I love going to conferences, especially when I go alone. Conferences are nice because all travel is paid for by my lab, so it’s kind of like a free vacation. I present something, which is scary, but also exhilarating for a mild narcissist like me because I get to be the center of attention for like twenty minutes. I also get to spend the whole day listening to cool science, which is kind of like watching educational TV because I get to just sit there passively and absorb. I hate the poster sessions and social hours because that’s when you actually have to interact with people, but I’m usually able to leech onto someone and skate by or duck out without drawing too much attention.
Going alone is great, mostly because I can have a hotel room to myself, which is my favorite part of traveling. Also, it means that I don’t feel obligated to stay out late. I can head back to my hotel whenever I want and no one will notice.
I was excited to be in San Diego again, since I was there once earlier this year, and it was a lovely time. I booked the earliest flight I could, since the conference was only for one day, and I wanted some time for fun. (I also just generally prefer super early flights because I sleep very well on planes and it makes rebooking easier if a flight gets cancelled.) I ended up having to leave my house Wednesday night, so I took a power nap when I got home from group meeting that evening, then quickly packed (I way overpacked, but that was just because I had the space, usually I travel pretty light.) I left my house at 11:45 to catch a bus to downtown, where I got on a different bus heading to Chicago (because there’s only a tiny airport in my city and the prices are pretty high) to make it for a 6am flight. I got into San Diego at 1:00 pm because I had a 3-hour layover at LAX, where I enjoyed a nice sit-down breakfast and enough coffee to wake me up from the long series of naps I had taken all morning.
When I arrived at my hotel, I relaxed for bit, got a shower, shaved my legs (which took an incredibly long time because the last time I shaved was back in June and the hair was looooong), practiced my presentation, and did some hefty researching on the area to find a nice place for dinner. The main thing I was concerned about was having a view of the beach, and the second was the presence of some sort of seafood on the menu, preferably fish tacos. I was torn between a cute café locating on a pier, which guaranteed fantastic ocean views, and a sports bar located right on the beach that had an impressive menu. I decided to go to pier for a margarita and appetizer, and then the sports bar for fish tacos and maybe a beer.
When I got to the pier, it was a gorgeous view, and it was nice just walking along it. However, when I got to the actual café, it looked kind of sad. There was one person sitting there playing on their phone, and it was dark and dingy looking. I decided to skip out on the pier and head straight to the sports bar, called Wonderland.
When I got there, I was fortunate enough to be able to grab a seat right at the window looking at the beach, which was such a perfect view. I was also able to get that margarita I wanted. It was nothing special, but in my opinion, margaritas are best when kept simple.
On the menu, they had a variety of tacos listed for $7, so I figured it was a mix-and-match kind of deal. I ordered one fish and one lobster taco. I almost ordered a side of fries as well because I was pretty hungry (travel always makes me hungry even though I never fail to eat obscene amounts of food). I’m glad I didn’t, though, because it ended up getting a tad awkward. The food-runner came over, hesitated, and then said, “Are you the one waiting on two tacos?”
“Yeah! That was fast!” I said.
Turns out each taco is a full meal because they are gigantic and served with a side of chips. So I had two plates of food in front of me. Whoops. But no regrets because they were both fucking delicious. And, like I said, I was super hungry, so one probably wouldn’t have been enough anyway. It felt a little weird eating off of two plates in a crowded bar, but I quickly got over that because both tacos were unbelievably good. The lobster one had breaded lobster, cabbage, and some pickled vegetables that gave a nice acidity to the dish. The fish one had grilled halibut covered in a light herb sauce on a bed of pico de gallo. The subtle flavors of it were nice because they didn’t mask the fish flavor. While they were both fantastic in their own way, I liked the lobster one a wee bit more, so I saved a few bites of that for the end after finishing the fish one. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a miscommunication with the waiter. He came over and asked if he could take my plate. I thought he meant just the empty one, so I said yes. I swear I almost cried as I watched him take the lobster one too, with at least 3 solid bites of delicious lobster left on it. It happened to fast for me to scream “NO NO NO BRING IT BACK,” and I’m still upset about it today, four days later.
Anyway, the night was still enjoyable because I was there at the exact right time to watch the gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean. The bar was fun because right at sunset, they rang a bell and everyone toasted.
After that, I went back to my hotel. At this point, it was around 7. I put on Food Network so I could watch Chopped, but I ended up falling asleep before the first commercial break.
The next morning, I woke up at 5am so that I could have plenty of time to prepare before the conference started at 8am, and I wanted to make sure I was fully awake because I was one of the first presentations. I make several trips to the lobby in my pajamas for coffee, successfully talked through my presentation twice without using my slides at all (it was comforting to know I didn’t need to rely on them), and then went upstairs for breakfast and more coffee.
The conference went very well. My presentation was well-received, I was asked a lot of questions, and people seemed excited to talk to me about it afterward. This made networking a lot easier, which is good because that’s something I struggle with. I established connections with a few notable professors, called that a win, and then left at the beginning of the final social hour.
Back at my hotel, I was going to make use of the pool and hot tub since it was my last night, but there were so many screaming, sweaty kids running around that I decided I would be okay missing out on that. Instead, I ordered pizza and watched Food Network in my room and again fell asleep super early.
I awoke at 2:30 am, quickly packed up, got to the airport at 3:15am (which was way too early), and then proceeded to nap throughout all of my travels until I made it back home. I decided to walk instead of taking the bus from downtown to my house in order to stretch my legs, and when I finally got home, I was exhausted. (I never had time to get coffee because my connections were tight.) By the time I got home, it was around 4, which is too late to drink coffee, so I ordered food, laid in my bed, and suffered through the headache until I feel asleep once again at 7pm.
And that, my friends, is how I travel.