I often feel guilty about the lack of time I can give to staying in touch with loved ones when I am on the road. I try to teĺl people just how hard it is to even get phone signal, let alone time to call, but I know they dont understand the true reality of the situation.
I am working so remotely that there is often no outside contact except by satellite phone: for possibly days at a time. Even if there is phone signal, internet is not a given. And, irrespective of both, there is often not power to charge devices for communication.
Assuming I have the happy trifecta of phone, internet and power, I mostly don’t have the time to devote to lengthy social catch ups. I am currently writing this in Cairns, where I am for the next few days. I cooked breakfast and lunch and we went out for dinner – the first time in 12 days when I have had enough end of day energy to look forward to phone calls, emails and blog writing.
Today I got up at 5.30 and said goodnight to passengers at 8.30 – a short day by my standards. I am not so exhausted because I didnt spend another 5 hours hard physical labour after 12 hours of being awake. When I cook dinner for 30, it involves a lot of effort. I have to heat up all washing up water for all dinner cookware and eating utensils (3 course meals), as well as for tea and coffee. I have to juggle a five option cooked meal on six gas burners and coordinate special dietary requirements. Things need cleaning after.
I do three meals a day and all their attendant preparation and cleanup. I organise, order and purchase all supplies. I organise, book and pay for accommodation and local tours. I provide first aid and general soothing. I take guided walks. I sometimes drive. I often help fix mechanical failures. I do all the accounts, often on an incredibly bumpy dirt road. There are morning and afternoon teas involved there as well.
I am usually incredibly filthy from all the red dirt I rub against during the course of completing daily tasks. I get up earlier than anybody else so that they can get up to a hot drink and organised breakfast. I stay up later so that things are organised for the morning. I put up my own swag every night and take it down every morning (I often consider just sleeping on top of a bare tarp to save the effort but so far my colleague has expressed enough disapproval of this idea to deter me).
I do try and wash every night, no matter how late, and I always put on clean clothes every morning, but there is no doubt that my personal needs are sublimated to the demands of the job. I am being paid to perform certain tasks and everything else has to be secondary, no matter how much I might want to give it preference.
It upsets me when people obviously haven’t taken on board the true reality of my work situation. Being in no, or very brief, contact, isn’t a lazy choice of mine. It’s a work ethic, dictated by circumstances, and when I do get to briefly interact, it is usually at the cost of sleep or hygiene, both of which I feel the lack thereof.