Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Rolling With the Punches
When traveling, things rarely go exactly according to plan. Flight delays, canceled tours, lost luggage - these sorts of hiccups are commonplace. The key is being able to take problems in stride and make the best of imperfect situations. Those able to roll with the punches are often rewarded with unexpected delights.
Take the case of a couple I met in Prague whose river cruise was canceled due to low water levels on the Vltava. Instead of sulking, they decided to explore Prague on foot. Wandering narrow cobblestone streets, they stumbled upon a tiny puppet theater tucked away in a medieval courtyard. The private show became the highlight of their trip. Had their original plans panned out, they would have missed this charming scene.
A friend of mine found herself stranded in Barcelona when civil unrest caused her flight home to be canceled indefinitely. Unable to check into her hotel room, she posted on Couchsurfing looking for someone to explore the city with. An outgoing local answered, showing her Gaudi's architectural masterpieces, sangria-soaked patios, and neighborhoods only a resident would know. The serendipitous encounter led to an unforgettable day and new international friendship.
When my parents' jeep broke down hours from the nearest town in the Australian Outback, they made an impromptu camping spot and spent the night stargazing in the pristine desert sky. Marooned, they were forced to slow down and appreciate their extraordinary surroundings. It became one of their favorite memories.
What else is in this post?
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Rolling With the Punches
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Expect the Unexpected
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Getting Lost Leads to New Discoveries
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Miscommunications Make for Memorable Stories
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Dead Phone Battery Forces Us to Unplug
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Cancelled Flight Opens Up New Possibilities
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - When Plans Fall Through, Go With the Flow
- Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Mistakes Lead to Magical Moments
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Expect the Unexpected
The open road has a way of surprising travelers when they least expect it. Rather than resisting uncertainty, the wise wanderer embraces spontaneous happenings as welcome opportunities. By maintaining an open mind, adventures reveal themselves where you’d least anticipate.
Heidy and Claude discovered as much while backpacking through Colombia. Hiking near the small pueblo of Jardin, they decided on a whim to follow a narrow path leading up a densely forested mountainside. The obscure trail ended at an isolated hostel with epic views of the valley below. They'd stumbled upon an unexpected sanctuary to rest their weary legs. That night, the only guests at the retreat, they befriended the owners over bottles of homemade chicha. Tales were exchanged until the early morning hours by the warm glow of the fireplace.
Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels writes of a chance encounter on an overnight train from St. Petersburg to Moscow. Awakened at dawn when the train halted unexpectedly in the Russian countryside, Jacobi gazed out at an expansive birch forest shrouded in morning mist. The ethereal scene was so stunning he shook his girlfriend beside him so she wouldn’t miss the fleeting moment. By the time full light flooded the landscape, the magic had faded. Unexpected beauty revealed itself precisely when the moment demanded it.
On a trip to Indonesia, Mighty Travels founder Anshul was enchanted by the elaborate Hindu temples of Prambanan, but even more so by an impromptu gamelan orchestra performance held in the adjoining village. Kids flocked from wooden shacks when the first metallophones rang out, hooting at the familiar melodies. Smiles abounded during this spirited cultural immersion that came out of the blue.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Getting Lost Leads to New Discoveries
Getting lost while traveling can be frustrating, but it can also lead to some of the most rewarding and memorable experiences. By surrendering to the unknown, we open ourselves up to new discoveries and adventures we’d never find in guidebooks or online reviews. Wandering aimlessly through winding alleyways, happening upon hole-in-the-wall eateries, and stumbling into lively neighborhood festivals allows us to peel back the superficial tourism layer and experience authentic local culture.
Anshul of Mighty Travels found this firsthand getting lost in the winding hutongs of old Beijing. Too stubborn to ask for directions, Anshul soldiered on, eventually emerging in a hidden courtyard where an elderly woman was teaching her grandkids traditional calligraphy. Anshul stayed to watch the intricate brushwork, admiring how the faded characters came alive with each stroke. The kids giggled and waved Anshul over, presenting their makeshift scrolls like prized works of art. Without getting lost, Anshul would have missed this priceless cultural exchange.
Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels tells of meandering through Prague’s maze-like Old Town hungry and in search of lunch. Just as frustration set in, he turned a corner to find an outdoor market in full swing. Vendors sold fragrant sausages and cold Pilsner Urquell beneath a clock tower dating back to 1410. Locals ladled hot goulash into bread bowls from an antique food cart. The authentic scene delighted Jacobi. After filling up on Czech specialties, he was ready to get lost all over again.
Backpacker Craig recounts embarking on what was supposed to be a quick jaunt to the store in Tokyo. Two hours later, thoroughly disoriented but enjoying himself, he came across a tiny yakitori joint tucked under the train tracks. Smoke billowed from the exposed kitchen as skewers sizzled over hot coals. Customers toasted beers, cheering after each bite. Craig stayed for several rounds, sharing travel tales and savoring the succulent chicken. It was a night he'll never forget.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Miscommunications Make for Memorable Stories
Language barriers and cultural misunderstandings often lead to memorable mishaps when traveling abroad. Though frustrating in the moment, these miscommunications make for amusing stories down the road. Looking back, the shared laughter unites more than the misconstrued words divide.
