2012 Taught Me: Delve Into Travel Spontaneity

When we travel, it can be easy to get caught up in all the plans we make.  Like most people, I like to be prepared when I travel.


This usually involves extensive organizing. Since traveling tends to be ephemeral, I attempt to make the most of every moment.  In doing so, I research where I am going ahead of time, figure out the “must-see” locations of the area I am visiting, and plan where I will go and what I will do everyday.  Sometimes the best travel moments, however, are the ones that you don’t plan.  During 2012 I had my fair share of experiences, and some of the foremost moments were thanks to spontaneous decisions I made along the way.

In November, I went to Rhode Island to visit my boyfriend.  Normally, if I am traveling to a place I haven’t been before, I look up information about what I can do during my vacation.  I did no such thing on my trip to the East Coast: it was purely spontaneous.   One day in Rhode Island, we decided to go to Boston.  With no idea of what we were going to do in the historic city, we hopped on a train. Within an hour or so, we arrived in Boston, excited to see what the city held. We walked along Stuart Street, meandered into the Theater District, and then somehow ended up in the Boston Commons.  The Boston Commons is a beautiful park overlooked by the state house, near the freedom trail. We walked further along with no set direction and saw the site of the Boston Massacre, Faneuil Hall, and ended at the waterfront. Even though we had no plans, just by walking around the city, I felt that I had seen so much.  Never in my life had I gone somewhere with no destination in mind.


Later that night, since we were near the water, we decided to go into the financial district for dinner.  To both our surprises, this section of the city was utterly empty! It was a Sunday night at five, and almost all of the restaurants were already shut down. No people were in sight; we could not believe it.  I probably would have known not to go there if I had researched about Boston nightlife beforehand. However, it was an interesting discovery: a crowded city without many people. It became a game for us, to try and find a place that was open for dinner.  We eventually came upon a completely different section of the city that had many lights and shops. As we spotted an open restaurant, I saw an unconventional bookstore across the street.  There was a huge mural painted on the wall of Toni Morrison, Kafka, Dr. Seuss, and their contemporaries. There were also closed cabinets that housed books during the day.  The mural was absolutely stunning and I couldn’t believe that I had stumbled upon something so beautiful by accident.

My spontaneous trip turned into an unforgettable day.  I was able to see both the “touristy” side of Boston, but also another more subtle side to the flourishing city. There was something wonderful and exciting about walking around without any clear purpose.  Spontaneity transforms our traveling experiences into a distinct set of unique moments, each adding a richness and breadth that can occur only when we deviate from a path or plan.

Amanda Purcell

Amanda has traveled throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her secret travel tip: visit places during off season. She loves walking around cities that she's never been to before, especially if she can't speak the local language.

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