Over the years, my wife and I have found one travel tip to be uniquely useful. As much as you plan, leave room for spontaneity.
We didn’t read that any place. We learned it when traveling with our parents. Both families tended to go in the same mode. Too often, they had precious little time or money for vacations. When they did take one, they each drove from point A to point B regardless of what was in between.
When Neva and I began to travel as a couple, we tried to always leave room for the unexpected. It’s a habit we have happily maintained.
We do a lot of planning for our trips. We research places we want to see in the areas where we are traveling. That includes leaving time for discovery along the way. Of course, now that we are retired, we can really take our time. We often avoid interstates and expressways if at all possible.
On a recent trip to New England, we were traveling on U.S. 1 along the Maine coast when Neva had an idea. Friends had a summer home somewhere in Maine, so she decided to text her college friend to find out how near we were to their vacation place. It turned out we were really close.
Since I was driving, Neva read aloud the text replies. Our friend said they turn right at the Dairy Queen. I looked up and low and behold there was the DQ. We had to seize this moment that seemed meant to be.
I turned the van around and headed down the road. Meanwhile, Neva was getting the address and specific instructions to their house. They were perfect.
Even in the rain and fog, the sights along the way were breathtaking. We wound our way down the peninsula toward the sea, passing trees, houses, local businesses, streams, marshes, and estuaries.
Along the way, we found calendar-worthy real-life scenes. I noted places I wanted to photograph on the way back to the highway. Our first priority was to find their home. It wasn’t hard. Decorative homemade signs tacked to a tree got my attention, and pointed the way to Little River Road.
We had seen photos of the lovely seaside home and its vista before. Even though fog limited our view, we were immediately entranced. Surrounded by birds singing, gulls calling, waves crashing, the mingled fragrance of pines and ocean, we were smitten.
Neva stayed on the deck while the sea drew me down the slight hill. From the rocky beach, I spotted a small flock of common eiders floating offshore. Greater and lesser black-backed gulls claimed a sandy point across the way. It was the place our friends walked to at low tide.
I couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face if I had wanted to. A sense of peace and longing overcame me, and I gladly embraced it. Standing there in person I felt like Walt Whitman.
I didn’t want to leave, but we had no other choice. I stopped several times as we headed back north. I photographed boats moored waiting for their owners, canoes cast aside long ago but resting as if their occupants had stopped for lunch. Forsythia bloomed bright against the fog and reflected mirror-like in the positively calm waters.
I was ecstatic, electrified at the surreal wonderland all around me. I was so glad we had played our hunch and made that U-turn.
Driving a scenic highway was one thing. Spending a little time surrounded by this unexpected beauty was quite another. Once again, spontaneity rewarded us with a sweet, memorable encounter.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2019