A LITTLE SPONTANEITY GOES A LONG WAY: UP AND AT ’EM IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
Video: A photo montage of my recent last-minute trip to Austin, Texas.
Plans. It seems like my life runs by my Daytimer, and I’m sure it’s that way for most people. Not only because we’re all balancing fifty million things, but also because there’s a certain comfort in always having plans.
Recently, though, my comfort zone had become a little claustrophobic, my routine more than a little ordinary to the point of ennui. I felt like I was a genie who’d gotten stuck in the neck of her bottle—and no amount of wishing was going to set me free.
I was going to have to shake things up myself.
And so, on a whim, I decided to make a Wednesday-night call to my sister inAustin,Texas, and tell her I was coming for a week-long visit that Sunday.
It was such short notice that not only could I not believe I was doing it, it also felt like it wasn’t me who was doing it (you are talking to the girl who books her dining reservations at Walt Disney World not one moment later than the recommended 180 days in advance). At the same time, there was a certain exhilaration: especially since I already had a very busy Friday and Saturday planned, working the New England Horror Writers Booth at Enfield’s First Annual Zombie Walk for Hunger (if you missed it? You can see photos and video from that here: http://wp.me/pIXRs-Vy) preceded by a mini-getaway with Nathan at a Holiday Inn the night before. When was I going to pack? I didn’t have time for laundry, so WHAT was I going to pack? Ask anyone who knows me—if I’ve got a trip coming up, the suitcases or boxes are out and ready to receive cargo no later than two weeks in advance (yes, really). I make lists upon lists. I double and triple check things. If there are items I need, they are purchased weeks before, and all of my small electronics are charged at least four days in advance, except for the camera and the cell phone, which are always charged the night before. I have a process.
For this trip, there was no process. Added to the fact that I’d booked the flight so late that I didn’t have much choice of flight times or airports if I didn’t want to switch airlines. Although I was guaranteed seats on my JetBlue flights, I wouldn’t get to choose my seat, either.
I managed to pack and it was the least amount of stuff I brought anywhere. That should have been, I guess, my very first clue that this was going to be an entirely different experience for me.
And everything got crazier. I had loads of writing work to complete before I left—and I just couldn’t get to it all, so I let it all go, and I surprised myself by suddenly not caring whether it got done or not. The next morning, we left for the airport late (dangerous when that “highway” called I-84 is what lies between you and your destination).
Now, let me stop for a moment—I love to fly (a direct reaction to having been tortured to car-sickness-inducing trips up and down the East Coast when I was a child). I love airports, I love airplanes, and the adorable little snack-bags and tiny bottles and colorful ads promising rest and relaxation and their clean smell.
BUT: because I have never been on a connecting flight in my life, I have never experienced a late flight or excruciatingly boring delays or anything like that. I literally assume that, based on prior experience, when I book a flight, it arrives on time.
We ran into a six-hour delay in Orlando. Not what I had planned. At first I was upset. It wasn’t like I hadn’t brought things to do—writing, reading my copy of Jaws, or watching Season One of The Glades—but I didn’t feel like doing anything that I’d planned to do. So instead, I rode the monorail between concourses back and forth a few times—and when it started to pour, I went outside to enjoy it.
Video: A ride on the monorail at Orlando airport. I am on the phone with a friend of mine but I don’t remember now who it was.
Videos: A classic Florida afternoon storm hits the Orlando airport. I was standing pretty far back beneath the overhang, but I was still getting wet! It was refreshing.
After the storm had died down, I went back through security, took a ride back to the gates on the monorail, and grabbed a meal, since I had time to kill.
Video: This is the full ride of the Orlando monorail. The train was empty, so I sat up front to get the full view.
Video: Chillin’ out with a glass of wine at the On the Border restaurant in Orlando airport.
All of this unexpected activity carried through my week—and although the things I did in Austin, Texas, weren’t what you’d consider earth-shatteringly exciting or risky, it was fun to just not think about the practicality of things, or to think about what was going to happen the next day. We decided to do a Happy Hour on a Monday; we ordered in for pizza; we watched scary movies; we went to the pool at no particular time each day with no particular departure time; we drove around Austin with no destination in mind. There was no plan—and I came home not only ready to get back to work, but a little more content to not be so tied to that Daytimer.
Video: My niece, Andi, at work on her art.
Videos: Driving around Austin with nowhere in particular to go.
If you’ve been feeling a little stuck or burned out lately, consider this: sometimes doing things last minute without any kind of reasonable plan is just what you need to get refreshed.