Bergamo. Less than 24 hours on the clock. Just arrived. Now all that is needed is a place to stay. A quick search on AirBnB brought a fine little space to be a home-base for an impromptu exploration of the city, and the hostess greeted me with, "Ah, this is what it means to be young! No planning!"
Would it have alleviated her if I told her that I planned this trip a year ago down to the very act of initiating a housing search 30 mins prior to walking through these apartment doors? Or perhaps I should have said I had a crystal ball that foretold the future? Could that have allowed her to put down that mirror of self that may have been calling for her to get out of town without plans? Would it have upset her more if I told her that the rush of uncertainty is my only true currency and I don’t have it in my planner to change. Wouldn’t that be ironic; if I did.
Having the experience of (leisure) trips both with itineraries and without sheds light on the differences of the two. When you plan too far in advance you start living the motions ahead of time and upon arrival your senses are more relaxed, less acute, even less alive. You know where you are going, what you want to see and what to expect. Granted, that may be a level of safety that many people need. But here’s an exercise; look back on those trips and try to recall the defining moments. What stands out is when the unexpected hit; you met the locals and went off the tourist trail, you got lost, you saw something that made your experience completely unique to YOU.
This state of intense excitement can be reached with the simple absence of one thing; preparation. Yes! An ode to laziness you can say! Don’t plan! Go and figure it out later! Because later will put you in the NOW and when you need to be absolutely present is exactly when proper memories are ingrained and stored. When traveling your prefrontal cortex is working on overdrive and the amygdala is processing your aroused emotional state and all of it is not only being filed away in the folder labeled "Travel Awesomeness, NEED TO DO THIS MORE OFTEN", but you are also getting quantifiably smarter. You're jogging your creativity by thinking on the fly and if you are traveling with a friend or partner, your are establishing bonding connections between yourself and that person. New neural pathways are formed stimulated by new environments that are effectively revitalizing the mind. Simple planning decreases the benefits by a scientific percentage I can’t cite right now, but it’s significant and you might as well read Travel Digest and drink your latte at home instead of being led by chance to a craft Italian brewery that not even Lonely Planet knows about.
I am fortunate that everything worked out and I found a place to stay. But unless you are going completely off the grid to a less populated and less metropolitan area, what’s really the worst thing that could happen?
Given the format of the brief hours spent in a city I knew nothing about prior to arrival, here is for what I am most grateful -
I spent the time with someone who is very special to me; a person who deserves a lofted place in my memory, person who’s company I value, admire, and appreciate. Years ahead, if buses of ill-will don’t strike me down, I want to look back on these few hours and remember every footstep on every cobble-stone and every gothic church bell toll of every hour with this individual. Maybe I was haphazard and didn’t put too much thought into this weekend meandering, but I sure as hell was present. I was present because there was no other state of mind I could be in. I was present due to predetermined disorganized design. Branded into my heart were these past 24 hours and I know they will always be "special".
Frankly, I wouldn’t do it any other way. I guess I just wish there was more chaos. Wouldn’t that be fun :)