Around the corner


During our first visit to meet Ellen and Richard after their move to Florida, she was absolutely giddy about a list of places we needed to see. Shops and restaurants and more. All fantastic. All Ellen approved. (We were going to be very busy.)

And it was a magical visit, filled with surprises and fun and new experiences all over.

On one day, she suggested the four of us take a ride. She had heard about a place that offered up the best whoopie pies in Florida. And she was several steps beyond excited about the possibilities of this and other offerings that might be found. The shop also happened to be along a route she hadn’t explored much with Richard.

I’m not going to name the shop, because… well… the whoopie pie part didn’t go well. You could head in to a convenience store in New England, pick up a plastic-wrapped whoopie pie five days past the best by date, and that gas station offering would be a better whoopie pie than the ones we experienced in this supposed best-in-Florida location. But it turned out that the day wasn’t about the whoopie pies in the end. Those became secondary to everything else. A funny story about a great day.

We had an amazing breakfast, a fabulous drive, and enjoyed stopping along the way at any shop or plaza that caught our attention. We then didn’t enjoy the whoopie pies, but drove back a slightly different way along an equally entertaining route and capped our excursion off with a wonderful meal.

Thanks to the motivation of whoopie pies and potentially tempting treats, we were treated to things we would never have seen otherwise. And that was the entire point… to learn about the surroundings while taking a chance or two.

When it comes to travel, I like to think of my approach as organized chaos. The idea behind this is simple… I do spend time researching things and attempting to put together some advance plans. I do this to assist in avoiding headaches… to gather information on any areas that one or more in the travel party have expressed a heightened interest in… and, in general, to create a scenario where rolling with the weather and spur of the moment occurrences is easily done.

There are times it doesn’t seem so spontaneous, and I can understand the origins of that viewpoint. But there is a trick hidden inside of it. Once you figure out how to accomplish what you have set out as the must do items, there is a tremendous amount of freedom for the remainder. I know some of the best places I have ever set foot in, locations literally around the world, I never would have visited if not for the happy accidents along the way. And often those happy accidents were directly associated with a planned activity.

The Joshua Tree National Park in California was an amazing discovery for us. A brilliant day back in 2005. The Cameron Trading Post… the Winking Lizard Tavern… the Copper Creek Inn… Mount Washington Overlook… the list goes on. Some involved research ahead of time. Some involved stumbling upon them. All created unexpected delights.

It’s the combination of the two… organized… chaos… that provides the thrill. Lean too heavily in either direction, and for me, you lose the best of the magic.

A lot can depend on personality. There are those that will tell you that not planning it all out, scheduling it all, means you risk letting time slip away… you’ll miss too much. Others will say that even an ounce of planning smothers opportunities. Here’s my thinking on either as an extreme…

Every so often, I believe we all need to get lost. No plans. No commitments. And, every so often, I also believe having it all scheduled is essential. Knowing what you’re doing and when so as to not lose your way. Whether exploring your neighborhood or heading out on a journey, all of that swirls together.

If you know you are heading from one place to another, it helps to know bits and pieces. How are you traveling? Boat, train, car, plane? Will you fly but need a rental on arrival? When are you heading out? Is there better weather at a different time of year? Are there special events you’d like to attend? And on… and on… and on…

The rest is knowing you should stop and smell the roses along the way.

All of that understood, there is a thought I would leave you with. Think of it in a figurative sense. Some recommendations lead to picnics at an overlook for the Pacific Ocean. Some lead to whoopie pies. None of them will be exactly what you expect.


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