The Perks of Spontaneity
The proverbial “they” say that, oftentimes, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Several weeks back, I made one of the best decisions of my year by making no plans at all. Late on a Thursday night in the first week of November, I made the first of a series of spontaneous decisions that would enable me to demonstrate self-compassion, follow my instinct, be there for my family, and do what I needed to do for ME: I went onto the Avis website and rented a car to get myself to Southern California.
*Note: I cannot claim that I did this solely out of selfless obligation, one that compelled me to “be there” for my sister and cheer her on in her half marathon. The circumstances that led to this spontaneity were numerous: first, I was homesick. I care deeply about the family and cause for which Kirby would be running her half marathon, and wanted to show Kirby that. Changes at work, minor ailments, a full house of roommates and guests plus the timely fall of a company holiday called Bring your Parents to Work Day had me missing my family more than I normally do. The Universe was telling me that I was due some family time. Moreover, two lovely events were taking place on this particular weekend, one within the Welsh family (Kirby’s second Santa Barbara Half Marathon) and one with my USC family (the annual Trojan Homecoming celebration on campus). This abundance of signs was simply too hard to ignore!
When I realized that I had the means and the freedom to get in a car — without doing much planning — and get to these aforementioned family on the same day that I would leave, I reached out to a new friend (with a mutual interest in visiting Santa Barbara due to her boyfriend’s proximity to my sis). She was up for the adventure, even willing to contribute to the costs, and so we decided to go for it. On a whim. What could be the harm in that? Along my drive down CA-101 and throughout my weekend of quality time and pleasant surprises, I realized that it wasn’t about what harm could come to us; little did I know it would come to be about what amazing perks were to be had!
No plans = No expectations
Upon arriving in Santa Barbara, I realized that I hadn’t taken much time to plan or consider what we would do, where we would sleep, or how we would spend our time down there… as long as we were together. After reflecting upon the fun weekend that came to be, I realized that one perk to jetting off spontaneously for a weekend getaway is a lack of many expectations; the expectations that I did have were also not high! Exhibit A: I assumed I would sleep on the couch and crash like a vehicle’s third wheel in Kirb and Andy’s shared bed during this surprise visit. :) Reality? The house mates set up the pull-out couch with unexpectedly soft sheets and a cozy comforter. Exhibit B: I didn’t know who I would share USC’s Homecoming with this year, but assumed I could count on my core best friends from undergrad to be there and join me in crashing the Comm school BBQ. In reality? I had quality time with my best friend of them all, saw old friends who still attend USC for grad school (by chance!), ran into former co-workers, and connected with college acquaintances with whom — as it turns out — I have interests and adventure-styles in common.
No Plans permit Pleasant Surprises
Something that often follows a lack of expectations is a pleasant surprise here and there. As I mentioned, having skipped over the typical weeks-long planning of who to see and where to stop by when I was in sunny SoCal, nearly everyone that I spent time with was a huge bonus. Upon arriving in Santa Barbara and after planning for Kirby to already be asleep, I was thrilled and giggly to get to to surprise her, jump on her bed and spend a few minutes catching up before we all hit the hay. Having Dad join me on the drive back down from Santa Barbara to Ventura County was also something unplanned, and gave us the quality time we were overdue to catch up about work (see: my recent promotion!) and family. At USC, not only did I run into two old flames, my first work-study boss and a former frenemy; I also made new friends, drank free wine at the alumni tailgate we had expected to miss, and jumped aboard Traveler like we had on graduation day.
No Plans enable New Discoveries
Oftentimes when traveling to a place I’ve frequented over the years, I take for granted the novelty and evolution it may have endured since my youth. Exhibit C: Santa Barbara, California. A beautiful place I’ve seen and enjoyed many times, being that my younger sister went there for undergrad and lived there for five years, SB is also one that I’ve traversed in many different ways: on foot, in my parents’ mini van, on bikes and on four-person-family-bikes that one can rent on the boardwalk near the pier! After cheering Kirby and Andy on — in a similar place along the finish line as my parents did last year — I realized that the long, grassy runway we bordered provided a better angle than if we had crowded at the finish line. It also made for fun group photos (see below)! Little had I known that I would enjoy a new perspective on this family tradition we’ve established in the SB Veterans Day Marathon. Additionally, despite the countless number of times I’ve been to the Santa Barbara harbor and shared in a family brunch overlooking our favorite spot on the West coast, I was still lucky enough to try a new restaurant (in Brophy Brothers), indulge in a new Bloody Mary, and have the best fish-and-chips I think I’ve ever tasted. Perks!
No Plans lead to Nostalgic Firsts
After my gorgeous morning in Santa Barbara, the other “firsts” for which I hadn’t planned involved my third Homecoming football game as an alumna — because as they say: third time’s a charm. I don’t recall celebrating a USC football game day in the late evening; I believe this was the first homecoming in a while to take place after Daylight Savings Time had begun, granting us a dark and daring “game-day” that resembled more of a dance party than a tailgate. In addition to featuring my first [two] flash tatts, this unexpected evening led me to enjoy my first nighttime Traveler photo opp, my first late-night trip for ‘fourth meal’ at the Chipotle on Expo in years, andddd my first hot chocolate at The Original Pantry in downtown. Finally, sharing this nostalgic collegiate tradition with two of my girlfriends’ live-in S.O.s led me to believe that such experiences and “firsts” are only the first of many…
No Plans permit Solo Time
The last unexpected perk to my spontaneous weekend abound was one that I didn’t realize until I was driving home, cruising up the CA-101 on Sunday afternoon. I sat in comfortable silence with my new friend and roadtrip buddy, Amanda, full from crunchy snacks and a generous helping of breakfast with my lovely parentals a few hours earlier. As I noticed the encroaching rain loom within what were somewhat ominous clouds, there was also a reddish gold “silver lining” of sorts that I couldn’t miss. I knew at that moment that I had made the right choice that weekend.