Saturday, October 26, 2013

In which I embrace my B&B identity

Ahh Vermont. Look at the sky and those leaves. If only I had been able to take pictures of the frolicking cows. This is really why work travel is terrible - the missed photo ops because I'm driving.

I was surprised by the quiet. I know I was four miles from the Canadian border on what was once a dairy farm but I expected it to be noisier. There weren't a lot of night sounds (house settling, animals moving around, etc.). I've been in the woods before and there are always night sounds. I guess I wanted the horror movie soundtrack to go with the horror movie setting. Apparently there were coyotes. I never heard them. Maybe I was on a conference call at the time.

On my second day at the B&B, I finally met the other guests. I got back to the B&B after my first day of training (which went very well) and settled in to get some work done before going out to dinner. I finished up my last call of the day and started planning for my evening. The counselors recommended a couple of places and I settled on East Side, a restaurant and bar along Lake Memphremago. Had I gone to the other restaurant they recommended, I would have been at the same place as the rest of the people staying at the B&B. When I got back the five of them were in the common room. There were two couples from Rochester, NY who travel together every fall and a radiologist from Western Massachusetts who subs in at the hospital in Newport. I was greeted enthusiastically by the group and they quickly nicknamed me "the Phantom Guest". I guess they didn't believe I was actually staying there. I was up and out before them in the morning and no one had seen me come back in that afternoon. Our host told them about me and they had been hoping I would come in before they all went up to their rooms.

There was no awkward small talk. We discussed restaurants, what they had done during the day, and why I was in Newport for work. They had heard that I worked with computers or software or something technical. We also discussed the adorableness of the B&B owner. And that was it. The ladies continued to knit, the radiologist left to watch the World Series, and I went to bed.

Even my host mentioned my quiet personality. She was making breakfast on the second morning of my stay and I was sitting quietly at the table drinking coffee. She was telling me that most of her guests were talkers and sometimes it was distracting especially when she was cooking. She appreciated the quiet and occasional conversation with me. The radiologist joined us a few minutes later and began telling us about his hike to the maple lines and the coyotes. That was my cue to leave.

I thought about the nickname "the Phantom Guest" as I was driving back to Burlington later that day. That's basically what business travel is. You drop into a city, drive your nondescript rental car to your chain hotel, and go about your business. If you're lucky you'll be in a city that has a good variety of restaurants and bars so you don't have to eat fast food every night. No one really gives you a thought except maybe waiters. I'm sure they're less than thrilled at that table for one by the window. Staying at a B&B or even an inn is much more personal. There's an understood social aspect of that kind of travel that doesn't necessarily gel with work travel. If I go back to the Gilmore Girls (my point of reference for most things), the Dragonfly is still a social space - the board games, the books, the shared spaces. It's all meant to make a traveler feel at home while being away. Feel connection while traveling. Hotels try to replicate that experience but I don't think they're as successful.

I'm not sure which type of travel I prefer. Sometimes the anonymity of travel is a good thing particularly when traveling for work. When I get back to the hotel I want to decompress from the work day: watch tv, have a drink, sit and not talk for an hour. But days of that can be challenging. I know that sort of creeped into my trip to Paris this summer. There was a point in the trip when I wanted to talk to someone and not someone random I met at the cafe. I guess it's a balancing act in any travel situation.

I do know one thing about my trip to Vermont: I love maple syrup. There is no question about that. I had the B&B's homemade version (which you can buy if you're so inclined) my first morning. It was delicious. I also had some on a crepe at the airport and I brought some home. Pure magic.

Next weekend on the Island: I reveal the details of my novel for National Novel Writing Month (which starts next Friday). Three things I can tell you right now: the main character's name is Marnie, her cat's name is Peanut, and one of the characters has a dog named Waffles. If you're participating in NatNoWriMo this year, be my writing buddy - my name is NOLAgirl11.

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