There are three kinds of travel.
First, there is business travel when you spend the days working and the nights wishing your head were on your own pillow and not one that smells suspiciously like garlic and Aqua Net.
Second, there is travel for pleasure when you spend the days living your own schedule and making memories that could last a lifetime. Plus, and I can’t explain it, but at night your pillow spells like daisies and red gummy bears.
Third, there is what I call the "travel smoothie." It’s one part schmoozing a client or enduring a board meeting, two parts tax deduction because you’re conducting business, and three parts sightseeing or golf, pedicures or matinees, plus that gummy bear pillow.
I’m writing this column from an airplane as I enjoy the final drops of such a trip.
A good friend from Virginia — everyone refers to him by last name, Funk — traveled with me to Pocatello, Idaho, for a speaking engagement at a Time Out for Women event and to reunite with mutual friends in Utah.
The plan was to fly into Salt Lake City, rent a car, spend the night and drive north to Idaho the next day. Immediately after, we would return to Utah and spend an extra day with our gang of troublemaker friends and fellow bad golfers.
As we waited in the airport rental-car line in Salt Lake, I noticed on my phone’s calendar that another mutual friend was celebrating his birthday. He was someone we didn’t think we’d have time to see this trip because he lives in Spanish Fork, Utah, and our schedule wouldn’t take us that far south. In fact, he didn’t even know we were on his side of the country.
After a series of playful texts about missing his birthday, Funk and I determined we had no choice but to crash his party and surprise him. Never mind that we were exhausted; we’d been up since 2:30 a.m. local time, and the trip would add three hours to our day. But sometimes, good jokes and even better friends require the sacrifice, right?
We made the trek to the home of Joe Anderson. Joe is a very successful entrepreneur and owner of a company that provides cutting-edge audio technology and equipment for concerts, fairs, seminars, conferences, etc. His wife, Cherie Call Anderson, is also a dear friend. She is the brilliant, heaven-sent singer-songwriter well known to folks in the Mountain West.
We arrived at their home, rang the bell and remarked that it felt like a reality show: “And now for the big reveal,” Funk said.
But there was no answer.
We rang again and knocked before walking away to chat with a next-door neighbor watering her lawn. After the requisite small talk to convince her we weren’t burglars or worse — salesmen — she called Joe to ask if he could sneak away from his family party to help her with an ornery sprinkler head. He promised to be right out.
He soon emerged from the front door, and we jumped out from our hiding place shouting and singing “Happy Birthday.” Joe took a moment to absorb the scene and then looked to his grinning neighbor to find out if she still needed the help.
“I was all ready,” he said, “I just needed to see what tools I’d need.”
Later, we sat in his living room and ate birthday carrot cake that was so delicious, so sweet and carroty that I would have traded one of my children for a second slice. My eyesight has never been this good.
After dessert, Cherie blessed us with a private concert in their living room. As she sang and played her guitar, I noted how this family is eternally greater and infinity more powerful than the sum of their four cherished parts.
By the time the trip was over, I’d been fortunate to chat with President Thomas S. Monson’s biographer, Heidi Swinton; played catch-up with fellow Virginian and world-renowned violinist Jenny Oaks Baker; met some of the 1,600 who attended Time Out for Women; and played golf on a gorgeous canyon course and had more fun doing it than is probably legal.
We rode around in a convertible, ate street tacos and attended church with friends I’ve had for so long we don’t remember how we met. It was a trip to remember.
But at this moment from seat 9C, with the Sunday sun setting and my mind looking to the busy week rising before me, I think my favorite moment from this travel smoothie happened an hour after we landed. Maybe it’s a simple thing, but what a treat to witness a good, godly man ready in a split second to put his birthday on hold to help a neighbor. What an example Joe and his wife are to their children and to those in their circle of influence.
I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who puts people in my life who are so much better than I am and who live such beautifully tested, selfless lives. I am also grateful for the lessons they teach me.
I can’t wait for the next one.
Jason F. Wright is the New York Times best-selling author of eight books including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and his latest, "The Seventeen Second Miracle." He's also a political commentator whose editorials have appeared in newspapers nationwide. Jason has appeared on FoxNews, CNN, and dozens of local and national radio shows.
Jason is married to Kodi Erekson Wright. They have two girls and two boys and are members of the Woodstock Branch in the Winchester Virginia Stake. He can be reached at www.jasonfwright.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.