Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Worst Laid Plans

I’m a planner. When I book a trip, I spend weeks looking into all the attractions and plotting out our days. That’s a big part of the fun for me, the planning and anticipation. But last week, when friends asked us to go on a spur-of-the-moment getaway, there was no time for my usual extensive research. We booked it one night, packed up and left for Lake George the next morning.

I hadn’t been there before and didn’t really know what I’d need. Turned out, I didn’t pack quite right and forgot a number of things. I even forgot certain pairs of shoes I wanted to wear. (Usually, the number of shoes well exceeds the number of days I’ll be away, but not this time.) But somehow, miraculously, without my planning and list-making, it was a great time away. My kids had a blast. It didn’t take much. They swam in the lake, ate some seafood, played mini-golf and hung out with wonderful friends. I think part of the excitement for them was taking off at a moment’s notice and having no idea what we’d find when we got there.

Sitting by the lake, it struck me how differently I handle traveling and writing. When I start a story, I have a general idea of what will happen, but I definitely don’t use an outline and, very often, I’m not even sure which characters I’ll meet along the way. That is actually my favorite thing about writing…not having any clue where my book will lead me. My methods may be scattered, but luckily, everything usually works itself out into some semblance of order. Eventually. I love that aahhh moment, when storylines string together. I never stop being shocked by it.

Why, then, do I feel the need to plan my vacations out so meticulously? Don’t get me wrong…I love to explore new areas and go off the beaten path, finding local favorites, as I’ve mentioned before. But when I sketch out my trips, I know I’m going to want to do that, so I leave time for it, essentially planning my non-planned excursions.

I think it’s time the traveling me took some pointers from the writing me. Next time I want to go away, maybe I’ll jot down some general ideas on a scrap of paper, but not schedule my days. Maybe I’ll wake up each day wondering where the day will take us instead of mapping it out. Maybe then I’ll experience a vacation of strung-together surprises that were even better than the activities I would have planned.

Or maybe I’ll just end up sitting on the beach wearing sneakers instead of flip-flops.