Hello everyone! Welcome to my recap on my latest work trip to Houston, TX!
If you’ve been here awhile, you won’t be surprised that I’ve been sent to Houston for work as I have been there for the past three years. However, this is for a whole different event than the one I usually go for! I usually go to Houston in April for a robotics event but this time I went for a few days to help out with the 2020 Houston Marathon!
Now, this isn’t my first marathon that I’ve worked at. I used to volunteer at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon when I was on the cross country team in undergrad. I think all sports teams were required to do at least one day of community service or a certain number of hours per year and since we were runners this made sense! For this one, I went to help out mostly for a housing capacity and I was pretty excited. Plus, I do really love going to Houston!
Now, I do want to say I’ll be leaving out a lot of things that went into this event such as the work that I put in, or too much about my coworkers and the client. I think it goes without saying that there’s just some things that I can’t really share due to wanting to respect the privacy of others and of the client too. So while I can’t exactly be completely open about every little detail I’m still being honest with everything that I say, even if I can’t share every little bit!
Day 1: Travel & Starting to work
So the day started with my parents dropping me off at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. I could easily get a cab to the airport because that can be paid for but my parents insist on driving me and seeing me off every trip. They’re so sweet to do that! So we said goodbye, and off I went. I arrived at the terminal at around 5:15am, even though my flight wasn’t until 8am. Why? Because I have a big fear of missing my flight! I haven’t missed a flight thank goodness so it seems to be working. Anyway, I did the usual pre-morning flight ritual of stopping at Starbucks, eating my breakfast sammy at the gate, and then going to the bathroom quickly before boarding. Unlike my last flight to Houston (when I was delayed for HOURS) this flight boarded on time, we left on time, and arrived in Houston on time! WOAH!
Immediately after arriving in Houston I went and ordered a Lyft. It was really warm out and so I honestly started sweating while I waited for my ride. My driver got there after about half an hour and off we went to the Hilton Americas.
Once there, my room wasn’t ready yet so instead I stored my bag at the Bell Desk with the great staff there (who spoke to me in Spanish!) and then met my contact at the hotel. I waited for her on the fourth floor and met a lovely lady from the marketing department of the Chicago Marathon while I did that! I mentioned how I used to volunteer at that marathon in college for undergrad and when I told her where I’d attended she immediately knew where I volunteered – the Elite tent! I was honestly so impressed she knew that. She also asked for the company I work for because I mentioned I was with the housing provider and she said “oh yes, we use your company for our housing too!” and I told her I sometimes help out with their event too, which was super cool. She was so incredibly nice and I wished her the best for the remainder of the weekend.
I found my hotel contact, who was also so lovely and sweet, and she showed me the housing desk. Right after that I got my room so I went up, worked a bit, and then relaxed before my coworker, the account manager for the project, arrived. Now, I feel like I sorta messed this part up because if I had looked up things to do, I would have realized that a museum nearby had free hours on Thursday afternoon and by the time I thought to look it up, I would only have had about 45mins to explore it if I did go. I was kind of disappointed that I hadn’t realized earlier but that’s my own fault. Either way, my coworker arrived soon after and off we went to find dinner!
Oh, about my room. I was in a standard king room, and it was so comfortable and spacious! As I stated earlier, I stayed at the Hilton Americas this time. I thought the lights were a little annoying though as there was only one main switch and then only some of the lights were connected to it. Plus one of the lights that I think was supposed to be connected to it didn’t turn on at all. I’m not the type to complain about my room though so I didn’t say anything otherwise I’m sure they would have fixed that light quickly as it is a more upscale hotel. The other lights worked fine, it was just a manual for each light which isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it was nice to be able to pick which lights in the end were on or off. My room was pretty, well, standard though. Comfy bed, spacious sitting area, a desk, big dressers/closet, and a really lovely bathroom with a bath. The hotel had a similar strategy about towels and bedding though as other hotels that I’ve stayed at, where they don’t assume you need new bedding every night and instead only change out bedding every two or three nights I think it said and towels were only removed if they were on the floor, otherwise you get to let them dry and reuse them. I love that hotels are so involved now in these things!
In general, the hotel was great! I loved that they had a Starbucks in the hotel and the bar/restaurants at the hotel are all great. I missed my usual Marriott Marquis a ton but this was also quite a lovely hotel.
So back to dinner, my coworker and I went to the House of Blues for dinner that night. I really enjoyed it and the food was amazing. I had been there last time I was in Houston but last time it was loud and busy while this time we were the only customers towards the end of the night. There was a musician and my coworker somehow realized that the guy playing worked with the staff at the restaurant (the lovely server confirmed this). We shopped the gift shop a bit and he got a sticker (he likes stickers I learned) before heading back to the hotel for the night.
After that I just showered, chilled in my room a bit, and then went to bed.
