Finding Your Course

Originally penned for #travel agency @CheapOAir’s #blog a couple years ago, this post seems appropriate now as well, as I abandon best laid plans in the name of spontaneous opportunities in Spain and beyond:

Finding Your Course

Don’t try to plan it all. That’s the best travel advice I can give you. Because, no matter how many times you try to plan your adventures, the best moments in the journey will often be spontaneous.

Now – I’m not saying you shouldn’t book your plane ticket in advance. You probably should, since that could secure you a lower fare. I’m also not saying you should go into a trip without having done your research, as exploring your options before you hit the road can allow for a smoother trip.

What I am saying is: allow for the serendipitous.

Take, for example, the time I was making a road trip between Ohio and the Western U.S., covering some 10,000 miles over a three-month period -– 

I had my road map. And on that map were circles and lines and X’s and O’s marking everywhere I hoped to go along the way. I had a National Park Pass, a compass and multitool, a sleeping bag, tent, and enough beef jerky to reassemble a large cow. In those ways, I was prepared. What I wasn’t prepared for was changing my itinerary within hours of leaving Ohio.

I set out for my adventure one warm summer afternoon, planning to crash for a night in Illinois before blazing through the belly of the Midwest as quickly as possible. I planned to reach Colorado just two days into my trip.

Two hours into my drive, however, my Blackberry dinged. I’d received an email from my friend Bill, an adventurer I met in Scotland a year and a half earlier. He and I had tried to connect on our travels since our first meeting, but we always missed each other by a day or two. Here Bill was now, telling me he was traveling the Mississippi River on a rinky-dink pontoon named Evangeline, and that our paths would intersect if I could just alter my course a liiiiitle bit. “C’mon, Rachel,” Bill prodded. “You can’t say no to beers on a boat on a Sunday afternoon! Plus, you’ve never explored the Mississippi…”

Right he was. So, I debated for a long hard minute and then decided I couldn’t miss this. I broke out a pen, consulted my map, and plotted a new course northwest toward Hannibal, Missouri.

The following 24 hours were full of Americana adventures, including speedboat rides, firework wars, cookouts, swimming, stargazing, and a campout atop Evangeline’s roof. Those 24 hours hold some of my fondest memories from the whole 10,000-mile journey.

Sure, I could’ve continued on my planned route and had more time in other places. I could’ve bypassed Missouri and saved myself both time and gas money. I also could’ve saved myself the hassle of changing plans at the last minute.

But, sometimes the last-minute change is worth it. Sometimes the things you never expected end up defining your journey. So, move with your surroundings, open up to spontaneity, and let the world help you find your course.Upon

Writing © Rachel Rudwall 2011, Photo © Rachel Rudwall 2008