenging role. It takes organisation, patience, problem solving skills and a whole lot of love – qualities that are also needed in parenthood!
Being a Travel Director also means spending long periods of time away from home, which as a parent can often be challenging. To find out what it’s like to juggle the responsibilities of parenthood with the role of a Travel Director, we caught up with Stephanie Bahr. Stephanie has been a Travel Director for the past 15 years, working mainly in Switzerland and across the Alpine-Bohemian region. She is also Mum to her 15 year old son, Lino.
Here’s what she had to say about juggling being a Travel Director, with being a Mother…
When you first became a Travel Director for Trafalgar, did you have children?
I had just had Lino, before I started to work as a TD. But in my “first life” I worked in the film-and theatre world which is similar to being a TD, in the sense that you need to travel a lot and you have to be flexible. As my partner also worked and still works in film, we discussed how we could raise a child and that we would need support from our parents (and that ONE child would be enough of a juggle). Since we use to live in Los Angeles then, we felt it wouldn’t be the best place to raise a child so we moved back to our home country of Germany.
Did the fact that you travelled extensively for work ever play a role in your decision to have children?
It definitely played a role, and of course I thought about what it means to be away. The questions we kept asking ourselves before having Lino were things like ‘who can we trust to take care of our baby if we are not there’ and ‘isn’t ONE child enough for that person to take care of?’
So we discussed everything; how we could have a child and manage with a very unsteady lifestyle at the same time. But despite the challenges it was clear that we would support each other, and we were fortunate as we could also count on support from our parents, which helped with the decision. I think one just realises after having a child what it really means in daily life and that the romantic ideals disappear pretty quick as you have to deal with the facts!
When Lino was little, what was it like being away from him for long periods of time?
For me personally, being away on a trip was like having vacation, especially when our child was very young. It is very demanding with a small child and it really is a 24/7 job. Although the job as a TD is also very demanding, you still have a few hours to sleep without interruption and a few hours here and there to eat in tranquility – something you don’t get with a little human!
As my son got older it was tough to leave him behind, but fortunately when he was little he always said ‘Mum I am used to it’ and he only wanted to know which of the family he’d be staying with! Only when he was older (around 8-10) did he start to miss me. But we always have two or three weeks for summer vacation together each year, and we always spend a lot of time together travelling somewhere, so that helps a lot.
When you’re working, do you manage to switch off from ‘Mum mode’?
Yes indeed! I switch off the ‘Mum mode’ the moment I get on the train to travel to the location where the trip will start, where I spend the pre-night. I also tend to keep communication while on trip fairly short, as my level of communication is already totally overloaded by taking care of all my guests. But we always WhatsApp, and he knows that he can call me anytime, anywhere if it’s important.
I often remember being in the nicest spots of the world, like for example on the Isola Bella in Italy, and discussing problems at school!
Do you ever feel guilty when you’re working away from Lino?
Sometimes I do, of course. Any parent feels guilt if they are away for too long, so I try to balance my trips with the time I am home and having three weeks in the summer together really helps.
How do you think your love for travel has influenced your son?
My love for travel has influenced him a great deal. Not only does he sleep under a world map in his bedroom, but from a young age he was visiting countries like Israel, Iran, South Africa and Cuba. He is fairly shy but because of his travel experiences he is now ready to do a school semester in Canada.
Do you think it’s difficult for women to juggle a career travelling on the road with parenthood?
I definitely think it’s a big juggle to merge these two life choices, and it is very difficult if you don’t have the support of family members (which we fortunately do). For children it is important to have some sort of stability. It’s good for them to live in the same location and have friends nearby, and someone taking care of them who isn’t changing all the time.
How do you think being a Mum has made you a better Travel Director?
Oh my God, I definitely think I take on the Mum role for my guests! I care for them and I am responsible for them. I am entertaining and controlling at the same time, just as you are as a parent. Being a Mum teaches you to be patient and understanding, and to be creative and a problem solver. It is the best apprenticeship for the profession of Travel Director!