Hard Pass on the Hotel Gym: Other Ways to Take Care of Yourself While Conferencing
Confession: I hate working out. You usually have to trick me into it by calling it a hike or a dance class. I especially dread it while I’m traveling, and even more so if I’m traveling for work. Conferences can be physically and mentally draining, and I have developed a few reminders for myself over the years to make sure I’m well taken care of despite the grueling schedule and many distractions.
It’s easy to get dehydrated during conferences. Ditch overpriced bottled water in the hotels and convention centers and bring your own large reusable water bottle. It’s easy to find stations to refill during sessions. I love fancy hotel lobby water with its fruit and herb-infused combinations.
Remember to get outside! Breathe fresh air! Soak up a little sun and give your eyes a rest from the harsh fluorescent light! Austin’s early April average highs are in the 70s and 80s with lows in the 50s. I like to arrange a stroll for myself both in the morning to center myself and then again in the late afternoon to decompress after back to back sessions. If you’re a runner (definitely not me), we have coordinated with Back on My Feet for a morning running group.
Downtown Austin is laid out mostly in a grid with numbered streets running east-west and streets named after rivers running north-south. Our city blocks are relatively short, so a quick stroll can get you to museums, restaurants, cafes, and even the hike and bike trail at Lady Bird Lake known to locals as Townlake.
I implore you to give some thought to where, when, and how you want to feed yourself. Whether you’re paying for meals out of pocket, have a per diem, or something in between, people of all budgets could benefit from some plans.
Make sure to factor in enough time for meals when adding sessions to your schedule. It’s easy to get caught up with interesting sessions, meetings, and socials and forget to make time for a good meal. The convention center and hotels will have quick options, and there are also many great choices right outside within 5-10 minutes of the conference. Whether you want to sit down restaurants, grab and go options in a grocery store, convenient food trucks, the variety of a food court, or you’ve already Yelped six must-visit hot spots in the Austin foodie scene, carve out that time to feed yourself, rest your brain, and engage with the city.
Find Your People
Whether this is your first time at the Annual Conference or if NASPA is your professional home, it’s a great time to network. I know, networking gets a bad rap. I don’t mean shaking hands, kissing babies, and moving on. I mean making actual connections through session attendance, Knowledge Community events, and institution socials. I mean putting yourself out there to support people doing amazing work and making time for mentoring. I mean noting the people you make eye contact with from across an educational session that just gets it.
The connections I’ve made and the relationships I’ve deepened during conferences have been some of my best professional development opportunities. These connections have led me to leadership roles, steered me toward new job opportunities, given my experience on committees, and validated me when I questioned my future in higher education. By far, finding my people and being in community with them is one of the most important ways I take care of myself while conferencing.
One of my favorite things about traveling for conferences is an opportunity to see a new city and learn more about it while I’m there. Each Annual Conference has a different vibe that is largely dependent on the host city.
I’ve lived in Austin for fifteen years, on and off, and I consider it my home. I sincerely hope you get a chance to step outside of the convention center and take it in. Take advantage of our scheduled campus tours, meet the student instructors leading our group fitness classes, explore our live music venues, sign up for our street art tour, or just wander freely and with an open heart.