Although I’m Canadian, I spent my grade school and high school years in Louisville, Kentucky. While there, I made long-lasting friendships, including my first friend from second grade, Tricia, which means we’ve been pals for almost twenty-eight years now. We met Catherine a little bit later, starting high school together in 2002, and we’ve only grown closer since.
Pre-pandemic, I typically saw Tricia and Catherine at least once a year, often meeting halfway in Chicago where Tricia went to university and later settled in. Both have also made the trip up north on more than one occasion and we’ve made a bunch of sweet memories around the GTA. I was on mat leave when COVID-19 began and upended my plans to take my new daughter to meet my friends in the windy city. In some ways, the pandemic brought us all closer, with monthly WhatsApp calls that continue to this day. We also hosted a virtual baby shower for Tricia, who welcomed little Theo in April 2021.
Catherine has remained in Louisville and I’ve only been back a handful of times. Unfortunately, with a toddler and travel restrictions, I was unable to attend her wedding in the summer of 2021. I most recently saw her when another mutual friend passed away last October. Though the circumstances were awful, it was SO good to finally reunite with both Tricia and Cat, even for a short, long weekend.
Catherine just had her first child this April and her baby shower was booked for the first weekend of March 2023. With no direct flights and an expensive price point, I knew it would be challenging to make it work, but I desperately wanted to be there. Lucky for me, Media Profile has an amazing Work Away Benefit that allows us to work from anywhere in the world for a minimum of two weeks, supported by a $3,000 allowance for travel and accommodation expenses.
Having taken a solo trip to the Netherlands in the fall, I knew the time away was doable and my husband kindly agreed to cover things off at home again. I quickly arranged a WhatsApp call to discuss the details with my friends. I booked my flights to arrive in Kentucky on the Wednesday night before the shower. Tricia and Theo would join me the next day, and we’d stay until Monday, March 6, when I’d drive up to Chicago to stay with Tricia and her family. Chicago served as my home base until I flew back to Toronto Saturday, March 18.
Given the benefit amount, I was able to splurge on first-class tickets on the way down, which was key given the almost ten-hour travel day after a full day of work. I was also able to get a hotel suite in Kentucky, which made it possible to share space with Tricia and her little one while working Thursday and Friday. Once again, I got an Airalo eSim for work and personal use, and I brought my tablet as a second screen. The complimentary breakfast and hotel pool was a nice bonus for us all.
Apart from some unexpected power outages, the weather was beautiful for the five days I was there. The best part by far was all the quality time I got with my friends. Not only did we have the shower to celebrate Catherine and see all her nearest and dearest, we also had daily lunches, dinners, Target trips, swimming and some trashy TLC and Netflix viewing parties. I love these ladies so much and having this time together is something I’ll cherish forever.
Saying goodbye to Catherine was difficult, but I can’t wait to see her again soon with a new family member in tow. I took one vacation day to accommodate the six-hour drive to Chicago and spent the remainder of the week working, broken up by some local coffee shop trips and walks around the neighbourhood.
This was a very different trip than my European “workation”—solo exploring took a backseat to quality time. It didn’t hurt that I’ve been to Chicago many times before, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out by not hitting the usual touristy spots.
That said, even with my flight home from Chicago covered, I still had some remaining money from my $3K Work Away Benefit. I’m a firm believer in maximizing all my benefits, so Tricia and I took the opportunity to book an overnight stay in a fancy hotel downtown and planned a rare ladies’ night. We hit up the Cheesecake Factory for an early dinner and then caught a play based on a lesser-known Charlotte Brontë work, Vilette, at the Lookingglass Theater Company in the Water Tower. We ended the night eating cheesecake in bed, watching old episodes of Friends. It was perfection.
The next day happened to be the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the iconic dyeing of the Chicago River. The crowds deterred us from sticking it out for the parade, but seeing the neon river was certainly worth the trip. Seriously, I still can’t believe how green it was. The Art Institute was more our style. We particularly enjoyed a touring Dali exhibit, which brought back memories of our high school Euro trip and the Dali museum in Spain.
On Sunday, we hit up the Garfield Conservatory, a gorgeous indoor botanical garden I hadn’t visited in years. If you know me, you know I love a garden moment—having a thumb of death, I’m always so impressed by what’s possible. It was perfect for a lowkey rainy day, and Theo had the best time running around too.
The rest of my stay was uneventful, but wonderful. I finished my book, had twice daily family video calls, the usual work days, another quick Target run, enjoyed some delicious pizza and took some casual walks around the neighbourhood. Before I knew it, I faced another bittersweet goodbye as I headed home. While Tricia, Cat and I are already planning when and where we can get together next, I’ll be forever grateful to MP for another unforgettable Work Away experience!
Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences..
Director, Digital Strategy