There are certain techniques I use when I plan a trip. One strategy is to have succinct, reachable – yet challenging – travel goals. I tend to hit the ground running early, stay out late and come home from vacation needing a vacation to recover from my first vacation. I was reminded recently how important it is to leave space open for surprises and interruptions during travel in order to let unplanned jaunts delight you in ways you hadn’t expected.
In other words: plan to not have such a densely packed plan that it eliminates chances for spontaneity.
My GPS found a place for dinner on the first night of my trip to the Washington, DC area. I found myself in a unique sandwich/salad shop type place in a remodeled house near the corner of two highways. I liked it because it was locally owned and the people working there were also the owners and nobody could tell I was a tourist. I was content as I ate in what was more a neighborhood joint than a place where people from the other coast wander in for a meal. I didn’t know the trip back to the hotel would be an introduction to one of my favorite surprises of my trip.
The GPS took me a slightly different way back to the hotel. I turned the corner and saw a pond: quiet, serene, with platforms jutting into its waters. “I can literally sit in the pond and write!” I thought.
The park and I were a match made in GPS heaven. I couldn’t stop myself from parking
Several mornings later, I found myself back at this park – which I had discovered was called the Ellanor C. Lawrence Park after the wife of a one-time-magazine publisher who donated the land to the city with a caveat being they must keep the grounds in their natural, normal habitat.
Little could make me happier. The next time I visited, I had a plan. Well, I sort of had a flexible, “let’s see what will happen next” sort of plan.
Unfamiliar birds kept me company along the path in the untried to me park. I didn't know it at the time, but this park is home to 133 species of birds throughout the year. One of my new bird friends had feathers of deep bright orange, the embers in the fireplace before you call it a night.
Birdcalls I haven’t heard in decades reach my ears as the leaves whisper, “Hush…. “ to anyone who was listening.
“Toot a loo à Toot a loo à”, says one bird, getting faster and faster until a response comes, “tweet a, tweet a, tweet a.”
There was a small, peeping bird. Her call sounded cricket-like and her flight floated up and down and down and up.
I wondered if my hearing had improved or maybe it is just my listening that has become heightened.
I heard birds' feet: those of a yellow breasted bird chased by another yellow breasted bird. They feasted on the shavings of a fallen tree, completely unseen by the jogger who made her way down the same path I was on. The path was moist, not muddy but moist. It called me to the pond but my feet danging aloft from the high bench where I sat whining inside at the thought. My feet, my butt, my heart wanted to stay on the bench, listening.
It was a grey bird with a yellow head that became my magnet as he flew past my ear down the path.
I was surprised as I came out the other side I was at the same place I started two days ago when I first visited Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. The pond, the same nearly covered pond, the same bridge over the creek, the same zen feeling.
When I created a schedule for my trip to the Washington DC area, I didn’t know this tucked away park existed, yet it became one of the highlights of my trip.
The next time you travel, leave space for surprising locations to call you to attention.
These in-the-moment adventures may be the exact jaunt you really need to take.
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