At this writing, I am preparing the final “check list” for an overseas trip. We leave in just a few days and, by the time this edition of The Centurian is online and printed, we will have returned.
Now, we all journey in different modes – from group to independent travel, and from those who tend to plan and plot each day’s itinerary, to others who awake each day without any agenda.
When I was young, traveling through Europe with my friends, staying in youth hostels and pinching every penny, peseta and pence, I tended to let each day unfold with only a general idea of the sightseeing plan. After all, we had all summer and several days in each major city.
Now, when business, family and community commitments often limit that time away, I want to ensure that I have at least planned well enough to enjoy the things I came to see and experience. Still… even for a planner like me … there’s a lot to be said for the wonderful joy of Serendipity, described as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.”
Haven’t we all been blessed by checking out a location which was not on our original agenda, turning down one path instead of the other, following an unexpected suggestion by a local resident or even finding that our misfortune often turned to gold?
Once, my plan to fly from Rome to Paris was suddenly altered by an air traffic controllers’ strike; we were told to “come back and try tomorrow.” But how was I to know that I would not confront the same obstacle the next day? “No problem, signor, the next strike is not scheduled for four days!”
As a result, we had an extra day in Rome and were able to see the Pantheon and other sites which had been closed on previous visits.
But the experience of Serendipity I recall most dramatically was on Maui’s famous Hana Highway. Somehow, the coffee, greasy chips and burrito had not blended well (what was I thinking?) and, while not yet sick to my stomach, I felt very queasy as we faced the long, drive back in the dark. The many curves and switchbacks did not make for anything approaching a pleasant drive until … I realized that the only way to avoid car sickness was to drive at half the already cautious speed and with all the windows down.
Usually, the drive to Hana is fascinatingly slow while the return trip is quicker as one retraces the same route. This time, we seemed to have the road to ourselves. Driving back at about 15 miles per hour on this narrow road, slicked by an afternoon rain shower, I experienced one of the most memorable drives I have ever had.
We could hear the tires sloshing through the wet pavement, the birds in the forest, the cascading water falls nourished by the storm and could smell the fragrance of the tropical flowers in the humid evening air.
In such a moment, I actually forgot my discomfort and was absorbed in the remoteness and tranquility few drivers experience on the often hectic Hana Highway!
So, as I review the guidebooks for the trip ahead of me, I can put some of the pages aside, knowing that similar moments of Serendipity surely await me … I don’t know what they will be but I’m anticipating them already!