I was up at 4:45 this morning, in the wee small hours of the morning, to get ready to leave my family for a few days. When I went to the bathroom, the heated tile floor was frigid in its mid-night settings, and the house was cold and still and dark. No trace of morning touched the Eastern sky, and no sounds emerged from the rooms where my morning-glory sons slept. Now I am sitting on the Acela Express, just entering Providence as the gray glimmers of dawn give way to sunless light.
My brother wrote recently about the contemplative and communicative nature of traveling. And I feel it too. But traveling for business is odd. So often, when you travel for work, you are going to a place but you will never see it. You are most likely to be exchanging one faceless conference room for another faceless conference room. You’re lucky if there are windows. Your personal comfort and desires are set carefully to the side. Perhaps your work-hosts will take good care of you and ensure you have water and food throughout the day (and, God willing, coffee). Or perhaps not. If not, you must be tough and not complain until later.
I don’t think of myself as someone who travels a lot for work. I have high standards to compare myself to, I suppose. I had one boss who flew over 100,000 miles in a year. My friend John travels 100 days of the year. But, gazing out the window, as I thought of my past trips, I have traveled for work. Let’s see… I have gone to New York for conferences (twice), DC to give a report to a client (that project reported to congress – exciting!), Las Vegas for another conference (my entire company went and we spent about 3 hours at the conference and the rest of the time “teambuilding” which I never would have done on my own but thoroughly enjoyed). I’ve visited clients in Dayton Ohio. I did training in Chicago. I implemented a client in Oregon, traveling there five or six times while pregnant with Thane, and extending my trips to weekends so I could spend some time with my folks. I went to San Diego, and drove past road blocks near the border to our offices in Temecula. The very best trip I have taken for business was a week long trip to Amsterdam and the Alsace region of France. The food on that trip was unbelievable, and I loved the gentle hills and ancient airs of the border towns.
And I have a hunch I’m forgetting a trip or two in there.
There are two layers of clouds in the sky now. The bottom layer is printed in grayscale, a lumpy tissued dressing protecting the sky from the ground. But in the narrow gaps I can see above to pinked clouds and blue sky, past the blight of the storage facilities and junkyards surrounding the tracks.
I have not often taken the train. The ability to (comfortably) blog while traveling is a rather enjoyable novelty. I have traveled this stretch of road many times, and to see what usually takes me about and hour and a half fly by in 18 minutes gives a sense of surreality. In a few moments, we’ll whirr past the fading city where my alma mater sits high on the hill. Then on to New York – the city I only go to when other people are paying for my hotel rooms. (Seriously. Ugh.) Once there, I will find my colleagues, travel to the client, and attend hours of meetings in yet another nameless conference room, ignoring the miracles of time, place and travel required to get me there.
Do you travel for work? Do you like it or hate it? What places have you glimpsed out of conference room windows that you wish you could walk in your real skin? What was the best work trip you have taken? What the worst?