One of the themes of my travel experiences is that I make my expeditions on a middle class budget. Discretionary money exists in the Aldridge bank account, but not in great abundance. My family does not own a lake house or a boat or a recreational vehicle. I buy too many books and Sally buys too many sewing machine gadgets, but we have lived within our moderate teacher and preacher salaries.
Travel is my great temptation, not Sally’s. Sally sometimes goes along for the ride. As I write this, we are in San Antonio, Texas. On Monday, I spoke to a group of chaplains at Lackland Air Force Base about “Overcoming Grief.” Sally visited her cousin, Jacque Dixon. The military paid for my plane ticket, and Sally paid her own way, so this trip is not the best illustration of what I mean by two trips for the price of one.
Decades ago, when I began attending conferences, conventions, and continuing education events, I developed the practice of using vacation days to go early or stay late and see whatever the local sites were. My employer was paying the airfare (or mileage) to New Orleans, Dallas, New York or Orlando, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to be a tourist in that area?
Two trips stand out. Over 30 years ago, Delta and Eastern had a “Fly anywhere we fly for one price” deal. You had 21 days to do your traveling (which was limited to North American destinations). That year, my big convention was in Los Angeles, and the cost for a round trip ticket was something like $546. Hard to believe, but the “Fly anywhere” rate was $548. So, with six-year old Jenna, off we went to Los Angeles (which was mostly work). Then we flew to Merida, Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula for two days of vacation, then to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a few days. Our convention hotel in Los Angeles was paid for. We stayed with friends in Puerto Rico, so our biggest expense was three nights in a cheap two-star hotel in Mexico. We three (including Jenna) visited and climbed the pyramid at Chichen Itza. We snorkeled on the Southern coast of Puerto Rico, the underwater world of colorful coral, fish and sea creatures being the most awesome site I have ever seen.
On another occasion, about 15 years ago, I had a meeting at, of all places, a hotel near the Newark, New Jersey, airport, not a very exciting location. I traveled alone to this meeting. Since I was that far North, I rented a small car and visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York (no one else in my family was remotely interested), then stayed with seminary friends in Ottawa, Canada, and then a cousin in Vermont. I reprised that trip recently after I retired.
On other trips to San Antonio, I have strolled the Riverwalk, visited other nearby cousins, and been a tourist after my work obligations were completed. This flight to San Antonio was all business, in and out, from Sunday through Tuesday, though Sally flew with me and stayed with one of her cousins.
Still, this excursion reminded me of the way I usually travel, getting two trips for the price of one.