Things I’m Doing: Traveling (and Making the Best of It)

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So, only two blog entries ago, I was lamenting about hard it is living a life of a traveling salesman. Which makes this blog entry a little hypocritical, but since it’s my blog, I’m going to completely contradict myself. I want to be clear – I miss my family like crazy and the cool and interesting moments are few and far between. Like tonight, I’m staying at a hotel in Flushing, NY and a roaring jet at LaGuardia takes off and lands every :72-seconds and my hotel room is smaller than the smallest bedroom in my house, and the A/C unit seems to have two settings …well, three settings. (1) Meat-locker cold. (2) Muggy-mildew damp air. (3) Let-me-outta-here heat.

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I like to think of myself as one of those “when life hands you lemons” types. Granted, I handed myself these lemons when I accepted this new job barely 11 weeks ago, so don’t cry for me. I just didn’t realize traveling makes a man (or woman) feel so isolated. Luckily, on this particular trip, I ended up spending two nights in Providence, RI and that’s a stones throw from my Uncle Roger. This Uncle (I’m not sure why I’m explaining this since most of my readers are family) lived in Boston my entire life, and I never got to know him like my other Uncles. Why we never took a trip to Boston as a family, I’ll never know, because that would’ve been a cool trip. And his family didn’t make it back to Michigan all that often. He had two sons, my cousins Ben and Kyle, and similarly, they were distant.

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Quick aside …reconnecting with family is a brilliant and beautiful benefit of Facebook and social media. I’m 39 and my cousin Kyle is 32(ish) and in the past 4 or 5 years as “Friends” on Facebook, we’ve interacted more than we did our first 30 years …and it’s great. We compare neck ties.

Anyway, an unexpected bonus on this trip was being able to have dinner with my cousin Kyle, once, and with my Uncle Roger, twice. And I gotta say, it was great. I was feeling particularly homesick, so to be able to drink a beer and share some stories with family was a welcome mid-week pick-me-up.

Downtown Providence is quaint and cool. We ate Italian the first night, and vegetarian the second night. We ate at The Grange and I had Fiddleheads as an appetizer. It’s a New England thang, I guess. They remind me of asparagus (both in taste and after-effects) but they were interesting looking (they look like the head of a fiddle) and they proved if you put garlic and butter on anything, it’ll taste great.

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How do you spell “corn beef reuben” in Chinese?

And on the final night, I spent the night in Flushing, NY, just 5 minutes from the airport, and the “concierge” (I use the term loosely) said I could grab some dinner up on “main street.” That sounded hunky dory …until I got to “main street” and realized, hey, this must be New York’s Chinatown. Or Koreatown. Or Japantown (if that’s even a thing that exists). It was definitely Asian-something. I was in search of a salad or a sandwich and the only English words that were catching my eye were “dumplings”, “lunch-dinner” (which seemed entirely too vague), and “spa” and I think we all know what that means. And then, like a desert Oasis, there across the street I saw a pizza place – a real, live genuine pizza place with only enough room for counters where customers could stand and eat, and a giant pizza oven. It was a perfectly New York moment for a sheltered midwestern guy like me …pizza served by a guy with a thick Italian New York accent in Chinatown with thousands of people walking by, a bus honking at a cab, and me, taking pictures of it like a total tourist.

(Note: I confirmed when back at my hotel that, indeed, it was Chinatown)

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When all hope was lost, I got pizza and a big, ice-filled Coke.

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So, the morale of the story is …traveling still sucks, but you gotta make the best of it. The same can be said about the 12 sales calls I made. Sure, I wanted all twelve to be stellar and amazing …but they weren’t. However, the “good” calls were so good, it more than cancels out the bad. Dinner with my Uncle and experiencing some authentic New York moments didn’t completely wipe away my heart ache and my missing my kids and wife, but it helped.

Tomorrow night? I hope to be eating some chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese and lovin’ every minute of it. Thanks again, Uncle Roger, my soon-to-be clients who I think it’ll be awesome to work with, and New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island …you were great.

Follow me @donkowalewski.

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