I just got back from a week-long combination business/personal tour of the east coast, and I came to a few interesting revelations that seem obvious in hindsight, but gave me those “a-ha!” moments at the time.
- Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities trump everything else. I was in New York City on Thursday, the day after my presentation at ASJA. Early in the morning, I spotted a tweet about how the Space Shuttle Enterprise would be doing its piggyback flyby later that morning on its way to its final home at the USS Intrepid museum. I looked at the schedule, and realized that in order to do so, I’d have to miss an important session about how to write a book proposal. Shuttle. Book proposal. Shuttle. Book proposal. Only one of these things is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I ditched the session, walked a mile across town and watched the Enterprise make two passes up and down the Hudson River from the pedestrian bridge to the Intrepid. And it was awesome. There will be other places to learn about book proposals, but there’s only one chance to see Enterprise in flight.
- You don’t have to schedule every waking minute. I knew that I would have Sunday afternoon free in DC, so I spent the week researching theatrical events, concerts, museums and all of the touristy things. And then Sunday dawned as one of the most perfect days I’ve ever seen, weather-wise. I wandered aimlessly. I read a book on the Mall and people-watched the tourists. I spent a large chunk of the afternoon hanging out and chatting with a charming 4-month-old boy (oh, and his dad, too 🙂 ) and wandering around and shopping at Eastern Market and the surrounding crafts booths that spring up on Sundays. I walked a total of 10.5 miles — yes, on top of the 5 miles I raced in the morning — and had one of the most enjoyable travel days ever.
- Don’t apologize for dining solo. The Old Ebbitt Grill is one of my favorite restaurants, so of course I made a reservation for my visit to DC. I went solo and read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project* while dining. I was approached by various waitstaff, busboys and who knows who else asking me if I was waiting for someone to join me. Nope, it’s just me. They did their best to make me feel awkward, but I didn’t care. I wanted my dinner and wasn’t going to apologize for it, no matter how much they wanted me to.
I don’t need much, but it’s nice to get it anyway. On my trip, I stayed at three hotels: the spectacular Loews in Philly; the minimalist Pod Hotel in NYC; and the boutique Hotel George in DC. While I had no problem making do with my tiny little room at The Pod, there was certainly something to be said for the spectacular views from my corner room at Loews.
- Little gestures mean a lot. But the biggest surprise was at Hotel George. I had mentioned that I was running the Race to Stop the Silence on Sunday morning, and they sent up a yoga mat so I could stretch afterward. It took very little effort on their part, but that kind of thoughtfulness made me feel incredibly cared for and special.
- Meet your internet friends in person. On my last visit to DC, I met with @MotherinMed for the first time; this time I spent an evening at her house with a delicious home cooked meal, compliments of her wonderful husband, and featuring custom artwork from the oldest of her kids. This will reveal the level of my dorkiness, but on the walk back from the race where I’d met longtime internet friends @delfuego and @superfantastic in person, I found myself humming Gonzo’s song from The Muppet Movie (at the 1:50 mark): “There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met….” Leave it to Jim Henson to write a song about it 33 years before it occurred to me.
Never pass up a chance to spend time with your Nana. She’s 93 now, and I wouldn’t trade that afternoon for anything.
- Meet your old friends. In Philly, I visited with two former coworkers who have since become my very good friends. In New York, I enjoyed two dinners with my best man from my wedding, and a fantastic breakfast with two high school friends who are now married with a 3-year-old son; I hadn’t seen either of the high school friends in roughly 20 years. And as I mentioned, I spent time with three internet friends. I could have easily spent my entire trip in meeting rooms and hotel ballrooms. Friends make all the difference.
What have you learned from traveling?
* I met Gretchen after she delivered the keynote at the ASJA conference. She was so nice that I just had to buy her book.
Tags: dc, eastern market, enterprise, family, friends, gonzo, gretchen rubin, hotel, Hotel George, jim henson, Kimpton, loews, muppet movie, new york city, nyc, philadelphia, philly, race to stop the silence, space shuttle, the happiness project, The Pod, travel, washington dc