I shall be leaving in a few days for a research trip to Canada (Ottawa, to be precise). The national archives in Ottawa has much of the material I need for my historical research, in particular, it has numerous newspapers published throughout Canada.
I have already made two trips to Ottawa and one to Toronto for research, and I have to confess how fun it is. There's something about traveling to a different country with a reason other than just merely tourism and vacationing (I'll be doing some of that, too. My girlfriend and I are taking the time as a small vacation as well as a research trip). I don't know why, but it's nice to tell the customs official "business" when he or she asks "business or pleasure?" (it's also amusing to see their eyes glaze over as I try to explain that I'm writing a dissertation on "antitrust policy in Chicago and Toronto as it may or may not have applied to coal dealers"). I've been to Montreal and Vancouver as a tourist, and it was fun, but after a day or two, I was just some slack-jawed person who walked around wearing a backpack and who haunted coffee shops and other picturesque places where I could write my poetry....all stuff I could do pretty much in any city in North America.
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I complain a lot about academia, and most people who know me well know that I have a lot of qualms about history as a profession and even as an undertaking. In short, I'm not quite sure how to justify studying history, and I'm even less sure how to justify requiring people to study it, beyond some vague sense that "we need to understand our past to be good citizens" or that "a knowledge of history gives people the cultural capital they need to succeed."
But I must say that research is, to put it bluntly, fun. I feel like a detective, uncovering about which few know or (especially for my topic) care. There's something about spending a week in an archive that is exciting.
It's also fun to practice my French.