Some of the best trips are the ones you don’t need to go on.
I’m referring to the unplanned, spontaneous kinds. The ones with no worry about reservations or itineraries, no concern for what you’ll see or do. They are the trips that just happen, not out of necessity, but just because you can.
Don’t get me wrong: I love planning trips. Oftentimes, anticipation is one of the best parts of travel. However, along with the preparation and forethought can come unnecessary expectations of the place you’re visiting, the people you hope to meet or the ones with whom you’re traveling (including yourself!).
Sometimes the unexpected trip is better: You just show up and take whatever comes your way.
My family and I did this a few weeks ago. We knew we had to be in Ellensburg, Washington on a Saturday for my oldest son’s performance at the State Finals for high school musicians. That was the “necessary” trip. However, we stayed overnight and took off Sunday morning to hike a nearby trail (Untanum Creek Canyon) I had once heard about.
The only planning consisted of making the decision the night before to go there and then asking for directions the next morning. The rest was a spontaneous, totally “unnecessary” trip on a gorgeous day that included crossing over a suspension bridge, under some railroad tracks (pictured above), hiking along a creek past beaver dams and seeing a herd of bighorn sheep on the walls of the canyon that surrounded us.
Would the day have been any different had we planned it out and made it an intentional destination? Who knows? But by not thinking much about it before we got there, it added to the surprise factor of the day. It made our explorations feel like more of a discovery despite the dozen other people on the trail who clearly planned out their adventure more than we did (the backpacks were a good indicator…).
I’ve recently been reading Paul Theroix’s book, The Tao of Travel. It contains quotes from his own travel books and insights from many other traveler writers over the years. One quote of his I read last night applies here:
“Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”
When you incorporate little surprise trips within your daily life, both are enhanced. Sure, you have to carve out the time for even the short trip. But too often I find I use lack of time as an excuse to do nothing.
Instead, this recent family hike reminded me of how much room there is in this world: room in my schedule if I make it so, room in the places around me to explore and room in my life for growth and possibility.
When I consider it this way, maybe these small, spontaneous adventures aren’t so unnecessary after all…