Tag: travel Page 1 of 3

The Conference

Of air-conditioned ballrooms, name tag lanyards, and drink tickets–and whether or not conference-going is worth it.


Let’s begin with the setting: an opening keynote session, held in a wide hotel ballroom, the kind created by throwing open the Godzilla-sized accordion dividers that normally parse one cavernous hall into smaller ones, filled with rows and rows of chairs, all on top of carpet patterned in inoffensive colors, all designed to hide stains and wear. A stage is set up at the front with a podium and colored LED lighting for effect, framed by two giant projection screens on either side.

There are about 500 of us, and most all of us fit into roughly one of a handful of categories: community college fundraisers or marketers, or board members, presidents or administrators with those responsibilities. We are there to learn the latest tricks of the trade, to hear stories of successful programs, to network. We are from all over the country, from big and small schools, rural, suburban, and urban, historic and new, and so forth.

Professional development of any strain has never particularly been my cup of tea. Maybe it’s my background as a teacher, but somehow the pedagogical styles of just about every training program I’ve completed reek of elementary school-aged tactics. Which is fine, of course, if you’re working with ten year-olds, but a bit demeaning otherwise.

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Gaining Altitude

AMBER WAVES OF GRAIN

Sometimes a better perspective involves increasing one’s elevation.


We landed in Denver in mid-afternoon, embarking upon only our third trip sans offspring, picking up a rental car and heading into the mountains. We’d picked Colorado because neither of us had ever been and because two of our favorite bands were playing a concert together at Red Rocks. We’d left without making any solid plans beyond hotel accommodations. It was my first time on an airplane in a year and a half.*

Whomever settled the city of Denver surely must have done so because it’s the last stretch of reasonable flat land before everything gives way to brown, stony mountains. Let’s stop here, I imagine they said. Seems good enough.

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Road Trip

FAMILY

Yes, there is definite joy in the American road trip, even the modern ones with Google maps, in-car entertainment, and multi-zone climate control.


We are all tired, all of us on the last night in the last hotel on the last leg of a rolling road trip to visit family in New Jersey. It’s a solid two hours past our children’s normal bedtime, but they are awake, their little blonde heads still damp from swimming in the hotel pool, their eyes sleepily watching cartoons as the air conditioner kicks on to chill us to sleep.

Our hotel is in Front Royal, Virginia, a town that sits along the Shenandoah ridge, one with a friendly looking Appalachian downtown and businesses named Smoots Auto Center and Knotty Pine Restaurant and Lounge. I don’t know anything about this town beyond noticing that there are a lot of what I would describe as motor lodges, a vestige, perhaps, of a time when more tourists pulled off Highway 522 to explore the caverns buried around these valleys.

This trip has been one of constant motion. We’d started this morning in a different hotel a stone’s throw from the Jersey Shore, were treated to breakfast by my aunt and uncle and their grandson, and followed that with an abbreviated but fun board game session. The night before, we’d been at a different aunt and uncle’s house, splayed out on their deck in the mild evening, my cousin’s Pandora channel playing on the outdoor speakers while their dogs yipped about. The day before, a cookout and hours-long swim at my cousin’s house in North Jersey; the day before, time spent with my aunt and three cousins at her townhouse.

In total: we have hugged and visited sixteen aunts, uncles, and cousins and their children at four different stops. In the mornings, we try to explain to our children who they are meeting and remind them how they are related.

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