I’m currently working with Travel Supermarket – all content is my own thoughts & opinions. Contains affiliate links.
Spontaneity is one of the first things we lose when we become parents.
Deciding on a whim to go out for dinner/see a film/go away for the weekend is much trickier when it’s followed up with ‘have you got the nappies/wipes/change of clothes/spare dummy/changing mat… or, frankly, the energy’.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a spontaneous action “…occurs as a result of a sudden impulse or inclination and without premeditation”
Yeah. Good luck with spontaneously heading out the door with a baby or toddler ‘as a result of a sudden impulse’ with zero planning. Even a spontaneous ‘let’s go for a walk’ will involve a 15minute flurry of packing, checking and double-checking.
Of course, planning ahead is a brilliant life skill. We need it – and usually it totally works. I love the feeling of going on a much-anticipated holiday with my packing list ticked, my folders of important documents safely stowed in an accessible pocket, activities booked and places of interest all lined up to visit (yes, really. I am that person with 8 different packing spreadsheets stored on my computer, plus another spreadsheet of ‘essentials to do before you go on holiday‘).
But now the kids are in their teens, I have rediscovered how much bloody fun spontaneity is. Now when someone says ‘let’s go for a walk’ the only scuffle is to find appropriate shoes. A mad ‘shall we go away this weekend’ suggestion isn’t met with a bitter laugh – just a happy smile and an “okay, where shall we go?”. I LOVE that feeling of surprise and excitement, the sudden rush of what-to-pack and the generally vague naughtiness that accompanies a spontaneous trip. Are we allowed to just decide to go have some fun like this?
And we’ve been deliberately teaching our teens that spontaneous is good too.
I realised they’ve spent their whole lives watching us plan, schedule and arrange. Sudden changes of mind unsettle them. Spontaneity bothers them. And that needs to change, there are so many benefits (and life skills) in grabbing an opportunity, and just saying ‘yes!’.
Spontaneous travel teaches you to be flexible
If you’re off on a whim, you’ve no time to plan. You can’t read the guidebooks, check out all the reviews, and prepare for your trip. Instead, you have to go with it. You can use the travel time to read and earmark a few places you might like to see, places you might like to eat… but chances are you’ll be there on the wrong day for the market, arrive too late for the show or the attraction is closed for repairs.
When set plans go wrong it can feel like any replacements are a bit second best. You’ve been visualising and planning for months, and now you’ve been let down.
But if you go with no plan at all? You have no expectations – and you’re ready to simply adapt to whatever you come across. Our very best meals in foreign cities have been those whereby we have sauntered to an area, opened an app (TripAdvisor in Europe, OpenTable in the UK) and looked for a decently reviewed restaurant within striking distance.
If you always stay in a 3* hotel, try self-catering. Or camping. Or go 4* and upgrade yourself. If you always stay inside your comfort zone, you’ll just miss out on the wide world that’s outside of it.
Being Spontaneous helps you learn a new ‘F*ck It’ mentality.
Our day to day lives tend to be ordered, predictable and relatively under our control.
Travel is not. Unplanned travel even less so.
Shit always happens at some point. Dealing with it when it’s in the middle of your ordered daily life is a stressful business. But handling it when you’re travelling teaches you to chill out. To say F*ck It and move onwards. If the trains are cancelled – there’s nothing you can do; getting ragey won’t help.
If you forgot to pack any underwear, your hotel double booked you, or you needed to book tickets two months ago to get into that thing you wanted to see?
Shrug. Deal with the important stuff, shake off the unimportant and get on with having a good time. You’re on holiday, for goodness’ sake – laugh!
Spontaneity encourages a “f*ck it” mentality that everyone needs from time to time in their lives. Learn the trick when travelling, and you’ll find it spills over into every day life. The irritating crisis suddenly seems less important, less stressful. Life just gets a bit more fun.
Spontaneous Travel Builds Confidence
In an age when our teens are less confident about life than ever before, there’s nothing better than travel to build them up – and plenty of adults need it too. The first time we visited Italy, I was adrift. I didn’t speak the language, I’d never used public transport in a foreign country, I just didn’t know how stuff worked. Honestly – it was intimidating.
But I was the grown up – we had the kids with us, and needed to take charge. So we just threw ourselves into the challenge and figured it out as we went along. When they were younger they needed to feel safe and that the parents were in control. but Now? I’d be honest and have them help figure it all out.
I quickly came to realise that my own problem-solving skills, attentiveness and initiative were more than a match for any situation I found myself in, home or away.
Spontaneous Travel makes you Happy
When you’re used to making plans, it’s natural to try and keep to the ones you’ve made. Which, experience tells me, can enforce stress into a situation where there doesn’t need to be any, simply to keep you ‘on schedule’.
If you don’t have a plan, however, then you’re free to simply follow the moment; do what feels right, right now.
Sure, you vaguely have an idea that today you want to visit that castle. But on the way you walk past a huge flower market? Stop! Explore it!
Feel a bit hungry? Stop at that cafe, sit and watch the people for an hour.
Exhausted and fancy a lazy morning in bed? Do that too – you’re on holiday. you have nowhere to go, and nothing to do but please yourself. If it makes you happy, it’s not a ‘waste’ of your day.
Learning to listen to yourself, and to choose what feels right for you is an invaluable way to take responsibility for your own happiness every day, not just on holiday.
So next time your partner or friend says ‘oh, I fancy getting away’ don’t laugh at the silly idea. Head to TravelSupermarket, look at this weeks best deals and hit ‘buy’. Do it.