Something wasn't sitting right. I wasn't looking forward to this business trip as much as I usually do. Part of it was the fact that I'll be attending a fundraising conference, and fundraising is my least favourite part of my job, so I'm not expecting to be overly inspired. But there was something more. Whenever I looked over my plans, or clicked on the hotel website where I was booked, I felt this odd achey feeling that I couldn't quite put my finger on.
Then I had one of those eureka moments. I figured it out. I was accepting the status quo and this was shaping up to be one of those "big-box" business trips. You know the feeling you get when you've been shopping at too many big box stores and you haven't had a chance to see anything unique or original for a long time and your heart aches for the tiny grocery store or gift shop on the corner where you can have delightful conversation and pick up something that's handmade or fair trade or at least a little more original than what everyone has? You don't know that feeling? Well pay more attention next time you go shopping, because I'll bet you'll come home feeling different if you skip some of those big box stores next Saturday and visit at least one little Mom 'n Pop shop.
Back to my trip... That's the feeling I was getting when I considered this trip. I'd accepted the status quo. I didn't know anything about downtown Dallas, so I'd simply accepted the cheapest hotel on the list of recommendations from the conference. It was feeling like a piece of my soul was about to be sucked out through my corporate credit card. Like a good little corporate drone, I would shuffle from the airport box to the airplane box to the taxi box to the generic corporate hotel box to the conference shuttle box to the sterile conference room box to the chain restaurant box, blah, blah, blah. Stop, stop, STOP! I don't fit cleanly in all those boxes! I have to get out!
I used to do alot more of this kind of travel when I worked for the government. I'd go to conferences in big cities, stay in a generic hotel somewhere, spend my days in generic conference rooms and go home without ever feeling like my soul had breathed. To be honest, when you do nothing but visit big boxes, you could be in any city in North America and not really know the difference. Is this Toronto or Edmonton? I forget. Hmmm.... it's April, so it must be Toronto.
I don't usually settle for boxes anymore. Whenever I can, I do a little homework and find a unique local establishment, like a bed and breakfast or a restored country inn. When I'm there, I talk to the local propietor and find out the best local restaurants and funky shops that no corporate hotel would every recommend. That's why I had this uneasy feeling about this trip. I hadn't done my homework.
Now I'm happy to report, I did my homework and I'm tossing the box as far away as I can. I've found a bed and breakfast in a lovely restored inn in a funky neighbourhood. (No, I can't tell you exactly which b&b, in case you're a crazy stalker who's got a thing for overweight middle-aged white chicks from Canada.) It's not as convenient as the big box hotel I had originally booked, but the plus side of that is that I get to take the heritage trolley (for free!) from a block away from my b&b to within walking distance of my conference.
When I get there, I'll have a chat with the proprietor, and I'm sure I'll find some artsy shops and funky restaurants in the neighbourhood. At night, I'll snuggle under my handmade quilt in my cast-iron bed and I'll have sweet dreams. In the morning, I'll eat a big breakfast at the antique dining room table, and then I'll head out to catch my trolley. I might even chat with the volunteer trolley conductor who's passionate about trolley cars. And when I'm at the conference, I'll skip all the workshops that talk about how to maximize your charity golf game, or how to manipulate evil rich people out of their hoards of money, and instead I'll go to those that have words like "community" and "giving circle" in the title.
I'll tell you all about it when I get back. Woohoo! This is shaping up to be a good trip after all!