I type this with beautiful, shiny, manicured nails, having just “got my nails did” in Mission Viejo with my beautiful Aunty Di. Weird. It’s like I’m a girl or something*.
To say I am surprised to find myself, once again, sat on my Aunt’s patio in California pondering life and quite how I ended up here, is somewhat an understatement. Perhaps I should divulge a little more:
The past 12 months of my life have been one big, exciting, scary, spontaneous detour.
I used to be an insanely organised, down-to-the-last-detail type person. “Fail to plan, plan to fail” and all that jazz was drummed into me on a daily basis whilst working in recruitment; I am an avid list writer and find nothing more satisfying than crossing off that last item.
Not anymore, it would seem.
Here is a run down of where I’ve Been vs. Should Have Been.
- Plans to head to Australia = 4 months spent backpacking around Europe
- Plans to head to Warsaw, Poland = Berlin, Hamburg & The Netherlands
- Plans to head to Cuba = ended up in Canada
- Plans to head to Ecuador = 3 month road trip of the USA
- Plans to head to Australia from California = ended up back in Canada, 3 months later
- Plans to road trip Canada = flew to England, in anticipation of heading to Australia
- Plans to fly to Australia = why not check out Spain briefly before we go?
- Plans to travel Spain = 6 weeks spent travelling around Spain, Morocco & Portugal
- Plans to head back to the UK in anticipation of heading to Australia = well, we’re already here – let’s check out France. It would be rude not to
- Plans to drive up to Scotland = 2 weeks travelling around Northern & the Republic of Ireland
- Plans to head to Australia from the UK = writing this post from Orange County, LA, from which I am heading to Vegas (for the third time this year – how much more money can I lose in that city?), then onto Hawaii for 8 days, and then Australia… Finally
And I have to say, I’d not change a single aspect of this year.
If I have one piece of advice to give to people who are on the road already, in the first stages of planning a trip or even just contemplating travelling, it would be this: don’t over think it. You like the look of a place? Go. Book a ticket. Now. The best times I’ve had are truly the ones I wasn’t expecting.
For instance, the American road trip; the Boy and I, having both spent Christmas on our respective continents, had settled on the idea of heading to Ecuador in the new year to do some volunteering work on the Galapagos Islands. Pretty much everything was in place. I flew to Canada and we had a few days of down time so naturally we headed toward the mountains, to check out the famous Banff & Jasper National Parks (which are insanely beautiful, by the way).
5 days after touching down in Canada, I broke my wrist whilst attempting to snowboard.
Absolutely gutted. Although, I look pretty pleased (and high af) in this lovely selfie which the Boy took, minutes after I’d woken up in the hospital from having my wrist set properly.
I really have no recollection of this photo being taken. Nice.
Moving swiftly on – plans had to change, that was for sure. No way was I going to head to bloody Ecuador – one of the world’s most famous diving spots, no less – with a great big cast on my arm, unable to shower properly so as to not get it wet, let alone go in the ocean.
So. That weekend we purchased a retired cop car (named Phoebe), and 2 days later we were in Montana, armed with nothing but a backpack, some Doritos and a National Geographic map.
We planned no further forward than a couple of days. We had no idea where we were headed – we just drove. We visited states that I’d never seen myself inclined to visit – New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska to name but a few. It even turned out that we managed to catch up with my parents in California, who happened to be travelling over from England at around the time were there… It was the trip of a lifetime.
I’m a true believer in everything happening for a reason, and as you can imagine I’d not planned to break a bone upon entering Canada, but damn, it was worth it.
Don’t over-plan things. Pah, don’t plan things at all. Throw a dart at a map and see where you end up. Turn up at the airport and jump on the next flight that takes your fancy. I have a friend who I met in Slovenia, who has a dice. On this dice are the letters N, E, S and W. He rolls it, and goes in that direction.
There is no more exhilarating a feeling than being spontaneous.
Do not get me wrong – you may get caught out once or twice. A couple of months ago, the Boy and I ended up in the city of Porto with nowhere to stay and had to beg a hostel to let us sleep on the floor of their common room. That was a minor fail; we could have booked something ahead of time, instead of saying “f*** it” and jumping on the bus. But guess what – we met some amazing people that night and ended up having a great time.
So here we are, back in the Land of the Free. I have to be in Australia by November 4th to honor my visa, but having heard that a few pals, family members and whatnot were headed to Vegas in October for a birthday celebration, we thought, “Hey, you can get to Australia by heading West, too. Now don’t that make sense?” So, we booked flights to LA, then to Vegas. Of course, it only makes sense for us to stop over in Hawaii on our way to Sydney. For 8 days. And to invite the Boy’s parents to come with us, flying out from Canada. Because when you have no plans, why the hell not?
I can quite happily guarantee you that the best times you will have are the spontaneous ones; places you weren’t expecting to see, people you weren’t expecting to meet and things you weren’t expecting to do. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the unexpected, be impulsive, and realise this: if you are on the road, you are lucky enough to be experiencing real, true freedom daily – appreciate that, embrace it, take full advantage of it, and don’t sell out to being booked solid. Be spontaneous, you crazy cats. Even those of you who aren’t travelling – I’m pretty sure the feeling will be the same, i.e., amazing.
*I am seriously not a “girly” girl. At all. I’ve had my nails done professionally just twice in my life before today, on both occasions when I was a bridesmaid for each sister at their respective weddings. But hey, when in Cali.