“If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.” ― Robert Frost
Imagine a group of women, ranging in age from mid-thirties to almost eighty years old who travel together two or three times a year to attend regional and international sorority conferences. The travel time ranges from one day to a week. The number of travelers has never exceeded ten at any one time. But the composition of the persons traveling does change. In other words, we are a group of divas who have different temperaments, distinctive emotional responses, and diverse ways of expressing ourselves. I’m not focusing on the laughs generated in movies such as Road Trip, but we could be likened to Are We There Yet? without the romantic angle.
Laughter begins with HOW we are getting to the conference destination: driving or flying. How many cars do we need if the location is within driving distance? What’s the fastest route? We’ve driven up to ten hours due to GPS malfunctions, detours, and traffic jams. Are we all traveling on the same date? Does someone need to leave a day early to attend a pre-meeting or to return home before the conference ends? Are we caravanning from a specific place? And the biggest hoot is who is riding with who.
If you think a road trip by car is a logistics’ nightmare, then do not be the person responsible for coordinating airplane reservations. Price. Time of day. Airline. Airlines have luggage requirements, and we are issued packing grids for appropriate conference wear. A few members refuse to select clothing according to the packing grid. The phrase “I might need” ….is a common refrain. Overpacking on the front end plus buying items from vendors and stores who set up “sales” to coincide with an influx of women who love pink and green often results in the purchase of new luggage or paying FedEx and UPS to ship packages home. And we have one member who regularly calls her husband to overnight a particular outfit to her once we arrive at our destination.
Housing is a gut-buster. Let’s face it. In a group of divas, you have cliques, special friends and roommates-from-hell experiences based on past trips together. I snore. My snoring wakes up people. Not everyone wants to share a room with me. When I found people, who could live with my snoring, we agreed to be forever roommates. Other members have also learned how to share rooms. Either they grew up in a family where multiple occupancy bedrooms were the norm, or they learned through the trial and error of college roommates how to live with others and not hog the bathroom, living space, hang up your clothes, or don’t eat other people’s food without their permission. A few people should only room with the Peanut’s character Pig-Pen or by themselves. Usually, based on the overinflated conference site room charges, a single room is a cost no one wants to incur.
Conferences are designed to be learning experiences as well as time for relaxation, exercise, shopping, eating out, and catching up on all the latest news/gossip. Some sessions are mandatory. Can we get there on time? Do we have to sit with each other? Finding people in dimly lit cavernous rooms is no joke when your visual acuity is as limited as mine. How many options do we have for meeting up with other friends or pursuing an interest not shared by the group?
However, when I look back at the pictures and statuses posted on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, the smiles are genuine meaning our eyes are laughing. Restaurant selection for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans is a complicated process where compromises have to occur. We search out restaurants that are recommended by local people instead of national restaurant chains where we eat excellent foods and enjoy a libation. I’ve learned to appreciate vegan dishes and will vote for a vegan restaurant because I can always order chicken wings later from room service. We ate at Sweetie Pie’s in St. Louis before they became a national sensation.
Traveling broadens our horizons. We visit landmarks together, learning about other communities, and connecting with the thousands of women who love and serve Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I’ve determined to be more flexible, to understand not everyone orders their life as I do, and it’s okay. What remains at the end of each trip are the good memories, the laughter that cements the bonds of friendship, and love. Regardless of the drama that ensues when we travel, somehow when the next conference dates are announced, the same hands go up. Go figure.
-Joyce A. Brown
Joyce Brown is a motivational speaker and author who uses her creative energy to give voice and meaning to the challenges women face in all walks of life. She grew up in Rockford, Illinois in a household of strong women. She graduated from Bradley University with a B.S. and M.A. Her professional career expanded her reach into Peoria, Illinois; and Battle Creek, Michigan. Joyce obtained a PhD from Western Michigan University.
She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and has served as a direct services worker, executive director, program director for a major foundation, and an entrepreneur. Joyce has experienced many uplifting moments as a professional and as a dedicated parent and strives to bring those events and lessons to life through her characters in the contemporary fiction novels she pens.