It's not time for spring break yet, but I am taking mine a bit early. My suitcase is packed. I'm off to a conference, held this year in City Burned to the Ground During the Civil War. In class, I gave my students a project to work on while I was gone and told them I was heading to Warm Southern City.
Of course, they all had to chime in with interesting facts about City at the Beginning of the Alphabet. One of my landscape architects told me that the city is famous for being an urban heat island that generates a permanent low pressure system, sort of like a torture chamber for someone who gets migraines. Another student claims there is some kind of whole museum dedicated to Famous Soft Drink filled with caffeine and sugar. A biology student told me cheerfully that the newest tourist trap in the city is a huge building where intelligent mammals who have both language and sonar are trapped in tanks of water and forced to perform tricks for a human audience.
I think they are just jealous that I am going someplace warmer, leaving behind the snowbanks and icy roads and winds that blow snow into every crevice of clothing.
I miss my family when I travel and I hate luxury hotels with windows that don't open, but I like everything else about attending a conference. The sessions leave me stimulated by new ideas and perspectives. Long discussions over dinner with colleagues and friends sometimes end up stretching far into the night. I'll have a chance to meet some writers whose work I've long admired; I'll be saturated with poetry by the end of each night. Most importantly, four or five days at a conference gives me time to evaluate what I want to do next with my career and where I want to spend my energy. I will come home with lists of books that I must read, email addresses of colleagues who have become friends, and a journal full of ideas.