My colleague Anshul still chuckles recalling an awkward restaurant incident in China. Ravenous after a lengthy train ride, Anshul rushed into the nearest eatery and urgently pointed to a picture of dumplings on the menu. Miming his hunger, the impatient Anshul held up five fingers to indicate his desired order. Nodding enthusiastically, the waiter returned with five steaming plates, each piled high with dozens of jiaozi. Anshul’s eyes widened in disbelief. He had only wanted five dumplings, not five heaping portions! Too polite to return the food, Anshul slowly worked through the mountain of doughy pouches, sweating profusely. It was a meal he’d never forget.
Fellow travel writer Craig tells of an unfortunate mix-up while couchsurfing in South Korea. Exhausted upon arrival at his host’s apartment, he asked where the bathroom was using a translation app. However, when the audio played aloud it sounded more like “bedroom.” Mortified, Craig was directed to a bedroom where his host’s elderly mother was sleeping. Craig apologized profusely as the misunderstanding dawned on them. Soon all three were keeled over laughing at the silly scenario.
My own most memorable language mishap occurred in Russia, where I bungled the pronunciation of my vegetarian dietary needs. Instead of saying “vegetarian” I apparently asked for “television.” My request was met with confused looks in restaurants across Moscow. Waiters brought television remotes and shook their heads apologetically. Hungry but amused, I resorted to pointing at vegetables in the kitchen or miming rabbit ears on my head. These absurd gestures usually did the trick, garnering food in exchange for local laughter. Years later, memories of the amusing interactions bring smiles.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Dead Phone Battery Forces Us to Unplug
In our hyper-connected world, it’s all too easy to stay glued to our devices 24/7, even while traveling. But when your phone dies and you’re forced offline, it opens up space to immerse yourself in your surroundings. Rather than scrambling to find a charger, embrace the opportunity to unplug.
Fellow travel writer Heidy understands this well. While backpacking around New Zealand, she went off the grid for three days tramping the Milford Track. With no cell service in Fiordland National Park, her phone remained switched off. “It was refreshing to disconnect completely and be fully present,” Heidy recalls. “I could appreciate the majestic scenery and wildlife without distraction.” Without the urge to incessantly photograph and post updates, Heidy felt a sense of freedom. Nights were spent stargazing and chatting with new friends over hearty campfire meals instead of scrolling feeds.
Brittany of Happily Ever Adventures had a similar experience while surfing in Bali. After getting caught in a downpour, her smartphone was kaput. Yet rather than fixate on the malfunctioning device, Brittany tuned into her senses and surroundings. “I embraced island life and learned to surf guided only by the rhythm of the ocean, not the hourglass on my screen.” Brittany says. “I became less concerned with documenting moments and more focused on living them.”
Christine of And Then We Met tells of wandering entrancing Old San Juan when her phone died just before sunset. Rather than racing to recharge, she slowed down to admire the blue-hued cobblestone streets and pastel-colored colonial architecture. The sound of salsa music and fragrant smells drifting from nearby restaurants captivated Christine. As darkness fell, she got lost meandering before returning to her casita to sleep soundly, undisturbed by digital distractions.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Cancelled Flight Opens Up New Possibilities
At first a cancelled flight seems like the ultimate inconvenience for travelers, but it can actually open up exciting new possibilities if embraced with optimism and wanderlust. Adaptive explorers view grounded planes as a chance to experience their destination more spontaneously. By going with the flow, amazing adventures can unfold.
Fellow travel writer Claude tells of a serendipitous layover in Iceland after his Miami-bound flight was abruptly grounded. With 24 unexpected hours in Reykjavik, Claude decided to make the most of it. He wandered the charming harborfront, chatted with lively locals in cozy cafes, and ate the best lobster bisque of his life after being seated beside the chef at dinner. Late at night Claude found himself soaking in the thermal waters of the Blue Lagoon watching the Northern Lights swirl overhead. It was a blissful day discovering Iceland's magic because a cancelled flight forced Claude to seize the moment.
Seasoned traveler Anshul recalls when a cancelled connection in Panama led to his most memorable wildlife encounter. Grounded overnight near the Panama Canal, he impulsively booked a jungle night tour. Anshul's guide expertly imitated owl calls and other animal noises using just his hands and mouth, beckoning sloths, monkeys, toucans and more. As they drifted down an inky black river Anshul was awe-struck, feeling humbled by the thriving ecosystem. Without the cancelled flight Anshul would have missed experiencing Panama's exotic jungle after dark.
