A Study in Spontaneous Travel
I’m on the way to the airport…without a boarding pass. No, I’m not picking up a friend from the airport (and if any of my friends or family are on the way to surprise me for my birthday, you should turn around, since I won’t be here). And no, I didn’t forget my boarding pass. You can’t forget what you don’t have. I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do ever since the first time I traveled: Go to the airport and take the first flight to a destination I’ve never been to. Why? Because I want to, and in part, as a case study of spontaneous travel, the world, and how I interact with it. It’s an opportunity to take the world at face value, to see travel and the world as it is.
I just returned from a long weekend in a destination I had never visited, Lake Tahoe. It was a trip I had been planning for weeks. I arrived to our accommodations (which I had researched for weeks) with several pages (yes, I still print off itineraries) of recommendations from colleagues, friends, and Tahoe locals. I had a general idea of what my friends and I would be doing, when we’d be doing it, and where we would be doing it. It’s the kind of mindset that I believe many travelers have: To have a well-planned trip free of stress and surprises. And it was just that. The only surprise being the gale force winds that kept us off the slopes.
However, I’m afraid that our lives at times are too predictable and manicured. For years, almanacs have produced annual data about tides, astronomy, and weather. Newspapers published astrological information daily based on birthdays. We now get up-to-the-minute information thanks to the Internet and the likes of Twitter and Facebook. Dating websites claim to hold the power to match us with our most compatible match. There are even websites that predict your future. And I’m no exception to my interest being piqued by these things. I’d sell a kidney to get my hands on a time machine. But I often wonder if we’re not overstimulated. As if this accessibility to knowledge has weakened our wonder for life, relationships, and the world around us.
Have you ever gone to see a movie that you already knew what happened from start to end (without reading the book)? Or you start a movie with the last scene, and then watch the rest of it from beginning to end? Or you read the last chapter of a “page-turning” book first? Probably not. And if you did watch the last scene of a movie, you probably didn’t watch the rest of it. I believe we go to movies to be drawn into it. We want to be taken to a place, whether virtual or real, that has us on the edge of our seat. It’s the unpredictability of stories that has us turning those pages, fast-forwarding commercials, and sitting on the edge of our seat biting our nails. So if stories like this are so unpredictable, why shouldn’t our life be so?
365 days ago I set out to make this year my best year to date. The last couple years had seen me live the life that I always believed I was purposed for, but hadn’t been living. While the last couple years had been my best, I wanted the 365 days following my 30th birthday to raise the bar, continuing to live life on my own terms and capture the wonder of my childhood. So I set out to do 30 things that I had never done before. It’s the day before my 31st birthday and I’ve done 38. But when people asked me what I was most excited about or what had been my favorite, I was always skeptical to answer. That’s because if I had the resources and accessibility, I wanted it all to lead up to this: One grand trip, to go to the airport with nothing but a carry-on, without a boarding pass, and book the first available trip within my budget.
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.-Howard Thurman
So what do I expect? I have no idea. I know that the only time I’ve been so excited for a trip was when I booked a trip to Central America and didn’t come back for several months. I can’t plan for a place I don’t know where I’m going. Maybe I’ll get detained. Maybe I’ll get there and have to do it all over again tomorrow morning because there are no available flights within my budget. Maybe I’ll meet a new friend. Or maybe I’ll have a Valentine’s Day rendezvous. I don’t know. Life, as I’ve come to view the last 4 years, is a story. A story in which I am the author. And this is just another chapter that I’m eager to write and learn from. I’ve always said that the best version of myself is the version that pushes boundaries, takes calculated risks, and explores the world. For that reason, and many other reasons, I can’t and won’t stop.
What’s the most spontaneous travel adventure you’ve had?