Day 2: Work!
The next day my coworker and I got to the desk at 8am to start working. We weren’t terribly busy as it was mostly staff arriving that day and so we chatted quite a bit. My coworker had a lunch meeting with a contact so I headed out and got lunch from the Phoenicia nearby. I headed back to the hotel and we worked the remainder of the afternoon until 5pm. Then we rested up a bit and headed out to the Houston Aquarium! The aquarium is almost two different things, one being the actual aquarium for about $15 and the other being a restaurant. There was a giant fish tank in the middle of the room and it was such a cool experience. My coworker and I loved it and we really enjoyed watching the fish swim around. It wasn’t too bad of a walk either, maybe about 25-30 minutes away! Now, since I’ve been to Houston’s downtown many times, by now I have a great sense of direction in that area. My coworker kept getting all turned around and asking if I knew where we were. I had to keep pointing out the giant building that said “HILTON” on it and say “yeah that’s our hotel right there”. LOL. Eventually we got back and I headed up to my room to rest up for the next day.
Day 3: Work
The next day was another 8-5 day. That morning was the 5k, which I’d loudly advocated we do. My coworker gave a hard pass immediately once I mentioned it. That interaction went a little something like this about two weeks prior to this day:
Me: Coworker, guess what! I have a great idea for a team bonding activity while in Houston.
Coworker: I am NOT running a half marathon.
Me: What? No, it’s just a 5k!
Coworker: How did I know where this was going…?
Me: How DID you know???
Anyway, he flat out refused so we just watched the 5k runners coming back into the lobby after the race. I told him that if he ran the 5k our other coworker John would pay him $50 (I told John about this after and he laughed and then said he could beat me in a 5k which I assure you he COULD NEVER). We also had other great chats throughout the day (and the day before) about different hobbies we each have/had, budgeting (he gave me some really great tips), cars we have/want (we both would like a Toyota Rav4 as would my friend Erin so we laughed that we could all potentially have the same car and he laughed at my Cybertruck prank idea). Here’s another great convo snippet we had:
Me: You could run a half marathon!
Coworker: I don’t think so.
Me: You can do anything you set your mind to.
Coworker: No you CAN’T! I hate that saying because some things are just not possible. I can’t possibly fly from this building to the top of the convention center next door for example.
Me: Well, not with THAT attitude!
Coworker: *Laughs for a good minute or two* I think you’ve created the ultimate paradox.
So after this day we again headed out for dinner. We ended up going across the highway behind the convention center, because the Toyota Center where the basketball team was playing that night was right next to the hotel so we knew we’d need to go further away. He’s very much a more of a “just wander and find cool places” so it was really fun to see what happened when we just walked around! We arrived at 8th Wonder Brewery I think it was called. It was a pretty chill place although they didn’t have food so we just hung out there for a bit before heading out again. We then went to a place called Truckyard which was really, really cool! On the outside it looked like those giant shipping crates that you would see on a ship. Inside it was themed like a carnival in a way, and it was just a great atmosphere. I would 100% go back there next time I’m in Houston. We had a beer there before heading out again to Rodeo Goat for dinner, where I’d been to last time I was in Houston too. It was delicious and I was really glad I was able to go back there for a burger. Texas just has the most amazing burgers!
After that we headed back to the hotel. I ended up packing before going to bed to be ready in the morning to leave.
Day 4: Work & Travel
The next day I got ready to travel and headed down to work at the desk with my coworker for about an hour and a half before we headed out. Now, at this point the half-marathon was over and the elite runners were starting to cross the finish line for the marathon so we knew it was our last chance to get out before everyone else. We actually walked back over to the restaurants/bars that we had been at the night before to order our Lyfts to the airport, which worked out really well. Closer to downtown there were just so much more people and streets were closed off so it would have made it harder to get out, even though it would have been possible for sure. We had booked out of different airports so we didn’t share a Lyft, although we would have otherwise. Oh well!
Once I got to the airport I confirmed with my dad again that my flight was on time because Friday/Saturday there had been a terrible storm in the area and over 1,200 flights had been cancelled and such. My airlines (United) had actually asked me when checking in both times if I could change my flight back as they expected it to be bad. I declined as I had work commitments but it was nice that they asked to try to accommodate everyone as best as possible I suppose.
How I feel about Houston
I still really love Houston! It’s starting to feel really familiar to me, and I’d love to be able to see more of Houston some day. I really enjoy walking around though and seeing the city. This was a great trip because even though it’s shorter than my April trips, the hours were shorter so it’s a lot different exploring the city at 6pm instead of 10pm. While I didn’t get to use the pool at the hotel and I forgot to try to go to the bar at the top of the hotel, I really did like the hotel and the staff was amazing. Plus it’s just a great location!
Thanks for reading!
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