There were only two open territory assignments when I started at USC, so I knew I was going to Texas. Having gone to college in the south, I had friends in the area. I knew I would have some points of reference, but I could not have anticipated how I would come to feel about my territory. To say that I am attached would be an understatement–I defend Houston against criticism, I preach Austin as one of the most underrated cities around, I extol the charm of San Antonio, and I constantly plan my retirement to the central coast of California.
During my first two years, I was fortunate to see friends from college and childhood while on the road. I went to an engagement party, visited a friend in medical school, and caught up with friends who have filled their lives since college. I also drove out between San Antonio and Austin to the cemetery where relatives on my mother’s side are buried (I was a TX girl all along, apparently). At the same time, I was able to find my own place within each city and to form my own attachments to certain places and things.
It takes a certain kind of person to board a flight to somewhere you’ve never been, get into a car that isn’t yours, and live out of a hotel room for weeks as if it’s totally normal. Building a temporary life somewhere is a strange thing, but it gives you a certain amount of freedom that you don’t get with the day to day commitments of life. I have a certain sense of pride once I am able to navigate a city without staring at my GPS the whole time. A sense of comfort begins to settle in as I develop allegiances to certain restaurants/neighborhoods/malls/movie theaters like I do at home.
The cost of travel varies by territory, as the cost of hotels, flights, food, parking, entertainment and gas all differ by city. Every time I go to Texas, I always say out loud “Gas is SO CHEAP” out of pure shock when I pass by the first gas station. This does not happen on the California coast. I had to pay 10 cents for a paper bag at Macy’s and Whole Foods in Monterey because they banned plastic and charge for paper…whoops. My first year in Austin it was over 100 degrees every day and there were record temperatures all over Texas. This does not even address the humidity. Oh, my gosh, the humidity. Nothing prepares you for the humidity of Texas in the fall. Nothing.
Whenever an admission counselor meets someone in their day to day life who grew up in their territory we always ask the seemingly awkward question of “where did you go to high school?” Not what neighborhood are you from, or which place of worship did you attend, or which club sports team did you compete on. I map my recruitment world by the location of the high schools I visit (and probably the closest Starbucks to each high school)–and knowing this information about someone gives me endless context. This is the heart of territory management and really what we all work to do–to get to know schools and cities for the nuances beyond the statistics and stereotypes. Humidity, Texas turn-a-rounds, frontage roads and being called “ma’am” were all an initial adjustment, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way (unless someone figures out how to eliminate humidity. Please someone do that.)