Yesterday I got up at 4am to make sure I was out the door in time for my flight (not that I was anxious or anything). I’m gone for three weeks to do some speaking, some learning, and some hanging with people I like on the west coast. By the time I got across the continent to Vancouver, through customs, suitcase in hand, I’d been traveling 10+ hours and was operating only on a couple packs of peanuts and some tomato juice. Clearly a recipe for disaster. So when I got outside to the airport shuttles, I got on the one for Delta and was delighted to be in the hotel lobby in ten minutes. Until, of course, they couldn’t find my reservation. Not under my name, not under the conference name, not under the coordinator’s name. *headdesk* You’ve got to be kidding me.
It should come as no surprise I didn’t have the strength to force the issue. I gave up rather easily, in fact; I just handed my luggage off to the Concierge and went to the restaurant for a drink. And right then I realized just how ravenous I was. So hungry that one look at the menu overwhelmed me. So I fell back on a trick I learned from Tanya Joosten — I asked my waitress, Lee-Anne, what was best on the menu. And she brought me a Caesar (aka Bloody Mary) and seafood eggs benedict on scones.
Dear God, it was amazing.
And since it was slow, we talked a bit. Why I was here. What sort of conference was I speaking at. What did I do, and did I like it? The fact that she’s going back to school, and trying to juggle raising kids and a job and all those things that so many of us have done. How we feel like a failure until someone else gives you a different perspective. Some empathy. An opportunity to discover that you aren’t alone. By the time I was done, she brought by a cup of coffee in a to go cup, and it was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
And because I’d been taken out of my fugue, I was finally able to resolve my hotel problem: I was at the wrong Delta hotel. I was supposed to be downtown at the Delta Vancouver Suites, not the Delta Vancouver Airport.
So I went back to retrieve my luggage and ask about options. The front desk clerk was instantly sympathetic and called a cab for me. Then she brought me a bottled water, just in case I needed something to drink, and walked out to make sure the taxi was there for me. Once I got in, she waved goodbye and I turned my attention to the city passing by my window. I love mountains, and Vancouver has them in spades. Real, craggy mountains, not those rolling, gentle pathetic excuses for “hills+” that Pennsylvania tries to pawn off as mountains. I’m not fooled. I said as much to the driver and we struck up a conversation about the city. How long he’d been there. How different this city felt compared to cities like New York. How it seemed to make such a difference when a city incorporated nature into the fiber of the environment, and not just lumped into a separate patch of land. How people seem to become accustomed to what they’re used to, so be careful what you’re willing to become used to. How we can forget about our humanity, and about being friendly to others. People smiling at other people. Pretty deep topics for a cab ride and yet, it was a really worthwhile conversation.
And I think, if I have to be honest, that’s why I love traveling. I used to think it was about the places I went, but I think it’s more than that. It’s the people that live in those places that I find truly interesting. It’s highly likely I will never see Lee-Anne again, nor my cab driver, but this is the thing: our single interaction, being transparent and authentic, has changed me a bit. It shows me that Vancouverites are lovely, open people. They love their dogs and they love their city, and they love engaging with others who show an interest. I think we underestimate the true value of being outwardly friendly — I didn’t say outgoing, mind you; you don’t have to be an extravert to travel friendly. You simply need to be authentic in your interest in others. Live and be in the moment, being open to new experiences, and take the time to really see the people you are meeting. I realize that this kind of interaction might be a bit outside your confort zone — hell, most everything I do is outside of somebody’s comfort zone — but the reward for taking a risk that encourages me to grow, or learn, or engage with new people and ideas? It’s incredibly empowering, and makes me both thankful and grateful for others. I highly recommend it
And now, I need to finish up. I’ve got to find my way to Belgian Fries and finally meet in real life a couple of amazingly cool people from Twitter who happen to live here in Vancouver. How unreal is it that I can fly to a city I’ve never been to, meet up with people I’ve not yet met face to face, and yet call them friends?
I’m telling you: you’ve got to travel friendly.