Have you heard of the Hotel del Coronado? It’s on an island off San Diego, and it was the inspiration for The Grand Floridian, the beautiful red-roofed hotel at Disney World where Michael and I stayed on our honeymoon. And it’s a breathtaking, historic San Diego site I did not see on my recent trip there.
Did you know there is a shopping/dining center and “beautiful Victorian National Historic District” called the Gaslamp Quarter? It’s also in San Diego, and I know this firsthand, because I rode by its entrance several times on a shuttle between two conference centers. It looks pretty cool.
Did you know San Diego has beaches? At least I assume it does. The sidewalk by the rocks is the closest I got to water.
If you think I’m sad about any of those things, just wait. I’ll turn it around. I may not be able to describe the inside of any building in San Diego except two giant hotels, but I’m still going to talk about seeing places, about being inside them at least once so you can know for yourself that they are more than the pages of a brochure. They are so very real and just as beautiful as you’d hoped.
San Diego wasn’t even on my list. In fact, here’s the real truth: I barely have a list. I don’t want to die having never seen the places I always wanted to see. So I keep that list super duper tiny –
three two locations only (New York City – Check, Paris and Prince Edward Island to go). BUT – and oh, I love that but – the list of places I have been is growing every year, with or without having wished them.
Going places makes me feel alive. Or, it makes me feel that I have lived. Each new place seen for myself is one more step toward maybe someday being willing to let go of this great big beautiful here we call earth. Does New York City teem with people, energy, and endless possibility? Indeed it does, elbow-to-elbow. I was there. Does Santa Fe feel like a desert all dressed up with vibrant colors and soft stucco-covered buildings and steeples? Why, yes it does. I walked inside it last year. Do the lights of Baltimore make the city feel alive late into the night so that you can’t decide whether you want to go to sleep or stay awake with them? Yep! I’ve seen them from above. Are the Palm Trees tall in San Diego? So. Tall. And I wouldn’t have known that except that I was there.
Most of these places were not even on my radar. Every single one I got to visit because of the day job, an ungrateful term I use for not being quite satisfied in my career but which perhaps I should reconsider after so many reasons to be grateful. I did not see all the important places. I wasn’t there to play and didn’t get to much. I had to make the most of a couple dinners out and a few nights overlooking the city from my hotel room. I had to escape the conference center one afternoon in San Diego and just walk as far as I dared between workshops until, when I turned around, I wasn’t even sure which tall building was mine. I had to make sure my feet touched the actual destinations and not just the airports and hotels. But those are exactly the things that I did, so that I can truly say, I was there. I saw it for myself. I am that much more connected to this small but impossibly vast, pretty planet.
Sometimes being there once is enough. Sometimes, it’s not. And you hope to goodness you get to walk those sidewalks again. You miss the water and the Palm Trees and the seagulls. You’re really glad it’s out there, but you hope you get to go again.
Thank you, day job. I’m truly proud to work in graduate medical education, and the conference I attended only added to that. But taking me to San Diego was really above and beyond. It added something unforgettable to my life, and I won’t forget that it came because of you. Life is so surprising that way.