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The travel marathon is over

…at least for now. Obviously I wasn’t on the road the entire time, because I took this picture of balloons at the market one Saturday while I was home. But the balloons mirror how I feel. Hello home! Hello family! Hello Sandy, cats, and Weber grill!

Hello, also, writing. I’d like to say that business travel gives me many opportunities to get into my writing head, but the opposite is true. After the first blush of any trip, I fall into the cycle of work/sleep/travel where it is almost impossible to generate that sustained creative focus that is part of writing. But that’s a reality of the working life and has been true at every job.

Joan Frye Williams and I briefly exchanged observations about travel while we were at WilsWorld. You could almost get me to pay you for the opportunity to speak. But modern American business travel is gruesome. Fetid, noisy, crowded, airless, slow, hot, and cold — and the food sucks. The very best you can do is a wan Disneyland facsimile of “good food.” At worst, you stand at the corner of Hamburger and Donut, wondering when you will see a living thing again.

But then I get a chance to spend a quiet hour over lunch with a librarian I’ve always wanted to get to know better; or I have an hour to walk down State Street in Madison completely unescorted; or I wake up early and see a sunrise in a new parallel; or my talk goes well and I feel gratified. Or the man next to me on the crowded, fetid, airless flight turns to me and tells me how he spent 20 years managing a Dairy Queen and he is returning from visiting his son, the med student, and his eyes shine, and I know how lucky I am to share that moment, he and I, on that crowded,  stinky ship heading home.

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