I'll admit it. I'm an anxious traveler. I don't get airsick or worry that the plane is going to crash into the Pacific or anything like that. Mostly, I worry about being late for my flight and I ALWAYS worry about getting lost in a new city. The latter concern seems valid, given that I have absolutely no sense of direction.
I went to Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago for a work conference. I was excited about the chance to visit a new city, especially on the company's dime. However, I was a little concerned when I found out I was going by myself.
But I figured I'd be okay. I'd arrive at the airport, take a taxi the hotel, go to the conference at the hotel, and possibly venture out to the nearby touristy attractions. Easy.
Well, the hotel was sold out, so I was assigned a rental car. Great. Armed with my printed Google maps, my car GPS, and the MapQuest app on my phone, I reasoned I could competently navigate from the airport to the hotel.
Sitting in the terminal in Salt Lake, waiting on my 6:00 a.m. flight to Philadelphia (which meant I left my house around 4 a.m. Seriously.), I saw another dude from my work. It turns out he was speaking at the same conference. He booked early, so he had a room at the hotel where the conference was being held. I told him that since I had a car, I could easily drop him off at his hotel before heading to mine, which was about a mile away.
Once we got the rental car, I glanced at the printed Google map. The route seemed easy enough. A couple of rights before getting on the freeway, then a few more turns and we'd be at the hotel. I turned on the phone navigator and we got on our way.
The phone app didn't have me get on the freeway at all. It took me straight through the city. As in, right through the city. As in, when I stopped at red lights every 30 feet, I noticed the women's skirts were more zebra-printed and more sparkly and generally more prostitute-y than in Salt Lake.
I was happy to have a traveling partner. If I hadn't I may still be waiting to turn left right now.
"In 2-40 yards, turn left," said the navigator.
I obediently moved into the left lane behind a line of cars.
The light turned green, and then yellow, and then red. I was still in the same spot.
"Uh," said my copilot. "Are there people in the cars a head of us?"
Who would have thought that people in Philadelphia use the middle lane of the road for parking and not for turning left?
Yes, I am not good at finding my way. But we made it safely to the hotel. Eventually.
It was a good trip. Traci not-so-secretly hates when I go out of town for work, not just because she's forced to be a single parent (something I feel quite bad about), but mostly because she thinks I'm getting to have a family-free vacation. I, of course, ensure that it's a work trip.
That said, I had a great work time getting my American history on, visiting the Liberty Bell (yep, it's a bell with a crack in it) and the Betsy Ross house (well, the gift shop. I didn't want to pay $12 to go in). I ate some Cuban food and a Philly cheese steak (not in the same meal). I sat in the hotel hot tub and watched some NBA playoff games. Oh, and I made it to a Phillies game, which was the highlight of the trip.
My dear friend RB now lives in Pennsylvania. He drove two-and-a-half hours to Philadelphia, and then another hour in traffic from the freeway exit to my hotel, just to hang out and watch the game with me. (I bought him a sandwich at the stadium, so that's probably a fair trade.)
I met RB in my MTC dorm room. It's reassuring to know that 13 years and seven kids later, RB and I both just as unsure about what we want to be when grow up as we were in the MTC. (Shhh, don't tell our wives.) It was great to see him.
The drive back to the airport (at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning), was beautifully uneventful (we decided to take the freeway). With the two hour time difference, I was back in time for the kids' soccer games. It was like I had never left.