It's all "bidness" in this week's Friday Five -- business trips, to be exact.
1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?
Very occasionally I'm sent on a training or to an event out of town. If it's fairly close by, I don't mind it. If not -- I'd rather not. When I was in training for lay ministry, I went to quarterly retreats all over outstate Michigan; these were mostly enjoyable, but I still missed being home, and was glad to get back.
2. How about that of your spouse or partner?
We usually wind up going to Ann Arbor a couple of times a year for medical reasons -- but most of our traveling is for pleasure, not business.
3. What was the best business trip you ever took?
Several years ago, around the first week of November my boss couldn't make it to one of her professional association meetings at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, a few miles south of Benzonia. Crystal Mountain is an impressive outfit -- a ski resort, hotel, golf course, conference center, all-season housing development and home of the Michigan Art Park, a series of mostly outdoor art installations that convey a sense of "up north." Anyway, I was dispatched to the resort to make use of our non-refundable reservation, take notes during various workshops and schmooze. The actual work part of the conference was mind-numbingly boring, but we enjoyed a good meal -- what I remember most, actually, were the beautiful floral arrangements utilizing both cultivated and wild flowers, grasses and fruits from the resort grounds. The last morning, a Friday morning, of the conference the only event on the schedule was some sort of association sendoff cheerleading blah-blah-blah with no actual informative content involved...so I got up at the crack of dawn, checked out early and drove to Beulah for breakfast at the Phoenix Cafe. The sky was a dramatic gunmetal gray, with an occasional snowflake drifting down to earth; the local public radio station, in honor of the first snowfall, was playing "Sleigh Ride." The leafless trees on either side of the highway were starkly beautiful in the morning light. It was a lovely, lovely morning.
4. ...and the worst, of course?
At the beginning of my current job I was sent to a volunteerism conference in Lansing. Not surprisingly for impoverished nonprofit staffers, many of us conference-goers were put up in a run-down, dirty, nasty-ass Franchise Motel That Shall Remain Nameless; it should have been renting rooms by the hour. In my first workshop the speaker noted that the attrition rate for volunteer coordinators is so high that she was sure that most of the attendees were new hires, and furthermore that we wouldn't be back at the next conference. I sat there thinking, "Omigod...what have I gotten myself into?" The rest of the conference was a roller-coaster of happy-clappy self-talk about the Joy of Volunteerism interspersed with glum statistics about the decline of the volunteer ethos in much of society, and advice for attracting new volunteers that it was obvious the presenters didn't actually believe would work. I drove home in the throes of both professional and existential despair. I'm thinking this is not the outcome the organizers had in mind. Oh...and just as a cherry on top of this experience, I came down with the flu the morning of the last day; I drove the two hours home in a fevered, nauseous stupor, and pretty much fell into bed.
5. What would make your next business trip perfect?
Little traffic...pleasant accomodations...interesting conference material. Which pretty much limits the possibilities to my lay ministry sideline.