NOT ALL TRAVEL IS GLAMOROUS: DALLAS, TX

The attempt to remove alcoholic beverages from my diet this week has failed miserably. Trapped inside of an abandoned commercial park housing an oversized conference chain hotel, I needed something stronger than water to temporarily elevate my disparaging mood.

I may be exaggerating slightly, but the sight is truly a depressing one. My room overlooks a manmade lake dotted with several commercial buildings. The parking lots stand empty and abandoned storefronts decorate each one. Miscellaneous furniture and trash bags are all that’s left. No one even bothered to put a FOR RENT sign up. It might not even be an option.

The area looks as though it might have at some point had potential to thrive and so they built it. But no one came. Or perhaps they did come, and then left the very next day.

It’s easy to feel as though you are on the set of a dystopian film. Perhaps it drove the inspiration for the Hunger Games trilogy.  However, the cast of characters in my version seem to be quite well fed.

And to be fair, you do have your pick of three restaurants on the hotel property. Why take a 40 minute Uber to the "nearby" downtown when you can transport yourself to Italy, Greece and Japan steps from your bed. With stereotypical decor chosen exclusively from TJ Maxx, it’s nearly impossible to experience the charm they are trying so hard to bestow upon you.

This situation is one I encounter frequently. Anyone who travels for work, specifically to attend or speak at tradeshows, knows exactly what I am talking about. It doesn't matter how cool of a city you may fly in to, there is always a commerical park inconveniently located 20-30 miles away for you to rot in for anywhere between 2 and 4 days.

But location is only half the equation. Your forced companions can make or break these week-long adventures. And if you work for a company larger than a hundred employees, your co-workers likely fall into one of three categories:

  • People you enjoy

  • People you can’t stand

  • Higher-ups that make you nervous

People you tolerate get lumped in with people you enjoy, because this is a work trip and standards for companionship are low. Sales guys often fall into this category.

As such, location and company become your two variables for success.

Las Vegas + people you enjoy = a good trip.

Seattle or Austin + higher ups that make you nervous = a tolerable trip, with potential career benefits (if you keep your shit together)

Disneyland + people you can’t stand = a literal nightmare.

My only advice is to fully embrace each situation. Not all travel is glamorous, and in the case of work travel, you often get what you pay for - which is nothing. Because hopefully, all your lackluster experiences are expense-able.

THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Last month, I counted the number of sirens I heard in a single hour through my bedroom window. 16. I couldn't sleep, but was also too lazy to do anything other than lie there and count. When the 17th siren started rolling down Houston St. I rummaged for the ear plugs on my bedside table and slipped them in to drown out the noise. It is the step in my bedtime routine that I enjoy the least. Partly because it is nearly impossible to fall asleep without them. And partly because I am paranoid someone will be able to scale the 12 stories up to my apartment and slide open the balcony door without my being able to hear it.

When Todd travels for work I refuse to wear earplugs so I am able to ready myself in case of an attack. I never go as far as to outline what that preparation might entail. Perhaps grabbing a knife in between the mattress and box spring or maybe moving to a very clever hiding space in which no one would ever be able to find me. At the very least I want to be able to give myself those extra couple seconds of paranoia between hearing the door open and certain death.

You may have guessed I don't sleep much. I find the constant movement of my body and mind lead to this level of anxiety, bordering paranoia. By the time I crawl into bed, I have seen and done so many things (including witnessing the graphic deaths of innocent people at the hands of the Medellín Cartel on my television screen while streaming Narcos on Netflix) that it is impossible to turn my mind off. Now don't get me wrong, I love living in New York City. And clearly some of these sources of anxiety are preventable. But a person needs to breathe every once in awhile. 

Enter nature. 

I had a work trip to Phoenix, Arizona planned and while I typically try to limit my days in parts of the country that watch FOX news (or vote for Donald Trump) longer than I need to, Todd was free to join me for the week and so we decided to make a mini vacation out of it. We heard all the hippies in Arizona hide out in Sedona and booked a hotel for the weekend. The little town, just two hours north of Phoenix, sits at 4300 feet among a stunning array of red sandstone formations. 

We arrived late Friday night after the sun had already set. It was a balmy 35 degrees, but we kept the windows rolled down slightly, drinking in the fresh air as we drove up Interstate 17. By the time we reached our room and got into bed it was nearly midnight. It wasn't until the lights were off and I had finally stopped talking that we both noticed the eerie silence. Todd whispered in my ear, “listen to how quiet it is.” For several minutes we laid next to each other, soaking it in, realizing how rare pure silence is. The most ironic thing is that I have grown so accustomed to the constant noise of New York City, I didn't sleep well at all that night. This time my mind sat spinning on the very likely possibility an unidentified insect or animal might make their way into the hotel room to devour me as I slept. 

