So I’ve been making some big moves lately. In many ways. The last few months included graduating from my Master’s program, moving to Nashville, starting a new job, and most recently, heading out on my first work trip. We did presentations in 5 cities in 5 days, and I got to travel to 5 new states. It was quite an amazing experience.
One part of this new job that was an unknown for me was the travel, and this trip at least far exceeded my expectations. I know travel season is going to be a different experience and is going to be full of new and different challenges, but this trip was a blast, and every day I am so thankful that I’m fortunate enough to be having these experiences and doing what I do for a living. I also learned a ton in a short period of time. Part of it was having 7 days on the road in new places to explore while also doing the work I enjoy, and part of it was the experience of traveling with a more seasoned coworker. I truly believe that you can learn something new in every day and in every experience, and this trip was a key example of that. So here’s a list of some of the things I learned over the course of this trip.
It’s okay to not have a plan. We traveled to 5 cities over the 5 days of our trip, and in most of those cities we didn’t have a plan for each day. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do and some things we wanted to see, but for the most part, we woke up each day and took things as they came. And it ended up being awesome. We found an amazing farmer’s market and beignets in Kansas City. We ate ice cream at 10:30 am in Oklahoma City. We drove out to KU in a thunderstorm. We ended up having some of the best adventures thanks to just waking up and saying, “what do we want to do today?”
It’s okay to not have all the answers. Many, many hours were spent in a car, driving from place to place seeing random sights. Sometimes these sights would invoke random questions – and often times, one or both of us would have no idea what the answer to these questions were. This is where our friend Google comes in handy. It’s also totally okay, in our jobs and our lives, to say, “I don’t know” when someone asks a question. It takes humility and strength to do so, and you’ll learn more that way.
Mindset is important. I strongly believe that part of why this trip was so fun was because of the mindset I went into it with. I was excited to see all these areas because I had never been to them, and I was a little bit nervous too because it was my first time traveling in this capacity. It helped that I was with someone who was also excited but was confident – so our mindsets complimented each other nicely. The trip was an adventure, and I think if I can find the adventure in the everyday, it will make life a lot more fun.
Let your goofball flag fly. Sometimes, there’s no other response when you’re going through a yellow light other than to make a really weird noise at the top of your lungs. Look for the silliest road signs. Poke fun at yourself. You can choose your reaction, so why not choose happiness and being goofy? It makes everything better.
On the same note, sing along. Have some great playlists and sing along whenever possible. Music can turn a day around, it can pump you up, and it can mellow you out. So when you have hours in the car, why not just sing along and have a jam session? This also works at your desk with headphones – but maybe minus the signing.
Be friendly whenever possible. When checking into a hotel, when ordering at a restaurant, when meeting new people for the first time, really anytime interacting with any human being – you never know what can come of it. I got restaurant recommendations, cookies, bottles of water, and insider tips on how to get places from being friendly, as well as just an extra smile. I’d like to think everyone walked away from those interactions just a little bit better off.
Treat yo self. What’s that saying? “When in Rome…” You have to try the local cuisine. Between the cities we went to, we had BBQ, steaks, ice cream, brunch, beignets, donuts, Tex Mex, and Italian. Will I eat like that every time I travel? No. But did I say no to any delectable food that was a local specialty? Heck no. I just made sure to walk as much as possible and keep the portions reasonable.
Drink all the water. You never know when you’re going to get more water, and with the amount of talking I do with my job, I can always use more water. It’s just one of life’s special commodities. (On a related note, use the facilities whenever offered as well).
Looks can be deceiving. A few of our best meals came from restaurants that we almost didn’t go into, in areas of town where we wondered if anything was open. Keeping an open mind about everything, from restaurants to people, can open you up to the hidden gems and amazing experiences that may be just around the corner.
