There’s one commercial that really bothers me. It’s for one of the travel booking companies (I can’t remember which one) but it shows a man walking down the street or in a city and the voiceover predicts everything that’s going to happen before it happens. Something like, “stroller rolls into street almost taking out man and a dog barks” and then it shows the actor encountering these incidents. This company brags that they can plan your trip with no inconveniences. BORING! Inconveniences equal adventure. It keeps you on your toes and you learn about yourself. This is true especially traveling overseas. I found that you have to be flexible because if your married to you’re plan, you’ll be frustrated.
Last spring, for our birthdays, my sister Stacy and I took a trip to San Francisco. We spent a couple of days in the urban beauty of the city, exploring the streets on a hop on and hop off bus. I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, but it was a new way to cover the area. Brandye, a friend of ours who lived in Sonoma, came to the city one night for dinner and wine. She had an iPhone and showed us foursquare, an app on her phone that she updated when she arrived at places. She said that sometimes deals in the area would pop up. And her friends would know where she was and if they were in the area they could meet up. What happened to spontaneity? I say ‘hi’ to those I bump into and want to chat with or duck behind racks of clothes from those I want to avoid. Anyway, I suppose there are some benefits. You meet up with friends who you’ve been trying to get together with, even if it’s just to say ‘hello’. Or you spend way too much on an outfit because foursquare let you know that you could get 20% off at that store at that time.
Brandye had recommended that we go to Point Reyes and stay at the local hostel. We booked the hostel a month or so before our trip because it was a popular place to stay, especially in the summer. And then after Point Reyes, we had planned to stay with Brandye in Sonoma. I couldn’t wait to see the green, lush countryside because Chicago was still cold with skeleton trees. With my GPS in hand, we rented a car and journeyed north of San Francisco. Our first stop was Muir Woods. The ancient, massive trees were amazing. I almost expected to see fairies flitting about. How-dee-do, I would say to the nomes and can I have a ride, to the unicorns.
We stopped in Tiburon for dinner before hitting the road to the Point Reyes hostel. I was anxious to get on the road because I didn’t want to drive the whole way in the dark. But sure enough, the sun set quickly and the majority of our trip was spent in pitch black on winding roads. With a coffee cup between my legs, I kept a steady two hands on the wheel as I maneuvered the turns. Was I playing a video game?
The GPS was our guide as we drove through unfamiliar territory. We had no idea if we were going to right way, but felt confident in our guide. I turned down a one lane mud road, thinking we must almost be to our hostel! The hostel was located in the middle of nowhere with the beauty of nature all around it. As we drove down the tiny road, we soon came to a fence. Wrong way! Where the hell were we? We could only see a few feet in front of us because of the pitch black. There was no way to turn around and I didn’t want to back up because there was what seemed to be steep inclines on both sides of the road. Stacy jumped out and opened the gate to the property. I went in and turned around so fast I barely saw anything except for a big house with a light on. Please don’t come out and shoot me, I pleaded. But what I forgot about was that we were basically in friendly, hippie country.
After we were back on the main road, I called the hostel. You’re lucky, she said, you have phone reception! What? She told me that a cell phone wasn’t of much use out there and that it was typical that the GPS got confused. Turn here and then there, she directed. Yes, yes, I focused on her words. And be careful of the fog, it might be thick, she added. We made it safely to the hostel only a little later than planned. In the morning, we opened our eyes to a magical place.
But the trouble with the GPS and cell phone brought back road trips from the 1990s. Stacy and I took a couple of road trips, one to Charleston, SC and the other to Boston, MA both from Chicago. On those trips, using an atlas, we mapped the main roads we would take. We loosely planned our overnight stops and didn’t book any hotels. It was on a whim that we once stayed at a hotel with the world’s largest guitar (geee-tar) shaped swimming pool (Nashville). After crossing the state borders, we would buy a map of that state. We traveled freely with no set plans and so enjoyed many adventures. Remember those days with no GPS? Oh, and how about the before cell phone days when meeting up with friends. You just knew they would be there. Now almost everyone’s cell phone is an additional appendage. I even remember when we backpacked through Europe in the early 1990s and told new friends that we would meet them in a couple of weeks in Munich. There were no cell phones or email messages. And they’d be there, at the meeting spot. It was freeing to travel that way. We ended up visiting some amazing places by taking the advice of other travelers and going off plan.
I’m not going to give up my email or my cell phone, but from the San Franciso trip and a couple others since, I found that I’m better off not completely relying on the GPS (it is nice as a general guide). My plan is to hone my intuition and follow that, so my life will take on a whole new array of adventures.