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  • Jenny

17. A Sales Girl on the Road: My Trade Show Excursions

My dream of traveling as part of my job came true when I joined a family organization during my engagement years. It was exciting for me to be chosen to go on various trips with the different

bosses, or on behalf of the organization, and both strengthened my knowledge and skills while satiating my desire for adventure.

Not everywhere we went was profound, but it always was interesting to see new places. I applied my approach to these new places as I did to different countries, understanding that new cities and states could be just as diverse from New York as cities throughout Europe were from each other.

Some of the places I remember included Virginia, Maine, upstate New York, Atlantic City, and random places in Pennsylvania, to name a few. Virginia was my very first experience traveling overnight with two of my bosses, and that was quite an adventure.

I knew I was working for a different kind of company when we encountered some mishaps along the way, and they weren’t concerned that some new girl was sitting in the backseat watching the whole thing.

Yup—I was already one of the family.

I also remember my deep level of embarrassment over having to wear my really thick glasses at night in the car because my contacts needed to be disinfected for at least 6 hours, and we had to be at the trade show bright and early in just a few hours. My one boss to this day still jokes with me how he remembers my “coke bottles.” It really was the beginning of a beautiful, healthy relationship with someone who has been like a brother to me—who clearly, enjoyed teasing me like one from the get go.

My adventures then branched out to traveling with a co-worker of mine, who has since left the company but is still a dear friend. I remember our first assignment was to a trade show in Maine, where we took a “puddle jumper” plane and she was petrified. Once we landed, all was well, as we stepped out into beautiful Portland, Maine. Where we stayed, the streets were these sweet little cobblestone roads. After work, we enjoyed walking through the streets, just talking, and it felt so good to be on a trip with someone I felt comfortable with, and it was like I left all my worries behind.

We had a fabulous dinner, and charged wine to our expense account and had a complete blast. I had never been on a trip before like this for business, but she had, so I had followed her lead from her past experience on how to not worry about the budget. Little did we know, budget was a big deal, and we overstepped. Oops!

That was a mistake we would never make again.

We were allowed to venture together again shortly after to Atlantic City for another show. My co-worker was a clever one, and since we were in Sales, and we were on a budget, she networked us into getting another company to buy us dinner and drinks, and had a blast again—but not in a way that would misrepresent our company. We always took our day work seriously, and made the leads and connections we were supposed to. But when off the clock, that was our time to enjoy the trip as we liked.

So after dinner, we did a little gambling, a little boardwalk exploring and a little dancing. Trips with her were always great, and I looked forward to my getaways. I was coming to find out more and more how much I loved having the space and opportunity to go away on my own, away from my family. It had nothing to do with them personally. It actually is just part of who I am—I am a solo explorer, who also enjoys venturing out with others as well. I just need to change up my co-explorers depending on the adventure. It’s how I travel and experience life best.

Soon after, my girlfriend left the company, and the trips I went on were not as fun anymore, though I was still grateful for the breaks away. I went to Atlantic City again, but that ended up being a hot mess, as I went with a pregnant (and sick) co-worker and landed myself in a kinda shady emergency room for a tetanus shot after the metal booth cut my hand. Anyone who knows me and how squeamish I am can just imagine what I put my poor co-worker through as I was wimping out on a gurney getting a simple shot (good times).

It is an experience we both look back on now and laugh at—but one that we would never want to relive again together.

Later on, I got to experience Disney with another co-worker at a marketing conference in Orlando. I remember how cool it was to experience dinner at Emerils and taste my way through the different countries in Epcot with someone who truly appreciated the different cultures and foods. I also went on other trips with my bosses: one on a road trip through a snowstorm in Pennsylvania, and one to Las Vegas. You can imagine which one was more enjoyable.

Ah, Las Vegas. What was funny about this particular trip was that I had given my husband an "ultimatum” of sorts: before I would have any children, I wanted 3 more adventures: to go to Hawaii,

to go on a cruise and to go to Las Vegas. The little trickster, once he learned that I was headed to Vegas for work, he counted that as one down. I had to give it to him; I didn’t say that I had to go with him, so I had to let it count.

But I have to say, it is not the same kind of experience going with a boss than it would be going with your husband. But not in the way you would think. I swear, we got into Las Vegas, and my boss’ eyes lit up like a little kid’s in a candy shop. I soon assumed the adult role, and kept reminding him that we were in Vegas to do a trade show, and network.

And what did he want to do? He wanted to book a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon instead.

Goodness gracious, looking back, I should have just let him do whatever he wanted and have his way. Who on Earth tells their boss no, we can’t go on such an incredible, possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience, on business time and money, because we needed to go set up a stupid booth and I needed to dress up like a monkey to entertain passersby? (One of our mascots. My debut into acting, perhaps? I’m trying to spin this in any positive light right now.)

I still can’t believe I had turned that down. He probably would have done it too, and I am sure we would have figured out how to get everything done in time for the show. Instead, we ended up prepping everything, and then walking the strip, checking out the different casinos and had a nice dinner. So it definitely was not bad at all, and I got to experience a little bit of what Vegas had to offer—checking location one of three off my “before I have kids” list.

That was to be my last major business trip for a very long time. As the years went on, and I began having children, my job changed and my ability to explore dwindled. On very rare occasions now do I get to travel for business, and I will admit it has been very hard on me. Having children, and then later on becoming a single mom, it was difficult for me to get coverage to be able to go on business trips, so those opportunities became less available to me.

I don’t regret having my children, not in the least bit; but when I made the decision to have them, I had no idea the impact it would have upon my freedom and level of responsibility, and I would need to adapt to a brand new form of adventure.

There would only be a few more trips left for me before embarking on a path of isolation; one that would leave me without adventure, and without a sense of self. One where I put everyone else first, and denied any part of my creative, adventurous, free spirited soul.

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