Tag Archives: Lifestyles

Off the Road

11 Dec

This time last year, I was staring out a hotel window at a smoggy LA scene. The day before, I was in Austin. The week before? São Paolo. I wasn’t on an intentional adventure–this was business travel. All three stops were for focus groups. I tried to make the most of it: an early morning dash for donuts in Austin, a quick museum stop in São Paolo, trying a new restaurant in LA. Mostly, though, I sat in focus group facilities, scribbling notes about consumer behavior and eating an inordinate amount of M&Ms (a focus group staple).

And now here we are, a year later, and I have zero business trips planned. After 7 years of frequent, often chaotic business travel, I’m officially off the road. It’s largely a relief–but there’s also something bittersweet about it that I’m still trying to process. My new job will involve the occasional business trip, but most the time, I’ll be home sweet home.

Switching myself off from business traveler mode has actually been one of the weirdest adjustments to my new job. On the one hand, I’m elated. Business travel can be so tiring, and it made my life really fragmented too. I could never quite plan ahead, I never committed to weekday plans more than a week out, and I always knew there was the possibility I’d have to hop on a last-minute flight. I struggled to set good habits because once I’d gain momentum, the next trip would come along and disrupt it.

And yet: there’s something beautiful about popping up all over the place. Business trips took me places I probably wouldn’t have been to otherwise: far-flung suburbs, extremely small towns, medium-sized towns that just don’t make most tourist itineraries. I’m full of stories from the last 7 years, some treasured and some reviled. That time I got lost in Alabama and ended up at a pecan farm. All the late, late night drinks and early, early breakfasts with NYC pals, crammed in to accommodate my work commitments. The months I spent staffed in New Jersey, barely seeing anything beyond my hotel and my client site.

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Waking up in Sao Paolo

This lifestyle shift is really impacting me right now. I find myself thinking about the feeling of checking in at a new hotel, pondering how much time I spent in airports, remembering all the times I dragged my suitcase around a new place. Planes and hotels were such a big part of my life for so long, whether I liked it or not. Being on the road had some exciting moments but more importantly, it was familiar. Lack of routine was my routine for so long, and it’s sort of bizarre that the pattern ended.

A more open calendar means opening up my life: the lack of movement means I can move forward in new ways. But, I’m still figuring out how this whole “non-business traveler” thing works. I’m trying to establish a better routine. I’m saying yes to weekday plans. And above all else, I’m savoring the feeling of staying still.

Since I keep a sort-of diary, it was really easy to map the places I’ve traveled for work. So naturally, I had to do it. This map only reflects locations, not frequency. For example, I hit up LA a few times in 2013 alone. Maybe someday I’ll add frequency in… but for now, the data-geek side of me finds this map pretty satisfying on its own.

The Life of a Coffee Table

9 Mar

Think back to your dorm days when you were assigned a boring, basic room with boring, basic furniture. That standard-issue room slowly became yours as you added a favorite blanket, photos of friends, maybe a poster or two. And as time passed, even that boring, basic furniture gained significance. When I think back to college, I forget about the white walls and stiff chairs. Instead, I think back to late nights writing at my desk, smoothie parties in my neighbor’s room, conversations in the long, sterile hallways. Basic, boring spaces became meaningful over time, thanks to our experiences and memories.

The Lack Table

I love a Washington Post story about Ikea coffee tables for this very reason. In her article, Jessica Contrera describes the “life” of an Ikea Lack coffee table across a variety of homes and owners. Contrera uses Craigslist posts as her inspiration, imagining the circumstances around each table’s acquisition and subsequent re-sell. Her story is well-written, and her point well-made. In this day of mass-produced merchandise and chain retail, so many of us own the same things. But it’s how we experience and use those things that turns a “possession” into a “personal belonging.”

As I wrote in a recent post about antique fairs, I think objects gain their value from the realms of emotion, experience and memory. I do a good amount of in-home interviews for my job, and one of the most interesting portions is the home tour. Our respondents give us a brief tour of their home, explaining things that have particular significance. It’s not always the wedding photos or trophies or expensive clothing that makes the cut. It’s often the everyday objects, or the most-used furniture. I could see the same table in 6 homes, and I guarantee you I would hear 6 very different stories of how that table is used. I realize this may sound like marketing speak to some of you, but nothing is “just” an object. There are always more layers to be found.

You should read the entire Washington Post piece, but for now I’ll leave you with my favorite quote:

“Described as sparsely as it is designed, the Lack table is discarded on Craigslist for $10 to $20, as if its companionship during the disorienting time of 20-something-ness gave it no additional value. As if it hadn’t been such a reliable foot rest during sessions of scrolling on Facebook, silently comparing the new lives of college friends. As if it hadn’t been such an adequate plate holder for food that was a real, cooked meal, and thus, a victory.” – Jessica Contrera

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