Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What is "travel"?

Is it the act of physically transporting yourself to a different location? Technically I guess you could make that argument. Or is it the experiences you have when you go somewhere new? I guess I feel it's the latter. So do I "travel for work"? What does that mean?

On this trip, I kept encountering those little travel inconveniences. So this is mostly a rant. Directed toward nobody in particular.

On the flight out ...
The plane for my connecting flight was three hours late arriving in Denver, due to mechanical issues. Not too bad for me. I was able to spend the time working. And my ride in wasn't too worried about the delay, and we were still going to be able to get into Princeton by about 10 or 10:30. So not too late.

We finally boarded the plane and started taxiing toward the runway, and then inexplicably stopped on the runway. We were probably only stopped for about 15 - 20 minutes when the captain told us we weren't going to be able to get the OK from Philadelphia for at least an hour, so we were going to return to the gate to de-board, "and, uh, maybe you can make other arrangements". Yikes. Not a minute later we were heading down the runway, and the flight attendant was saying that the captain had just been informed that we had the OK to depart. And apparently he wasn't going to waste a moment taking advantage of that window.

Philadelphia was socked in with fog, so when we finally got there they put us in a holding pattern. They did tease us a little ... we started to come in for a landing, and then abruptly pulled up again. When I finally got off the plane and picked up by my co-worker it was 11pm, and we were about an hour's drive from Princeton.

I really couldn't tell you anything about Princeton. And that's what actually bugs me the most! I love traveling. Not the packing to get through security, or physically sitting in an airplane for hours. I enjoy exploring new places, people, food, music, whatever.

We were staying in a hotel near(ish) the office. The hotel and the office were in an area that looks like a suburb, with nothing but office buildings. Nothing at all within walking distance. And for food we were referred to the mall food court, or other chain restaurants outside the mall across the highway from us. So, no exploring in the two days I was there for work. And I'd failed to take the time off to explore on my own. That was my big mistake. I don't get to travel as often as I'd like, and I just shouldn't let these opportunities slip by. Now my (probably mistaken) impression of Princeton is that it's just another suburb. Lots of traffic, office buildings, malls ... nothing unique or interesting or really worth taking the time to see.

The trip back was less eventful. I took the train from Princeton to the Newark airport. The conductors were very helpful, and advised me to get off the train I was on, as it wouldn't actually be stopping at the airport. (oops). But I still managed to make it to the airport with time to spare. Got through security and looked around for food. What a pain. Security in the Newark airport is very near the gates. By the time you've gone through security your food options are pretty limited.

Naturally the Newark to Chicago flight was running late. And I was one of the last groups to board. So by the time I got on the plane there was no more room in the overheads for my carry-on bag. Usually the take your bag below, and hand it back to you as you get off the plane. For some reason they wouldn't do it this time, and the woman at the Newark airport was pretty surly about it. She just kept repeating "not gonna happen". Nice. Thanks. After getting in to Portland, and waiting for every last bag to come around the carousel, I discovered that my luggage hadn't made it on to my plane. Grrrr. Stupid Newark airline employee.

All things considered, the trip wasn't that bad. I did get to meet up with some of my co-workers. Something I don't often get to do. And it was really helpful to get training in person, rather than trying to do the same thing using documentation and telephone calls. And I came back in one piece. Really, if I'd had a chance to do any exploring I would have been pretty happy. And if there hadn't been people relying on me I wouldn't have been so anxious about the delays.

It could have been worse. And none of the inconveniences were really worth getting hung up on. I did, but I shouldn't have. I should consider my experiences to be another reminder that there's no point in getting hung up about things that you have no control over. Just let things follow their course, and don't engage in the drama. And next time ... take another day or two to explore, and make the most of the opportunity!!!

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