By Vanessa Solesbee

I travel a lot for work—a lot, a lot. Sometimes frequent travel has its perks: as I write this post, I’m sitting on a plane headed to the sunny beaches of Waikiki for a project site visit. However, sometimes I’m homesick before the plane even takes off, especially since welcoming my first kiddo. I’ve been spending some time thinking about how to reframe the love/hate relationship I have with always being on the go and I’d like to share a little lightning bolt of inspiration that struck me on a particularly long flight last fall.

As parking and transportation professionals, we are fortunate to have access to countless living laboratories regardless of where we live or how much we do or do not travel. Throughout my years of travel, I’ve always made a point to try something new or outside of my comfort zone. I’d like to make that my challenge to each of you: Make the decision to be a first-timer again.

  • Visit that restaurant you’ve been wanting to try across town.
  • Take a different mode of transportation to work.
  • Pick up a friend from the airport.
  • Visit a college campus with your high schooler.
  • Take Uber or Lyft on date night.

See what the signage is like, how the parking is laid out, and what other options besides driving you have to get there. Was there someone to help you if needed or instructions on where to find help? Was there an app or website to help you plan your trip before leaving home and if so, how user-friendly and intuitive was it?

Want to get really crazy? Find a friend or volunteer your spouse and check out your own parking system, use your local app to pay, park in a spot other than your regular location, or visit the neighboring town or district you’ve heard so much about. Get your friend and/or spouse to give you their take on what they experienced. We see our own problem areas so frequently that our brains literally do not see them anymore.

The experience of being a frequent first-timer gives us a way to constantly reset our assumptions and routines. It adds richness and complexity to the stories we tell and conversations we have with customers, clients, coworkers, and staff. It also regularly reminds us what an integral role we play in creating inviting, livable, and connected places that everyone—even first-timers—can enjoy. Wheels up!

Vanessa Solesbee is a practice builder with Kimley-Horn.