Monday, October 19, 2015

Italian Recollections

Too often when I go on travel to a conference for work, I tend to develop tunnel vision. I get so focused on survival and schedule that I miss out on opportunities to find my smile and to better enjoy new vistas, cultures, and experiences. In order to get to or from such venues there are always hassles with figuring out and dealing with all of the planes, trains, buses, and ferries. Of course, a big source of frustration and distraction is wading through long lines, dealing with long layovers between the legs of such journeys, and figuring out which way to go and how to get there when
arriving in a foreign land where you don't speak the language. Then once at the conference location, I tend to focus on my various roles and responsibilities. Giving my presentation, chairing various sessions, leading discussion sections, going to the talks that I am interested in, and meeting with various folks of relevance to my research. Then there is foraging for food at meal times when you don't know where anything is and you are on a tight schedule.

In my most recent trip, a week-long stay in northern Italy, I purposefully tried to find some positive things to celebrate each day. I thought I would share here a few things that I noted.
  • At coffee break one day I went outside for a brief stroll. In a hidden garden that I stumbled upon, I found a beautiful Pomegranate tree laden with fruit.
  • On the morning bus ride to the conference site, while stopped at a traffic light, I watched a small boy lost in play while his mother looked on with a smile on her face.
  • While lost in a massive train station in Milan absolutely teeming with people, a worker randomly came up to me and offered to walk me through how to buy my ticket and then he took me through a lengthy maze to my platform. Without his chosing me out of thousands of people, I would never have been able to figure out what to do.
  • Twice during the week I got to talk to my daughter via Skype. These calls were the two longest phone conversations that I have ever had with her. It allowed for us to connect and I did not feel so alone.
  • At each meal during the week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I found someone to spend time with. It took all of the pressure off and gave me opportunity to relax and socialize a bit.
  • While riding back to my hotel on the bus one day, it was drizzling rain outside. We drove past a school as it was letting out. The children were all positioned outside in single file waiting for their teachers to allow them to go to their parents. The children's raised umbrellas created a beautiful garden of color.
Even though my journey from start to finish covered more than 15,000 miles and left me bone-weary upon my return, looking back I think that I did O.K. I believe that I am satisfied that I did a bit more than just survive my experience.