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Emotional State of Matt #4: SPONTANEOUS

I had originally planned to start this trip after my divorce was finalized, but my landlord needed to move back into his condo so I lost my apartment in Vancouver with six weeks’ notice. I wasn’t ready for this trip, but the trip was ready for me. Life pushed me out the door, so I went. 

Unlike most people, I don’t like to plan my travels much. My idea of a perfect trip is two weeks off, a round trip ticket, a hotel room for the first two nights, and no agenda. When I arrive in a new place, I find a bar or cafe where the locals go, show up, strike up a conversation, and see what happens. I like to embrace the random - I like to be SPONTANEOUS

In my experience, when you pack your itinerary you get to see and do more things, but you also spend your vacation with the anxiety of sticking to a schedule. I structure my life for work every day of the week - why would I want to do that on vacation? More importantly, by overplanning you diminish the opportunity to encounter that unexpected magic that makes travel so wonderful. The conversation with a stranger that leads to an unusual adventure, the serendipitous experience you won’t find in any guidebook - that’s the good stuff. 

This style of travel is uniquely suited to solo exploration. That’s not to say you can’t find an adventure buddy or partner who shares this approach - that’s totally doable. It’s just that when you’re alone you’re forced to talk with strangers, and you’re more approachable for strangers to talk to you. It ups the odds. Two people traveling together will, more often than not, go to a cafe and only talk to each other. 

I do recognize that I have the privilege of being a tall, white male which means the likelihood I am harassed or attacked is much lower. I have the financial means to bail myself out when things go wrong - figuratively and literally (thankfully haven’t had to do that yet). I don’t take stupid risks and I keep my wits about me when I’m in a strange place.

I also understand that sharing travel with others can make it feel more real somehow. At the moment you have someone to look at and go “Holy shit, are you seeing that?”. After the trip you have a shared experience you can reminisce over while sharing a bottle of wine, many long months from your next trip. I’ve traveled a lot with others, and that can be beautiful too, it’s just another thing. 

Whenever I put a ton of effort into planning a trip, it never turns out the way I’d imagined it. I come in with expectations generated from articles, blogs, reviews. Sometimes It’s better than I expected, sometimes it’s worse, but it’s always different. Rather than being present and participating in the moment, I find myself detached, comparing the experience to what I’d imagined it would be. It’s kind of like watching a concert through your phone, recording a video you’ll probably never look at again. I’d much rather dance. I’d much rather be surprised and experience the moments for what they are.

Sure, there’s a downside. I miss out on opportunities because I show up without a ticket or a reservation. I miss things I would have loved to see but I wasn’t aware of them. I spend hours or sometimes days on things that turn out to be a bust. But if I’m there for the journey and not the destination, I’m rarely upset about it. 

Two recent examples: Based on a stranger’s recommendation I drove 90 minutes each way from Eugene to Belknap Springs only to find out the springs were an underwhelming lukewarm swimming pool. But on the way I enjoyed a scenic drive through the Willamette National Forest. (see Oregon Post). On a whim I drove hundreds of miles to Great Basin National Park and saw nothing but an educational video I could have probably found online. But I had a night in the Border Inn Casino I will never forget, and met some incredible people in Baker (see Nevada Post). 

I have tremendous leeway on this trip to go with the flow, change my plans, divert my route and take advantage of an opportunity I hadn’t been expecting. All I need to do is make sure I can work. If I have a stable Internet connection, a quiet space, and a comfortable chair Monday through Friday, I’m golden. Outside of that I call the shots and if I decide to change my plans at the last minute, then fuck it - I change my plans. 

I originally sketched out a rough path through all the states, but it’s already changed a dozen times. So far I’ve altered my route to incorporate visits to the Kentucky Derby, Jazzfest, The World Championship Barbecue Cooking contest and the Indianapolis 500 - all of these snap decisions. And that’s just April & May. 

I hadn’t been planning to go to Baker or Death Valley until I was packing the car in Twin Falls to leave. My chance encounter with Liz & James at the Bristlecone General Store connected me with their Instagram follower Stephanie who runs the Paria River Ranch near Kanab, UT. Utah was my next state and I decided to stay with her within 5 minutes. I’m in a lovely cabin on that ranch right now, writing this post.

There is a wonderful buzz I get when I let circumstance guide me, when I surrender to life’s current. Call it kismet, listening to the universe, god, Beelzebub, whatever - it’s awesome. I missed that buzz because I let it go. I prioritized other things in my life - work, family, comfort, stability. That's not my exes fault, it’s mine. Uncertainty bothers her. She is a researcher and a planner, and so I let her do that. I didn’t realize until now how core embracing the random is to my life and happiness. 

This trip has me feeling alive in a way I haven’t felt in a while. I am back to being SPONTANEOUS and accepting the outcome. Good or bad, it’s always a good story. 

Yes, and…



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