A Note on Spontaneous Travel

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We finally did it. On a whim, my mom and I cracked open the bounty of our “Rainy Day” coin jar that we’ve been filling all year towards our travel savings. With a week off from work for the holidays, I simply couldn’t stand the thought of staying at home. You see, I am a travel junkie.

When I haven’t traveled in a while (and by “a while” I mean four months or more), I get cranky and irritable. All I can think about is my next travel hit: behind the wheel of a car on a wide stretch of highway with no fixed plans and no particular place to go. To me, travel is freedom and my personal version of heaven.

So with five days off from work, my mind reeled with possibilities, ultimately settling on a few days in central California. Within half a day of deciding on a destination, our bags were packed, a rental car had been secured and we were mere hours away from waking up at o’ dark-thirty to start our journey. Until, that is, I decided to Google “driving from Seattle to San Francisco in winter.

Oh, the horror.

Mountain passes. Threats of snow and ice and tire chains and blizzards and long, frigid nights stuck in a remote town. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. Having spent most of my adult life in the Northeast, I am not unaccustomed to driving in severe winter weather. But with only 96 hours to spend down to California and back, I had no desire to spend most of our time away driving at a snail’s pace under gray skies on impassible mountain roads while our bright, sunny destination taunted us from afar.

Making the decision to cancel our journey was an easy one. Within a matter of 12 hours, we’d already traveled between the ecstasy of anticipation and the disappointment of failed hopes. The road trip could wait.

I learned a few things today. One: I need more topographic maps in my life…and I need to learn how to read them. Two: traveling by car in winter is hella unpredictable–blankets are a must. And three: planning to travel spontaneously is almost half the fun of travel itself. Almost, but not quite.

It’s been more than eight months since I’ve felt the freedom of the open road and I am antsy. Itchy. Unsettled. To be honest, I doubt this attempt at planning travel on a wing and a prayer will be my last. Until then, I’m prepared to be that person, running around my apartment block – empty suitcase in hand – on the stroke of midnight on January 1, crossing my fingers that there’s actual credence to Colombian New Year’s traditions and that 2015 will be full of travel.  Here’s to spontaneity, to travel, and to embracing those moments when the two collide.

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