Pulling Off a Spontaneous Adventure

Spontaneity doesn’t have to be what everyone tells you it is

Departing JFK — my favorite sight in the world

Many romanticize the idea of dropping everything, driving to the airport, and getting on “the next flight out.” Others may enjoy planning only the barebones of the trip, like flights and visas, and then winging the rest. And of course, there are those who enjoy traveling only when every minute of every day is determined in advance. There are many misconceptions as to what it means to travel with spontaneity, and contrary to popular opinion, I believe that even those who prefer an extreme degree of planning are capable of pulling off such an adventure. I have encountered dozens of excuses as to why spontaneous travel just doesn’t fit for everyone, and so I’ve decided to dive deeper into the underlying perceptions of spontaneity and debunk their silly reasoning.

1. It’s Too Expensive

This is by far the most common excuse, and while it is certainly accurate in some cases, it is by no means an excuse to avoid spontaneous adventure. This justification is founded on the preconceived notion that true adventures involve traveling long distances to foreign lands. While going far from home may make for a good adventure, it is by no means a requirement. Adventure is defined as “an unusual and exciting, potentially hazardous, experience or activity.” Nowhere in this definition does it say you have to get on a 14 hour flight. Hell, it doesn’t even say you have to leave your hometown. So, if you’re reading this and have the sudden urge to spontaneously travel, you don’t have to break the bank.

And when it comes to traveling long distances, it still may not be as expensive as you think. Budget airlines such as Norwegian have enabled me to cross the Atlantic for as cheap as $99 each way, booked as late as only a few days before the flight.

2. I don’t have time

It is a safe assumption that most people don’t have the time for an extended, extravagant vacation. In many cases, taking even one week off from work isn’t possible. While this justification makes perfect sense, I invite you to look at travel from a new perspective. Most people I know travel with a “see as much as possible” attitude, attempting to maximize what I call the dollar-to-instagram ratio.

The dollar-to-instagram ratio defines the cost of taking each beautiful Instagram photo at a city’s top tourist sites, and if one’s main intention of traveling is to brag online to their friends, this ratio is the golden number. Now, instead of prioritizing the sites in the city one truly wants to see, they prioritize the sites their followers want to see. By narrowing down all the “must-see” places to only those that you truly connect to, you’ll be surprised at how much less is on your plate. With this attitude, you really don’t need a full week to explore a city. Plus, if you do have more time you can use it to see the parts of the city tourists usually miss: back-alley coffee shops, thrift stores, and underground concerts, to name a few.

And I’m not just making this all up. Here are some trips I’ve accomplished in less than four days:

  • 3 day trip to Scandinavia — 1 day in each capital city: Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen. Back in the USA before the end of the weekend. Total cost: $560.
  • 2 day trip to Montreal — flight on the way up, bus on the way back. Total cost: $380 (2 people).
  • 4 days in Burlington — personal vehicle, staying with family. Total cost: $70 for gas and food.
  • 4 days in Iceland — rental car and hostels. Total cost: $650.
  • 3 days in Vietnam — regional flight from Taiwan, hostels, and a group tour to the Mekong Delta. Total cost: $300.
A quick stop at the Hanoi Social Club for a cappuccino during my 8-hour layover en route to Taipei

3. I Already Have Travel Plans

This is by far the worst excuse, because having travel plans already is the best opportunity for fostering spontaneity. When I was traveling in Taiwan I met some Vietnamese tour guides, and they inspired me to book a flight to Vietnam on the spot. The next morning I was in Saigon, and two days later I was back in Taiwan. For the price I was paying for accommodations and provisions in Taiwan, I could actually save money by flying to Vietnam for the weekend, as the cost of living is significantly lower there.

An overnight layover in Beijing is merely a reason to stay in one of the city’s classic hutongs. I stay at the Leo Hostel near Tiananmen Square, and although the beds are rather hard it doesn’t matter because I’m exhausted by the time I get there.

My best piece of advice for those who already have plans but want to add spontaneity is to take advantage of long layovers. Not only can you save money by booking a flight with an extended connection, you can also have the opportunity to see a new city that may not have been on your bucket-list otherwise. My personal favorite city for long connections is Beijing, and I have actually managed to see a decent amount of the city just by connecting through. In my opinion, if you have time to leave the airport for a quick meal, it is worth doing, and it may even end up being the highlight of your trip.

4. I’ll Do it Eventually

Okay, I changed my mind. This is the worst excuse. Try a spontaneous adventure today, in your own city! You don’t have to throw a dart at a map and spend $5,000 getting there, although that would be awesome. Try a new dish at your favorite restaurant, engage in a conversation with a stranger, or play a pick-up game of basketball at the park. All of these are adventures in their own rite, and all can be accomplished right now.

So, forget the preconceived notions and focus on your own, personal goals. Don’t let others define the “rules” of adventure, and certainly don’t allow yourself to miss out on possible life-changing experiences. The world is your oyster. Adventure is waiting for you wherever and whenever, including here and now.

Journalist, entrepreneur and student - Boston College, University of Otago. Adventurer and consultant for conducting business in Asia. Ethereum tips: muse.eth

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