This year, I had the opportunity to go to Dallas, Texas, for a work conference. Now, to be clear, I never once envisioned heading to Texas. It wasn’t exactly a place on my “must-see” list. But, over the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to keep an open mind and try new things. So, I accepted the offer to co-facilitated a discussion on how AI could support start-up founders and bought my plane ticket with that open mind urging me to go.
Heading into the trip, I had to quickly remind myself to get rid of any pre-conceived notions or expectations. Last year, I attended this same conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, and had a wonderful time. I travelled with a friend, so that already made for a fun adventure. I spent off-time strolling the strip, catching a Cirque de Soleil show, and taking part in some of the trademark experiences at each hotel like watching a fire show at the Mirage, or taking in a gondola ride outside of the Venetian. Between all of the glitz and glam of the city, it left me with an awesome impression, and I definitely didn’t think Dallas would ever compare. And I was right… it didn’t. But it was still amazing.
The trip was a great reminder that we need to let things be themselves instead of comparing them to something else. So often in life, it’s easy to do this with experiences and even people. We create lists in our head… “I like him, but the other guy is taller”, or “this job sounds nice, but that one will give me an office with a pretty sweet view.” Comparing isn’t always bad. These things definitely can help us make decisions that are right for us. In a sense, we should be analyzing data sometimes to determine which path makes the most sense for us in life. However, we run into trouble when we take two vastly different things and try to make them sound like they should be the same. Case in point: Dallas vs. Texas.
As I said, Dallas proved to be amazing in its own Texan way. That said, the trip didn’t begin without its challenges. After a few hours of flying and feeling like we were nearing the end of our 3.5 hour flight, some turbulence started to hit more and more. An announcement thundered overhead, “ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just received some unfortunate news that the Dallas airport has a grounds order in effect due to weather. We’ll need to head to our alternate destination of Austin, Texas until we receive further notice, which will take 2-3 hours.” A couple of groans let out, but most tried to stay calm until… “ladies and gentleman, it turns out we won’t have the manpower to refuel in Austin, we have to go to Houston.” Now some people were getting antsy, and I can’t say I blame them. If you have anxiety, being trapped in a plane at a whole new destination isn’t exactly calming to the nerves. On my end though, I was mostly relieved to be safe because the turbulence wasn’t fun and I didn’t see any point to chancing it. I pulled out a book and read about 100 pages in between shifting in my seat and trying to nap. After a series of other delays, we eventually found our way to Dallas, but we were on that plane for an extra 7 hours than anticipated. It was an interesting start.
Arriving at the hotel at 4am was also an experience. They had given away our rooms thinking we were no-shows. Thankfully, we were still accommodated, but the two male colleagues with me were famished. They ordered food, but it was such an odd time that apparently it never came for at least one of them – word has it that one is still waiting for his order right now… I was so tired that I just simply went to bed.
Sleeping in felt luxurious the next morning. We had chosen to come into Dallas a day early to sight-see. So we took an uber to downtown Dallas and enjoyed some margaritas and tacos at a TexMex restaurant because when in Rome… or Texas, do as the Texans would. From there, we mostly just wandered around. We saw some artsy fixtures on the streets of the downtown area, and like a bunch of big kids, we found a swing set to play on in a local playground. We didn’t make it out to the Texas state fair, but we heard great things from some others who went.
Then came conference time. Each subsequent day, we shuttled to the University of Dallas where we immersed ourselves in full days of workshops and facilitated our own presentation. During the evenings, we had excursions to the training centre for the Dallas Cowboys, and we had a dinner and gala in a museum an hour from our hotel. Heading into the final day, I was feeling a bit homesick and eager to return in time for Canadian Thanksgiving. But with an evening flight booked, I seriously debated joining a colleague on a morning flight out. However, my other colleague (a young recent grad) who was with me on the original flight really made the case for why I should stay back with him. So, I did exactly that. I enjoyed a little more sleep on the final day, and killed several hours at a popular Dallas mall. The young colleague and I chatted a bit about life; his goals with work and some personal updates. I talked about my own journey over the years in life and at the university. We bought gifts for family, roommates, and ourselves. We indulged in fast food and Haagen Daas. And then we were on our way back to the Dallas Fort-Worth airport.
All in all, my Texas trip was very much an adventure. This trip taught me it’s important to be patient. The plane may not always land when it’s supposed to, but hopefully you’ll land safe and that’s what matters most. This trip taught me I can travel well with more people and has already encouraged me to plan future trips with different folks. I learned that sometimes it’s important to say yes to that younger person in your life who wants a little extra company. I learned that tequila isn’t for me, but shrimp fajitas and Irish Cream Bailey’s Ice Cream aren’t so bad. I discovered that strolling aimlessly around is still fun even if you aren’t doing traditional touristy things. When it’s all said and done, life is full of experiences and Texas deserves to be regarded as its own. So, what can I say except: thank, you Dallas!