Just keep walking. The meaning behind this is twofold. Walk as much as possible because when you’re eating as much as we did, you need to get those steps in! It also allows you to explore new places. We found an amazing view of Kansas City from the top of a hill after we just kept walking up an endless amount of stairs. We ended up inside a number of stadiums after we just kept walking until we noticed they were open. We found a big farmer’s market after walking through doors that didn’t seem to lead anywhere. You never know what you’re going to find if you just keep walking.
There’s beauty everywhere. Sure, the skyline of Omaha may not rival that of Chicago. I’m not a big city girl anyway, so I don’t need a big flashy skyline shouting at me as I land. But man, does the lightning in the Great Plains light up the sky, and sunsets take on a whole new set of colors. We really found some amazing things in all places, and experienced the beauty of special nooks and crannies of these cities as well as the wide open spaces of the middle of our country. Being openminded about what you can see and where you can see it will help you appreciate the beauty in every location.
Everyone makes mistakes – it’s how you handle them that matters. One day, we had a grand plan to go to the driving range and hit a few golf balls with the clubs we’d been lugging around all week. When we got there, we discovered that the key to their travel case was back at our hotel, 20 minutes away. It wasn’t a big deal, except for the fact that it was such a silly mistake. So we rummaged around in the car to see if we could pick the lock with anything, and then we readjusted and did the touristy things we wanted to out by the driving range and headed back to the hotel to check out and hit the range on our way out of town. It all ended up great, with just a bit of flexibility on our end. We could easily have beat ourselves up, been angry that we forgot the key, and stuck to our rigid plan, but instead we readjusted and made a great day of it. It’s all about how flexible you can be when plans change.
So there you have it. Life lessons from a week on the road. Here’s to a season of even more life lessons! I’m hoping to keep up posting more regularly now that I’m not in school anymore!
And in case you’re heading off to any of these cities, here are the places we visited, poked our heads in, or were recommended to go in all of our cities. Passing these along in case I can help others out!
- The Berry & Rye – cute little fancy cocktail bar
- Upstream Brewing Company – great food, also apparently make their own beer
- Ted & Wally’s – homemade ice cream (and sorbet for me!)
- Harney Street Tavern – live music, fun vibe
- WheatFields Eatery & Bakery – BRUNCH!
- Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge – you can walk to Iowa and also stand on the state line over the river!
- TD Ameritrade Park – home of the College World Series #anchordown
- The Drover – the best steak in Omaha according to multiple sources including my tummy
Kansas City, MO
- Kaldi’s Coffee in Country Club Plaza – started in St. Louis but this shopping plaza is a sight to behold
- Beignet – NoLa fare at the City Market, both great things to check out
- Head up to the World War I memorial for a great view of the city
- Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – get there by 11:30 am if you want a seat or to not stand in line forever. Also, it’s in a gas station, but it is DELICIOUS.
- Gate’s Bar-B-Q (multiple locations) – different kind of delicious and unique experience, definitely something to try.
St. Louis, MO
- Zia’s Restaurant (The Hill) – in the Italian part of town. I’m an Italian food snob after growing up in NJ and it is the best Italian I’ve had since NJ.
- St. Louis Zoo – free, PENGUINS, what more could you want?
- Dressel’s Pub – fun little pub with a delicious lamb burger
- Jeni’s Ice Cream – just, duh.
- Kaldi’s Coffee House – the original. Also a delicious soy chai latte in my case.
- Dilly Diner – funky upscale diner with breakfast all day
- El Guapo Cantina – great Tex Mex
- Daylight Donuts – multiple locations, best Maple Bacon donut I’ve ever had (and I’ve had many)
Oklahoma City, OK
- Cattlemen’s Steakhouse – unassuming on the outside, amazing food inside, best steak I’ve ever had – yep, I said it.
- WSKY Lounge and Cigar Bar – funky cocktail and cigar bar.
- ALSO: for my fellow ‘Dores – there is a bar in OKC called Anchor Down…we did not go to it but it looks fun and seems to specialize in beer and a casual setting so if you’re into that, check it out!
- Braum’s (multiple locations) – delicious ice cream
- Sonic – the home of Sonic so you need to eat it here