The weather is looking fine this weekend, making it the perfect time for a spontaneous autumn (fall leaves) road trip.
When it comes to vacations and weekend getaways I’m a planner. Spontaneity has been a bit lacking in my life. Recently, however, at the urging and with the reassurances of my travel partner, I launched an adventure for which I had done almost no planning. No planning except for an intended destination.
In this case, the adventure arose from a decision to depart a day early from a 3 night/4 day visit to old city Quebec intending to make a “mad dash” to Nova Scotia, before heading to pre-booked stay in an AirStream at a campground near Acadia National Park, Maine.
This spontaneous “adventure” included a) no experience traveling Canadian highways (plus signs were in French); b) no certainty about covering the considerable distance by nightfall; c) no reservations for the (almost) necessary ferry ride from the mainland to N.S. (It’s a considerably longer drive to get to N.S. by land); and, no lodging reservations, because of all the uncertainty about time, distance and ferry added to the certainty of cancellation fees if we didn’t arrive.
In this case the price of spontaneity was arriving at a time and a place where there were few hotels/motels and all rooms were booked.
We found a little roadside park, on the water’s edge, cracked the windows and fell asleep beneath the stars and with the smell of salt air drifting into the car. It wasn’t a solid 8 hours of sleep but it did the job. As the sun began to erase the stars we were able to resume our speedy tour of N.S., driving through quaint villages at dawn. Along the way we found a restaurant that was just opening, ate local fare (Scallops for breakfast!) . . and used the facilities. We had enough time to travel a bit more, stop in several scenic areas and then get back to the 10:00 A.M. ferry.
Now, what’s the point of this narrative?
I love the certainty of planning, mapping out routes, picking spots to stop and making reservations. However, for the sake of certainty or defined comfort I have, without thinking, turned the possibility adventure into another deadline, an obligation, a plan I must execute or a predictable outcome. That’s the way I’ve always traveled and explored this world. Hundreds of times. All safely planned.
How does planning for all those contingencies affect the sense – the experience – of adventure? How does planning affect outcomes, besides the “planned outcomes”? In other words, is there any good that can come of not planning, from not committing in advance? No being “driven by a plan”?
Think about it. It’s a bit of a risk-benefit analysis. You or I trade off a bit of certainty for the type of magic than can come from “the spontaneous”, the unplanned, the state of being open to unknown and unlimited possibilities.
Then, pack up and go. Plan for the possibility of “roughing it” for a night. Head out on the highway, not knowing where you’ll end up or when. Launch without having a fixed end point for the day or the weekend. Chance it. Odds are you’ll be traveling with your smartphone, loaded with last minute booking apps, like “Hotel Tonight”, so you probably will find lodging or you’ll simply come upon an out of the way motel, in some quaint little town and you’ll choose that.
I say odds are that, despite not planning or booking lodging in advance, you will have an adventure. A memorable one.