“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” -Sue Fitzmaurice

If you’ve read my previous post on squirrels, you know I am typing this sitting at my pub table in my little foyer area overlooking my backyard. Today was a day full of squirrels. I also realized another habit of mine while sitting here. On a clear, blue sky day like today, I can perfectly see the airplanes and their jet trails still ascending from a recent takeoff from O’Hare or Midway which is about three hours northeast of my backyard.

I have the Plane Finder app on my phone. I often will pause from my writing, step out onto the deck and use the app to find out the details about the flight. Where exactly did it take off from? Where is it heading? 

Now I’m sure by now you’re wondering how I get anything done between the squirrels scampering across my deck and watching westbound traffic from two of the top 50 busiest airports in the United States. I don’t know. I type quickly? Focus with me.

Today as I was observing two planes seemingly racing each other across the sky, both California bound, I thought of the people on that plane. Who is there for business? Who is going home for the holidays? Who is going on an adventure? I secretly hoped the plane was full with that last group.

Be More Spontaneous

Too often we are caught up in life’s demands, which ends up preventing us from doing something spontaneous and fun. A hot word in education is self-care. Take care of yourself. Eat right. Leave work at work. Exercise. Have a hobby. And on and on and on. Some are good at self-care. Most are not. Not to the extent they need to be.

Most limit their spontaneous adventures because they want to remain available. Or they have some sort of other engagement that no doubt they’ll complain about having to go to, but they’ll still go. So as miserable as the engagement was, it still took precedence over time in life that they will not get back. And that’s the thing, we have a finite time specified for our life. We do not know when our flame will be extinguished. 

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we sacrifice ourselves and our happiness? Spontaneity has a multitude of positive effects. It allows our mind to stay sharp and fresh in ways not typically accessed. Not allowing spontaneity into our lives means we are constantly calculating every move. We are over planning, over thinking. In short, we are stressing ourselves out. 

Now I know, you are going to say being spontaneous would stress you out even more because that just isn’t your personality. I get it. But here is the deal, you are going to overthink every situation anyways and most likely be stressed no matter what. So why not say, heck with it! And go.

This Means NO Planning

Okay. We can meet in the middle. This means minimal planning. Maybe you are the type of person that gets ready for a vacation by planning every move. You have an itinerary and agenda for each day broken down by hour. Now tell me. How do you feel when it begins to unravel? 

In 2009 my family took a trip to Naples, Florida. We drove, leaving on Christmas night and driving straight through, the whole 18 hours. When we arrived on the morning of the 26th, our host— bless every bit of her heart—had an agenda of our entire time there laid out. And it started with the first event just an hour from our current arrival time. 

Needless to say, we had to offer peacekeeping negotiating tactics. Our host was devastated. In her mind, the planning was beyond perfect. We were going to see the whole city of Naples and everything it had to offer over the course of the coming week. She was also refreshed from a full night sleep in her own bed. We were not refreshed. We were cranky from traveling with a three year old among other things.

Clearly minimal planning must be produced as you find a departure and return day. And sure, get the hotel secured. But who says you have to have anything beyond that? Last year (2021) was my year when I first attempted to take bigger adventures with little to no planning. And I hope 2022 brings even more adventures.

I started in January by flying to Phoenix. I took Friday off but didn’t tell my secretary at the time where I was going. It was a true getaway where I could enjoy not only spontaneity, but also anonymity. I visited local shops. Hiked 8 miles to a mountain trail. And ate at restaurants I couldn’t find back in Illinois. I flew back on Monday refreshed and feeling amazing.

During mid-spring, after the insignificant people began to try to rob me of joy, I went on another excursion. I drove to Bowling Green to take in a minor league baseball game. Afterwards I found myself enjoying the downtown Bowling Green nightlife. I was up early the next morning and journeyed a little south to Tennessee and a lot west to Memphis where I took in a rain delayed baseball game Saturday night. I walked Beale Street (the rain did not stop anything there) and found a conspicuous looking sushi place in an alley entrance and in a basement of the building. Delicious though. On the way home I visited a state park. 

As spring transitioned to summer, I found myself in Omaha watching the College World Series. I stayed just blocks from the stadium so I could again find myself in restaurants specific to where I was staying. A final moment of spontaneity on that trip was diverting my path to the Kansas City suburbs where I surprised my sister and her family. We enjoyed a great late lunch before I trekked home. I submitted my resignation as superintendent the next day. 

Of course the biggest moment of spontaneity in 2021 probably came from my 102 county excursion. I didn’t know what each day would bring. I had rough goals in mind for what to achieve each day, but I couldn’t account for everything that would come up. (Like the time I missed a turn in Jo Daviess County and ended up in Wisconsin on some of the most backroad roads I’ve ever seen for a little while.)

I get it that most are not like me. I’m reminded of this often. Not everyone can up and leave with just a carry on and no real plans beyond that. Maybe the reasoning is that you just don’t have the money to spend. Luckily, there are ways to be spontaneous and even travel further than just a couple hours from home on a limited budget.

You really can be thrifty in traveling in these pandemic-stricken days. Allegiant and Frontier Airlines routinely offer very discounted airfare prices. And if you don’t mind where you sit and can travel with just a carry on you will save even more. Book some of your favorite hotels using Hotels.com. And get both the Uber and Lyft apps and compare prices before booking a car. 

As for the adventures? That’s the fun part. When you get there, talk to locals. I find my Lyft and Uber drivers usually have great recommendations. One of my favorite things to do is pull up Google Maps on my phone and search the area by entertainment or restaurants. Most cities have great tourism pages on their websites. Find a local event that doesn’t happen every day. Or if you’re in a big city with a sporting event, check Stubhub close to the start time. Ticket holders will drastically lower prices closer to the starting time so they aren’t stuck with the ticket.

I’m hoping I’ve convinced you to give spontaneity a try. It definitely won’t hurt you. And like everything else in life, you will find what works and what doesn’t, adjust, and go from there. But I want to help out someone. I will Venmo one hundred dollars to the first person who reads this and tweets: “Hey, @escottengland, I’m ready for my spontaneous adventure.” 

I said what I said. Now go be spontaneous.