Sunday, March 18, 2012

Life is a highway...

I travel a lot for my job. This has been a constant for me for the last 7 years between being an admissions counselor and a trainer. Work travel is not as glamorous as movies would have you believe. Contrary to the movies, work travel tends to be a lot of crap flights, chain restaurants, and boxy rental cars. While I can count trips to Hong Kong , Rwanda, the UK,  and Switzerland among my work travel, I have also spent an inordinate amount of time in Omaha, NE, Houston, TX (sorry NE and TX friends), Iowa, and every conceivable airport in between. The dawn of Yelp has at least made restaurant selection a little better but seriously, if posting Yelp reviews is your hobby maybe consider taking up Civil War reenactment instead. And sometimes, a Chili’s hamburger is exactly what you need.

If you saw Up In the Air, the whole mileage thing is so true. If I traveled as much as George Clooney’s character, I’d want that card too (and to meet Sam Elliot because he's pretty badass). I remember the day that I got my elite status cards for US Air and Delta. It was even better than getting my driver’s license. I might not need a first class upgrade between Phoenix and Oakland but I’ll take one.

About 3 years ago there was a time when I spent more time in airports than I did in my apartment. I call this period the “cranky Erin” years. When you constantly spend time flying between coasts (which included a lot of time LAX), crankiness is pretty much all you can muster. If heaven smells like an airport, as the wonderful Neko Case tells us, then I’m totally fine with going to hell if the airport is LAX.

Back in September I posted a link on my FB page to a Hello Giggles post about traveling alone. The article is specifically about why women should travel alone but one of my guy friends randomly told me that he had read my post before he went on his “Odyssey”  trip (my description, not his) a few months before we had this conversation. I was impressed that he had read the article and that as he traveled the Western US by himself, he thought of it. While he didn’t find my jokes about the Tom Cochrane song “Life is a Highway” amusing, at least he understood the spirit of solo travel and the importance of it as part of your life.

I think about this a lot when I’m at airports. How often do people travel because we want to not because we have to? My friend was definitely traveling because he wanted to not because he had to. This past week, I traveled from Oakland to L.A. and back and from San Francisco to DC (I’ll be back on the Island on Saturday). Both of these trips are for work and while I enjoyed myself in L.A. and I know I will enjoy myself in DC, I would not have chosen to go on either trip.

Think about it: when you go to the airport have you ever checked into your flight, walked to your gate, and decided you’d rather go to Paris than Des Moines and changed your flight? Probably not but wouldn’t it be great if you did?  This is a fantasy that I entertain every time I go to the airport. What if I didn’t go to Houston today? Or Orange County? What if I took the next flight to Berlin or Paris or San Diego or Savannah? Would the world end?

The answer is no. I might get fired but ultimately the world would not end. I used to travel with my passport because I thought one day I’d be brave enough to throw caution to the wind, ditch my ticket to Chicago, and end up in Paris the next day. I have never been this brave but I hope that one day I will be. Or maybe I’ll just hop the next flight to Sioux Falls, South Dakota because I’ve never been there but wouldn’t it be awesome to just go? It doesn’t matter where you go; it matters that you went.

So Island readers, have any of you ever jumped on a plane or in your car and just gone somewhere? No planning, no thought, just adventure? Was it the best experience ever or a complete disaster? 


  1. Joe & I have joked about that in airports (walking past a gate with a flight to Paris instead of, say, Oakland, and saying "Let's fly to Paris instead!") but I'm afraid we don't have that kind of spontaneity. Usually we decide it's more important to get home promptly and pick the dog up from the kennel. We are so boring that way.

    Of course, if you were spontaneous, you'd wind up paying the walk-up fare which I'm sure would be horrendously expensive.

  2. Everyone thinks about it but no one ever does it! It would cost a lot to do this too. One day, I will do this. I've set it as a life goal.