My PhD was not really supposed to turn out this way. Like most students, I expected to spend my days and nights working in the closed confines of my lab, crouched over some important problem the answer to which would admittedly change the world. Yes there are long hours of research work, classes, and home work involved. To add to it, the last month saw me traveling like crazy. Washington D.C., Florida, North Carolina, Missouri and Boston. People who know me also know how much I love traveling, and what amount of time and effort I put planning trips for vacations so that I don’t have to sit at home watching TV. Now I have surpassed even my vacation standards. The kick I get every time the plane takes off, or I enter a hotel and jump on the mattress, or when I set my sights on a new city is priceless.
I usually try to include some non-work sightseeing in my work-related travels. The DC trip had luckily coincided with the start of the Cherry Blossom festival, and I spent 4 hours on a certain chilly evening going around seeing and taking pictures of the cherry trees and freezing my hands. I added a few days to my Florida conference to see St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. The drive to North Carolina is one of the prettiest drives I have done, and I held on to my love for seeing new school campuses and went around Duke University. Every trip had something to offer that I had never done before.
It does put me under a lot of stress, since I am still taking 5 courses, and doing research work. Since I take classes, I travel during the weekends, which means I have no time to study or take care of the home. I realized I went grocery shopping after 3 weeks today. For 21 days, I have been eating out while I traveled or finished deadlines or accepted the generous offer of my roomies to eat what they cooked. Most Thursdays I finish class and hop on to a red eye flight. I miss out on sleep, feel sleep deprived, sometimes doze off on the wheel while driving, have a suitcase permanently packed, and miss out on home cooked food. I had to bail out of participating in a dance program because I was spending too much time traveling. But I’d still do what I am doing any day. It makes it easy that I don’t have family here, a relationship to devote time to, or children to look after. I couldn’t imagine doing the kind of globetrotting with a family. You would think traveling alone is like living with loneliness, but that is not the case. I get to observe people, meet up with old friends, drive through new roads, learn the names of new shops and streets, eat new varieties of food at restaurants not known to me, see mountains, climb lighthouses, walk along beaches, visit forts, see world famous campuses, shop at new malls, and yes, get to take lot of pictures. My interests in traveling and photography perfectly align with each other. It is a temporary phase of travel, I know, and things will calm down soon. Hence it is amazing while it lasts.
Mr. Clooney, when I watched you in the movie, I just adored you. Fancy suits, charming personality, and so on. These days I get to wear such fancy formal clothes too, going around networking and talking to people. I live in hotels I would have never afforded with my meager student salary. I love driving a new car every time I go somewhere, listening to the local happenings at National Public Radio (NPR) and nodding to myself as if I have always lived in that city. And more than anything, I love the thrill of seeing a new place, and all the things that come with it and prevent my life from boredom. Someday I will be perfectly happy spending a nice vacation at home, a frothing mug of hot chocolate in hand, reading a book or watching a romantic comedy movie. But while I wait for that to happen, I shall still enjoy my hot chocolates, in new shops at unfamiliar places, poring over the area map in order to plan what I can go visit next.