When I packed my suitcase the night before I left on indefinite work travel, I came across a receipt from the trip I had just taken with my boyfriend to Montreal. I tucked it in one of the suitcase pockets, knowing that re-discovering it while on the road would make me smile at the memory of our wonderful trip.
When I arrived at the airport and picked up my rental car, I was given a car with New York plates even though I was nowhere near the state of New York. I felt the oddest sense of relief when I saw those plates; my boyfriend is from New York and it made me feel like it was the universe repeating his words to me: you can drive, you’ll be fine.
When I changed out of my work clothes before bed that first night at my hotel, I grabbed the University of Hawaii T-shirt I had packed to use as a pajama shirt. My brother went to UH, and it was like having a little bit of family with me as I traveled solo.
When I was leaving a restaurant one of the first nights into my trip, I noticed that there were a tray of pineapple cakes on display, for sale. I bought some, thinking of the time my family and I went to Taiwan. My mother adored the pineapple cakes we had there, and when I had one myself later that night, I thought of how pleased she’d be when I could tell her I’d found pineapple cake on my travels.
When I discovered there was an eatery that specialized exclusively in hot dogs near the office, I made it a point to go there for lunch one day. I texted my best friend, the biggest hot dog connoisseur I know, and she Googled the menu from her office in DC. We discussed the merits of the menu as I dug into my Chicago-style dog (and it was amazing).
When I checked into another hotel, I noticed the name of the company my dad worked for on one of the panels in my room. I stopped dead in my tracks, my heartbeat speeding up. License plates, pineapple cakes, university T-shirts – those things are coincidences, nothing more. But seeing that company name in public, one I’ve seen only a handful of times in my life, gave me a bounce in my step that day.
And when I catch myself starting to feel down, I remind myself of all these signs – signs from myself, signs from the universe, signs from all around – giving me little pieces of what home means to keep in my pocket while I’m on work travel.