Saturday, October 3, 2009

How Unplanned Vacations Can Send You in the Right Direction

My favorite vacations are the ones that start with the words “North? South? East? Or West?”

My husband and I used to do this all the time. We’d get into the car, decide on a direction and head toward the open road.

With no plans and no destination, if we wanted to spend the day watching the tides come in on the Bay of Fundy or wandering through the streets of Annapolis or driving for the entire day just to see how far we could go, there was nothing stopping us.

Unplanned vacations are filled with surprises, but they are not for the faint-hearted.

  • You have to stay flexible. A grouse hunting festival in the middle of the Canadian woods could make it impossible to find a place to sleep. You may have to decide that instead of the spending the weekend communing with nature, it’s time to see the sights and sounds of the city of Moncton, Canada’s “most polite and honest city”.
  • You have to accept the fact that the planners in the world get the great deals, nicer hotel rooms and often get to stay closer to the place where everyone wants to be. This is especially true if you wander into a tourist area at peak season. It’s best to stay off the beaten path. But that’s where the adventures are anyway.
  • You have to have faith in the direction you’re going. That means if you’re driving along the Maine coast and you pass your 87th “no vacancy” sign, you must never say the words, “I told you we should have gone south this time.” At 2:00am on a foggy night, even if you say it in your softest, sweetest voice, it will not be met with good results.

But something happens on these road trips. At some point we know exactly where we want to go. Our destination becomes clear.

My husband, who is a major history buff, says that his favorite days are the ones where we visit museums, old forts or historical towns. And my one of my best vacations was when we went to Prince Edward Island. I remember standing in a souvenir shop, surrounded by Anne Shirley dolls, wondering how we accidentally ended up in a place that I dreamed of visiting ever since someone put that first Anne of Green Gables book into my hands.

I was taking a break from my W.I.P. and going through some scrapbooks today, when I realized that I write like I vacation. I can't do chapter by chapter outlines. I'm in it for the adventure. If I'm not flexible I get in trouble. And with a little luck, eventually, I'll know where I'm going.


Christy Raedeke said...

I'm so glad to hear a successful writer say she does not outline. Hearing discussions of plot graphs and 10-page outlines had me secretly thinking I was doing it all wrong. But if I outline then when I get to the writing I feel bored, like I'm doing a dot-to-dot rather than drawing a picture.

I like how you travel and I like how you write!

nanmarino said...

Yes! I love your dot-to-dot/drawing analogy. That's exactly how I feel too.

AQ said...

Wow.. well said Nan.

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