Note: This article initially appeared in my email newsletter, Roughing It.
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This past week, I went on a work trip to Northern Virginia, and was able to spend a few days in Alexandria with my son, Connor. He turned 8 years old while I was there.
Typically, these trips are small missions. I call it "going into the Matrix". After having done a few of them, though, I have it down to a system at this point, and I've started to enjoy the little bit of adventure in it all—urban camping, roughing it in the city…
To save money, I've been sleeping in my van on these trips. During this time of year, it's not bad. The temperature is not too hot and not too cold, and I sleep in my own bed, so to speak. The same down-filled sleeping bag that I used years ago in the desert in Southern Utah still works great, and the extra tint that I put on the van's windows keeps out most of the ambient light on the darker streets.
The work situation took some time to figure out. Coffee shops are okay to work at on occasion, but not great on a regular basis. They're usually loud, and it's just rude to take up a table or place at the bar for more than an hour or so. Public libraries are slightly better but, surprisingly, they tend to be fairly loud, too. (It seems that the considerate practice of being quiet in a library is one of the social conventions that people no longer follow.) Oddly, the best place that I've found to work is a rock climbing gym called SportRock. The upstairs lounge is often empty in the daytime, remarkably quiet, and the lights are usually kept dim, which is great for computer work. Being able to periodically break away to stretch, boulder, lift, attend a yoga class, and get a shower at the end of the day is a huge plus, too.
Spending time with Connor is the best part about these trips, and the driving reason for seeking client work in Northern Virginia at all. I'm so thankful that lately I've had the opportunity to get there more often. I don't have many pictures of Connor and I together in the last few years, but here's one that I snapped after school on Friday, March 13…
Connor and I spent a few hours together in the afternoon on Friday, and then he asked me if I would go to his birthday party with his friends on Saturday. I hadn't been invited up to that point. It was a small surprise, though, when his other parent, who has largely tried to keep me out of these kinds of things, relented and said I could be there. So, I stayed on in Alexandria another night.
I tend to get early starts when out on the road like this, and will typically stretch out by the water early. The sunrise over the Potomac River on Saturday morning was pretty epic. At Connor's request, he and I spent most of the morning together before his party started. Getting to see him blow out a birthday candle and enjoy the little celebration with his friends was a wonderful thing.
It was strange gathering with people, working in public, and traveling over the past few days. I got a sense that things are going to start to change very soon. On Friday, Connor's School was suspended for the next 30 days, possibly longer. Clients have been calling me about cancelled bookings and appointments, and needing to change their business models and marketing ASAP to products and services that can sustain them in an economy where people have stopped all leisure travel and staying out of public. On my way out of town on Saturday, I got coffee—to go, as the times are beginning to require.
I had a five-hour drive between Alexandria and Virginia Beach, and some long phone calls on the way. When I picked up Connor after school on Friday, I told him to look around really good and take it all in, because he would likely remember that day for the rest of his life.
Stay tuned, stay safe, and be well. Until next time…