As an adult I don't collect packing tape any longer (well in a way I do but that's to ship animals not to make giant tape balls!), but I do collect memories from my trips. Networking, drinking (tomat-o, toma-toe), flights, layovers, presentations, meetings, and early morning coffee to combat the late night drinking.
Whether I am driving on a long haul animal transfer or flying across the country to a conference, each trip has led to many lasting memories and wonderful friendships. From workshops to trainings, I can honestly say that traveling is a better form of finding happiness than shopping or being a lazy bum on the couch for the weekend (though those do have their own merits!)
Portland and a Goat
The first real big shipment that I've had the luck to go on was my longest drive to date and it took me right through a city where just two days later I would fly into and present on a topic that I took pride in with my previous job at my first big conference. The trip started out simply enough, driving through Colorado listening to my cohorts talk in the front seat while I folded art brochures for an upcoming event.
22 hours later and we still had a few hours to go before our final destination! Driving through construction traffic in some city at 2 am, cruising past a tree farm and marveling at how straight the rows were, and then also celebrating one of the co drivers birthdays by acting like we were Facebook sending notifications and hashtag (ding! HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY P-DUBS!!!!!)...we definitely found ourselves a bit slap happy by the end of our 3-4 day journey. I will say that the beer we had when we finally reached our hotel and destination at the end of a 25-26 hour drive was one of the best beers of my life!
Piggybacking with that trip we were all participants in an online behavior course that had just started, which was led by one of the most incredible women I have ever known. She has the ability to speak softly and soothingly yet command more respect and attention than a marine drill sergeant. Her philosophies on life are ones that I have always worked towards and her attitude towards people is one that I am working hard on adopting.
Life is not all positive, whether in a training aspect or simply in a viewpoint/actuality. I don't trust people that are all sunshine and daisies every day, it doesn't feel natural. I have strived to be honest, to myself and in the way I represent myself. The problem with this is that when I am not a "fan" of someone, they know it. And truly, I don't view this as a real problem, I despise people that are fake-whether for the sake of being political or simply because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings.
The wonderful thing about Susan is her ability to make every individual feel as if they are the most important person in the world and the complete center of her attention. I find the notion that someone can be this good baffling, and she'll be the first to admit she isn't perfect but her openness and acceptance of everything is perfect.
A Gorilla and some corn fields
Less than 6 months after my first long haul I found myself on another, this time to California and this time with a much more odorous companion. I don't mean (Dina) but rather, a dark new friend in the back half of our van. Thankfully the straight through drive on our return journey was less than the straight through drive to Oregon but if you've ever smelled a gorilla, well let's just say that at the end of the trip, there was no need to refresh with deodorant, and no one ever knew the difference!
The best part about long hauls (coming from someone who hates driving and has never kept that secret) is the bonding with the other people in the car. Watching car pool karaoke, stopping at an Indian casino for gas (ironically the same one on both sides of the trip!), souvenir shopping at a small place in Arizona or looking for cold beer at the grocery shop in Santa Barbara, it was all a wonderful time spent together!
Not long before that trip (or was it after? Time melds together so easily) was another conference trip, this time to a place I had lived for the least amount of time. Funny how six months in a place can make such an impact on your life, but that is what Omaha did for me and my return journey there was no less insightful for me. A quick flight there and a snowy 8 hour drive home with 20 some-odd egrets while another zoos staff drove ahead and updated us on the number of rolled over semis, and it was overall another amazing opportunity to find a place in the world for me.
I had (by most concerns) no right to be interested in this particular conference. Not being in a position of "importance", or having worked with any of the species, but being good friends with Cali, and learning more about who I was and what I wanted. Most importantly I found a place where I felt comfortable, respected, heard, and even a bit knowledgeable. I fell in love with a species I had never heard of before (look up Saola. Just do it.), and made new friends that I would connect with again in Albuquerque, where I would once again feel that connection of belonging.
"You know your stuff. And you're good at what you do. But you don't know what you know." It might sound like an odd quote but it is one that has helped encourage me and given me the reinforcement that I needed to keep going some days. I miss Cali, but I know that we are both where we need to be and she is continuing to inspire me and encourage me every day.