Betty Says: Life Lessons Learned While Traveling

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.

Enterprise over the Intrepid.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. View of the Philadelphia skyline from the 26th floor.

    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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. My Nana at 19, shortly before they were married.

    Never pass up a chance to spend time with your Nana. She’s 93 now, and I wouldn’t trade that afternoon for anything.

  8. 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.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m glad you had such a great Sunday afternoon!

  2. Alisa says:

    Thanks! It was great to hang out with you. Best of luck for making it through the final weeks of school.

  3. Rachel DeRusha says:

    I *love* The Old Ebbitt & make sure that I at least grab a cosmo whenever I’m in DC. I met one of my favs, Ana Marie Cox, there once & scared the shit out of her by exuberance at recognizing her. I bought her a bloody mary to make up for it…but she still kept her distance. It makes me laugh now but was horrifying at the time! 🙂

    I’ve learned to not feel guilty when I’m in amazing places for work. I know my men are at home slogging through homework & ball practice while I’m dining in an amazing restaurant but I also know that having them “miss” me is good for all of us. Besides, I’m going to New Orleans with my husband in a few weeks for a fun filled weekend away. I know all the cool things to do & see bc I’ve been there for work travel.

    Oh! And I’ve totally learned the value of a cleaning service at home while I’m traveling. Nothing is better than my boy’s smiles & a clean house when I walk in the door!

    Glad you had such a great trip!

  4. Alisa says:

    I love that story!

    The boys survived ok. They completely abandoned homework for the week and even went to an unplanned Giants game. I think they might even like it better when I’m gone. 🙂

    I think that the best part was the fact that I let go of my Type A go-go tendencies and just rolled with things as they happened. I’m going to learn from this and try to do the same on my next trip.

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