When we woke up we couldn't believe the scenery we had unknowingly driven through the night before. Our hotel, The Amara Resort, sat creekside against a backdrop of red rocks that glowed orange in the morning light. The majestic, yet formidable jagged cliffs surrounded the small town, sculpted into incredible arrangements from millions of years of water and wind. Their presence alone demanded a spiritual quest. And so we indulged them. 

That morning we took a quiet walk along the creek, watching the ducks swim and listening to the birds chirp. This can be done in Central Park, yes, but sharing a man made lake with 2 million people is limited in its ability to bring about this level of tranquility. We fueled our bodies with healthy breakfasts and fresh pressed juices, and made our way to the spa. We emerged after two hours of scrubs, massages and native healing rituals higher than I had ever been smoking weed in college. Blissed out, we stumbled back to our rooms and took a notably fabulous mid-day nap. Refreshed and rejuvenated, we made our way up to Cathedral Rock for our first hike. It was a short, steep climb to the saddle point and we arrived at the top just before sunset. The view looking out between the towering pinnacles is truly stunning. The experience was indescribable, and my photos barely begin to capture the feeling it evoked. 

The following morning, we opted for the lazy man's tour and jumped in the highly recommended, Pink Jeep. As our driver, Ed, narrated the trip with his bone dry humor and wealth of historic knowledge, two small children sat next to me as we climbed up the red rocks in an open air off-roading vehicle, screaming with excitement. Their uninhibited elation was contagious, made clear by the perpetual grin on everyone's face. Before leaving the charming community that we felt so instantly connected to, we satiated our desire for the local fare - Mexican. Of course, crossing our fingers there were enough rest stops in case of a bathroom emergency during the two hour drive back to Phoenix. 

I am happy to say we made it without any accidents. But we also made it back slightly freer, our souls recharged and with a fresh perspective only nature can provide. We’ll see how long it lasts. 

DAILY STRUGGLES: SWEATING IN THE SUBWAY

The light from our bedroom window can be so bright in the morning it wakes me up long before the sound of my alarm. This is especially true in the winter months when the sky remains a perpetually blinding shade of white. While its hard to complain when you open your eyes and see the New York skyline and snow capped rooftops across the street, it does make it difficult to fall back asleep. When I found myself awake at 7:30AM this Sunday morning, I thought a lot about winter in the city and how I had made it through nearly two already. I rummaged for my old journal in nostalgic reflection, halfway attempting to wake Todd from his frustratingly peaceful slumber, and came across this gem of an entry. A perfect capture of the trials and tribulations of my first winter and subway struggles. 

January 5th, 2016

It was frigid today. And I finally got a taste of what everyone has been talking about. I have been cold before, sure. But the whiplash of bone-chilling cold to extreme heat exhaustion and back was something I hadn't prepared myself for. Everyone said, "be prepared, buy a ridiculously expensive Canada Goose jacket." But no one said, "be careful, don't wear grey." 

I always wear grey. Even the sweltering summer months don't eliminate the sweat-revealing color from my closet. But the ghastly exposure to the capabilities of human perspiration I experienced this morning was unlike anything else.

On the nine minute E train from Spring Street to Times Square 42nd Street I lost approximately one pound. Not much when you are trying to don a new bikini on the beach, but an ungodly amount to lose in perspiration while still carrying the weight of your clothing.

I knew my butt cheeks would eventually unstick themselves. The back of my knee caps would soon dry, leaving me itchy from the salt left behind. But it was the stains on the front, back and underarms of my shirt that would scar me that day.

My office mates paused to watch as I slowly peeled off the down jacket. Saying nothing but questioning where I had been and what extreme sport I might have been engaging in. I was careful to not whisk beads of sweat in anyone's general direction. 

"Just trying to commute. Trying my very best and failing," I thought out loud (if that's at all possible). So many more thoughts and intended words flew across the room, but still silence.

It took close to 40 minutes for my body temperature to return to normal. Until then I was 50 shades of grey. This is what it must feel like to go through menopause, perhaps. Or much worse, I couldn't tell. 

I removed all grey things from my closet tonight. It was a ceremonious ritual of sorts. Relinquishing my anger and finding peace in removing a color from your life seems silly and inconceivable, but at the same time necessary. Until a less complex and confusing season my old friends, you might resurface in my closet. But its goodbye for now.