Executive Travel : Travels With Daddy : Exec Turns Travails Into Kids Book

From Associated Press

Michael Lorelli recalls how he used to take time out from business trips to actually visit the city he was staying in.

Eighty countries later, the corporate executive is more interested in getting home to his wife and two daughters than seeing another tourist spot.

"It's hard to be working and traveling and to leave the family behind," said Lorelli, a division president of tampon maker Tambrands Inc. in White Plains. "Now I try to be productive and efficient when I'm away. I want to get home."

Lorelli, with 20-plus years in the corporate world, and his family have much experience in dealing with the stress and sadness caused by a parent's business trips. So he's written a children's book, "Traveling Again, Dad?," a somewhat autobiographical account of a traveling parent and the family left behind.

Told through the eyes of the family pet hamster, Awesome, it tracks Dad's departure, from the final family dinner before the trip to his much-anticipated return.

"We're all a little sad, 'cause Dad needs to go away for a whole week," Awesome says in the book.

"Dad explained that being away from the family now and then was part of his job. Lots of moms and dads have to travel for work."

Illustrations done by Drew Struzan, the creator of E.T. for the Steven Spielberg film "E.T.--The Extraterrestrial," show Dad at work daydreaming about home. Meanwhile, his kids wait anxiously for his return.

Struzan included many details from real life, including "I Miss You" faxes and maps plotting Dad's stops, which Lorelli's daughters, Karen, now 15, and Elizabeth, 13, made while he was traveling.

"Sometimes we'd play tick-tack-toe over the fax," Lorelli said. "And one time it took seven cities to finish the game."

Lorelli sees the book (Awesome Books, $17.95) as a useful tool to teach kids that traveling is hard on the entire family, including the member who's away from home. All the proceeds will go to a charity, which has yet to be selected.

"You're away for as many as three weeks at a time," Lorelli said. "Then you come back and you're a zombie because you're so exhausted. That's when traveling affects everybody."

Growing up in Bayside, N.Y., Lorelli learned from his father that two priorities in life are hard work and time with family.

Lorelli emotionally recalled how his father, an insurance broker, worked around the clock, determined to build his business. Yet the elder Lorelli also set aside time for his family, occasionally sneaking out of work at midday to pick up his son from school.

"My dad did something that I don't do," said Lorelli, whose father passed away 10 years ago. "He found a perfect balance between life and the kids, and I really struggle to give them equal time."

Time has been scarce for Lorelli since 1973, when he started working at big corporations after graduating from New York University's business school.

He landed his first job at Clairol Inc., where he advanced to product manager within two years. His biggest achievement at the hair care products company came when he led a group that persuaded the Food and Drug Administration not to ban certain key ingredients in Clairol dyes, which accounted for a majority of the company's profit.

His success on that project served as the launch pad of his career, and he eventually moved to Playtex International and Apple Computer Inc. before heading to PepsiCo Inc., where he spent nine years.

His years at Pepsi sent Lorelli circling the world. In 1993, he logged 300,000 air miles, sometimes spending more time flying than on the ground.

"Sometimes I'd leave on a Sunday night and was in London by morning," he said. "Then I'd just keep moving east and east and east until I ended up in Australia."

So much of his time was spent on Pepsi's Pizza Hut plane that Struzan used the aircraft as the cover illustration of the book.

By the end of 1994, Lorelli had weathered enough all-night flights and missed weekends at home and was ready for new challenges. He joined Tambrands with the goal of increasing the brand recognition of its sole Tampax label.

The new job means less travel and has allowed his life to slow down a bit. Although he's still taking business trips, Lorelli has found more time to spend with his family.

He arrives at the office about 5 a.m., where he runs four miles before getting down to business, but he tries "to get out of here at a decent hour so that I can have dinner with my kids. I want to be available to help with homework--even if they don't want my help."

His days are full, commuting to Manhattan for a meeting or two, heading to Sarah Lawrence College, where he's a trustee, and juggling other responsibilities.

Still, just like the dad in his book, coming home is the best part of his day.

"It's hard to be away from you guys," the dad in the book says. "But it's always great to get home to all of you."

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