I’ve been on the road for almost a week now, with still five days to go.
Last Thursday I flew from Chicago to Anaheim, CA, for Natural Products Expo West–quite easily the most massive food industry trade show I’ve ever seen. After three very full days of ducking in and out of educational sessions, meetings with registered dietitians, chefs, COOs, presidents, cofounders and whole lot of PR folks at company booths and coffee shops, awkward cocktail events and long, heavy dinners, I jetted to Portland, OR, for the second leg of my West Coast tour: a trade show combining culinary arts and food science (aka food nerd heaven).
In the week I’ve been gone, I’ve eaten just as much mediocre airport and chain restaurant food as really unique, regional cuisine. I tasted protein bars made from crickets, pecan milk, drinking vinegar, gluten-free empanadas, coconut bacon and powdered apples. I was told my deodorant was going to give me cancer (from a hippie selling the aluminum-free kind) and that my home city of Chicago is an unsafe place to live (by someone who works in Downtown Disney–go figure). I began sobbing while video chatting with my husband because the dog whined after she heard my voice.I’ve always had very mixed emotions about traveling for work. It’s often a lonely business, though I’ve been fortunate to have generous friends in both places this time around, plus the Mister is joining me near the end of the trip.
I perform neurotic little rituals whenever I arrive in hotel rooms, like yanking the comforter off the bed, neatly arranging my toiletries on a washcloth on the bathroom sink, and smelling all the soap and lotion. And I always seem to mis-pack just enough for it to be annoying. No hairbrush. Forgot the one nice pair of pants I meant to bring. Not enough socks. The wrong tights. And as the trip winds down, it becomes harder and harder to physically separate the clean and dirty clothes in the suitcase–which doesn’t really matter because they all smell like hotel anyway.
Then I return home with renewed affection for all the things that drove me nuts about my house before. The popcorn/vacuum cleaner aroma wafting off my dog, who is a month overdue for a bath, becomes my most favorite smell. I feel a weird, misty nostalgia for the ugly recliner in the living room, and even a temporary acceptance of that nasty old light fixture I’ve been meaning to replace in the kitchen. In other words, I’ve been jolted out of my comfort zone just long enough to gain a small dose of much needed perspective.
And it’s damn good to be home.