why do the best stories come from frantic, unplanned situations with equal doses crimson facial-flushing embarrassment, impulsiveness, last-minute mad dashes and faith (in the nearly impossible)? does this mean that practical people, who are supremely organized, with travel guides full of those fluorescent pink post-it plastic tab bookmarks or carefully set alarms or google-mapped directions to the wedding tomorrow really have fewer stories or less happenstance?
or does this mean that the stories these people do ultimately amass are so much richer and more able to be enjoyed (as everything else is booked and planned and taken care of), although many fewer in number?
I am one of those people. those planners. my gmail tasks list is linked with my phone, I get to the airport 3 hours before takeoff for an international flight, I’d rather be half an hour early than 3 minutes late. I figure how to get where I am going before I start going there. of course, I am acutely aware that my plans will rarely, if ever, lead me down the expected path. they would rather saunter, with fits and starts, sometimes even going backwards, before they get somewhere. the point, however, is that there was a plan. written down in beautiful, curving prose, laced with cautious exhilaration at the possibilities. revised twenty times. then sent to a wiser individual who tears it apart and pieces it together into a better mosaic.
regarding travel, I think that there are two kinds of people: those who are escaping from, and those who are traveling to. the former seems more unplanned, spontaneous, requiring a fraying leather-bound journal in hand at all times, and an adventurous career carved out of myriad experiences. the latter is goal-directed, a destination constructed out of vision and data and direction. still, as much routine as we try to impose on place, often it is the place that ultimately dictates routine. even I can’t control whether or not the train will run on time, which way down the continuum the patient will go, or whether serendipity will favor me on this day or not.
although I map and plan and schedule and worry over details of direction and place and time, the exploration always lies in the unplanned. adventure does not have an itinerary. although you can lie in wait for the Himalayan snow leopard for days, travel to Iceland at exactly the right time to be swept up in the northern lights, or wisely choose summer months to travel to Denali, the true adventures are always sidebars to the expected.
then why do I (and will I forever) continue to plan, when all the good stuff actually happens on the side? I suppose for those who do not have a to-do list, who may not write down the row number of their long-term parking spot, who move to a new place and let that inform the future, their daily experiences will continue to be the fantastical content of storytime revelries and novellas. but so will mine. my plan just allows me to arrive at a certain point before the unexpected materializes and derails things. I am able to enjoy the surprises that people and places throw my way, even if exasperating at the moment…instead of worrying from the outset how I’m going to take every next step. and those surprises may more often be of the good kind…as planning makes it more likely that I will catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal at dawn through whispering fog if I actually set my alarm at 5am and book a car and driver to get there. life can’t be constructed solely of sidebars. I plan so that the main content is fulfilling, too.
Now onto the next unexpected change. a potential move to a new apartment in Baltimore? let’s see how this one goes.