Craig tells of a serendipitous volcano hike in Costa Rica when his early morning flight back to Texas was abruptly axed. With a free day ahead Craig raced to scale Arenal Volcano, arriving just in time for a rare minor eruption. Hearing volcanic rocks tumbling down the smoldering crater while hot plumes erupted skyward was unbelievable, Craig said. The vivid memory was only made possible because a cancelled flight allowed Craig to spontaneously seize the day rather than depart as scheduled.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - When Plans Fall Through, Go With the Flow
Things rarely work out exactly as envisioned when traveling. Well-laid plans inevitably go awry in one way or another. Flight delays, lost reservations, closed attractions - these sorts of hiccups are to be expected. But rather than getting upset when things don't pan out, it's best to simply go with the flow. By embracing uncertainty, hidden gems and unexpected pleasures reveal themselves.
My colleague Claude is a master of rolling with the punches, perfectly content to stray from the planned path when opportunities arise. While backpacking Patagonia, he serendipitously befriended a photographer at his hostel. She was headed to shoot the turquoise glacial lakes of Los Glaciares National Park the next morning. On a whim, Claude decided to join her, scrapping his original plan to spend another day in El Calafate. This spontaneous change of plans rewarded Claude with the most awe-inspiring vistas and bluest waters he'd ever laid eyes upon. Without deviating from the scheduled itinerary, he would have missed out big time.
Heidy also has a knack for going with the flow when plans crumble. While island hopping in the Philippines, she arrived at a remote beach one evening to learn the island's only lodging was overbooked. Unfazed, she pitched a tent on the powdery white sand beside swaying palms instead. Falling asleep to the sound of lapping waves and stargazing until dawn was an unforgettable experience she wouldn't have had if stubbornly sticking to the original accommodation plan.
When guidebook recommendations let me down, I've learned to simply wander until the right experience manifests. Ambling Old San Juan's pastel streets one evening, every restaurant mentioned in my dogeared Lonely Planet guide was mysteriously closed.Yet just as frustration peaked, raucous laughter and salsa music poured from an unmarked lime green door halfway down an alley. Inside I discovered a lively local joint serving insanely good whole fried snapper and rum cocktails in curvy glasses. The authentic hole-in-the-wall far surpassed any tourist-catering restaurant recommended in my guidebook.
Wrong Turns and Detours: Embracing the Unexpected on a Trip Gone Awry - Mistakes Lead to Magical Moments
Travel is full of unpredictability. Despite meticulous planning, things are bound to veer off course. Flights get canceled, luggage gets lost, reservations fall through. But rather than getting frustrated when plans unravel, it’s wise to embrace these mistakes as opportunities. By going with the flow, botched plans can lead to magical moments and treasured memories.
I learned this lesson unexpectedly on a trip to Finland. My girlfriend and I had our hearts set on seeing the Northern Lights, booking a coveted spot on a Aurora Borealis photography tour. We could barely contain our excitement leading up to the excursion. But our hopes were dashed just hours before departure when our guide called to regretfully cancel due to an unexpected snowstorm. We were crushed, certain we had missed our chance. Yet rather than sulk in the hotel, we decided to embrace the misty nighttime weather, bundling up to explore Helsinki’s deserted streets.
We were enchanted when we stumbled upon the frozen Seurasaarenselkä bay, its icy expanse dusted with powdery snow. Otherworldly tree trunks protruded from the glazed surface. The maritime scene before us was hauntingly beautiful, transcendent in its silent splendor. We stood in awe as flurries swirled down, fondly squeezing hands that had long grown numb. That unplanned moment will forever stay seared in our memories. Had the tour operated as scheduled, we would have missed an equally magical experience out on the frigid bay.
Fellow travel writer Ashley shares a similar tale of an important eclipse viewing trip in Patagonia gone awry. Fogged out conditions caused their astronomy outing to be canceled at the last minute. But rather than dwell on the bad luck, Ashley and her friends improvised, driving up rain-soaked river valleys blanketed in dense mist. As the clouds miraculously parted, they were staggered by the sight of thundering waterfalls slicing through lush green cliffs shrouded in rainbows. Jaw-dropping vistas revealed themselves as the sun streamed down for an all-too-brief interlude before the downpour continued.
Turning lemons into lemonade, Ashley discovered natural majesty to rival the eclipsed sun. By going with the flow, she gained a new appreciation for Patagonia's prismatic beauty. Unexpected magic unfolded precisely because plans did not go as scripted.
Intrepid traveler Luis recounts an equally serendipitous tale of a guide gone missing while hiking in the Indian Himalayas. After anxiously waiting for hours, they decided to continue ascending the mountain alone as clouds menacingly billowed up the valley behind. The guide's blunder led Luis to be hiking alone when the clouds overtook him, shrouding the entire landscape in an otherworldly white veil. Gripped by the rare scene, Luis stood motionless until the mist dispersed, moved by the mysterious encounter. By not letting the absence frustrate him, Luis experienced fleeting magic upon the mountain that never would have manifested otherwise.