That doesn't mean the experience is completely wasted on me. This recent trip to Phoenix is a good example. Did I want to travel all day to Phoenix on a Saturday without My Lovely Wife and children? Of course not. Did I want to sit though several days of meetings? Certainly not. However, it needed to be done and, under such circumstances, one can choose to be miserable or one can make the most of the situation.
Outside the lovely hotel our company booked for us stood a small hill with a reasonably steep climb to the top, from where the intrepid could take in the breadth of the city skyline and the desert mountains beyond. Returning to the bottom following a hasty, gravity-fueled descent, we allowed the momentum to carry us to the open air market of the Aloha Festival a block away. The connection between Arizona and Hawaii was lost on me, but the sun had only just begun beating through the mild morning air and it felt refreshing to wander aimlessly a bit longer amongst smiling, sunburned faces as someone not quite far enough away sang of the many glories of spam.
After a shower and change it was time to visit the local spring training baseball stadium of the Los Angeles Angels, a team whose name I struggle with because I understand it directly translates to "The The Angels Angels." If one could pre-order a day suitable to an afternoon baseball game, it would be the kind we experienced on Sunday. The sun was hot, a mild breeze provided occasional relief, and the sunscreened crowd was a sea of red caps and jerseys that cheered in unison at every quickly turned play and home run. We exited the stadium with a couple innings remaining to avoid the long lines for the trolley ride back to downtown Tempe that would surely form once the game ended. After another quick shower and change we gathered for the official start of our corporate function, a poolside reception with good company and lively conversation.
There were other entertaining activities in and around the scheduled meetings of the subsequent days, such as when a small gang of us invaded a nearby dueling piano bar and lost our voices shouting along to one of the best shows for which I've never paid, or watching my coworkers ride a mechanical bull after an evening of cornhole and ladder ball. I managed to avoid the peer pressure being applied to those choosing not to ride the bull by adamantly adhering to the philosophy that I will not participate in any activity requiring my signature on a waiver, particularly when the waiver is handed across by the same guy serving fireball shots.
All these are pleasant experiences I will long remember and about which I will reminisce with coworkers at future meetings, which is their purpose -- to provide a few common, unifying experiences for people who otherwise are distanced from each other by hundreds of miles or the deafening silence of cubicle walls. Beneath each experience for me, however, is an undercurrent of regret over not sharing them with those who matter most. The kids would have loved the ballgame and the festival. The wife would have loved the hike, the hotel, and the chance to tour a strange new city.
I've heard it said your loved ones travel with you if you carry them in your heart, but it really isn't the same. From my vantage point, I didn't leave home for an experience without my family. Instead, each experience I've had since leaving was one more task completed before being allowed to take the long journey home to the place and people who hold my heart.
2016 Mark Feggeler