Sometimes unexpected changes to plans can be the source of lasting memories.
A few weekends ago, Tee and I traveled out to New Mexico to visit my brother’s family. My parents were also gonna be out that way, so we figured it would be a good chance to get the whole family together in one place, a feat that is incredibly rare these days. So months before the trip, Tee and I made plans, booked flights, and got excited.
About a month before the trip, the airline we had booked with changed our flight in to New Mexico. Instead of a short layover in Denver and an arrival time of mid afternoon on Friday, we instead had a 6 HOUR layover in Denver and wouldn’t be arriving until late that night, effectively killing an entire day’s worth of time I could spend with my family. I decided to cancel the flight and find something new, which ultimately resulted in us having to pay almost double for tickets. During that struggle, I had an idea: What if we JUST flew to Denver, rented a small car and drove the 6 hours down to Albuquerque? I found a super cheap flight to Denver on Thursday night and an equally cheap hotel in the area. It felt like a crazy idea and a somewhat illogical work around. Why not just pony up the larger ticket price and fly in? Why add a six hour drive to an already long day of travel (we have to fly out of Orlando since the Gainesville airport is literally the most expensive airport in the state).
I can tell you right now, it was the best choice ever.
First off, Tee and I both absolutely love travelling. We do a ton of it, mostly just to nearby cities for day trips or to visit friends who don’t live in town. However, any chance we get for new and exciting road trips is something we jump on faster than a lion on a wounded gazelle. For our honeymoon, instead of flying out somewhere, we did a massive road trip where we went to Philadelphia, Boston and the Outer Banks (an idea that originated from us not being able to decide where to go). It’s not necessarily that we’re road junkies and obsessed with the rush of the wind over our top-down, cherry-red Chevy Impala (we don’t have one of those). We love travelling and riving to places because of the opportunity to see and experience new things. The ability to see something that looks interesting and say “hey, let’s stop here.” Meeting people, experiencing sights, taking pictures, etc. Touristy in its own way, but without plan and itinerary. Just the freedom of experience.
So here we are, in the middle of what is often considered one of life’s most stressful moments: sudden changes in flight plans. So, I cancel the original flight, find a cheaper flight just out to Denver and we settle on that plan. We arrive in Denver super late, go get a rental car, drive to our hotel, and sleep for about six hours. In the morning, we hop up, leave the hotel, grab as many caffeinated beverages as we can, and hit the road.
I have spent most of my life in the Southeast U-S-of-A. Much of my life has been lived in areas that are flat. Hills? Sure. Mountains? Not so much. I have gone up to the Smokey Mountains a fair share (LOVE Gatlinburg), but those bad boys just don’t even compare to the mountains out west. Driving south from Denver, Tee and would stop occasionally and just marvel at how different everything looked. Giant, stony behemoths loomed in the distance every single mile of the journey. It was certainly a far cry from the flat, subtropic environment we were used to.
En route to Albuquerque, we stopped and watched some training flights at the Air Force Academy, fueled up at a dusty and VERY old gas station smack dab in a deserty area, popped in Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, and got green chilis at a Sonic for lunch. Most of the trip was spent just enjoying each other’s company and watching the mountains slide by. We saw snow-capped peaks, massive stretches of farmland, giant boulders and plateaus, windmills (which I thought was so freaking cool) and lots and lots of deserty plains. Sidenote: I finally get what people mean by “it’s a DRY heat.”
If my plans had stayed the way they were, these memories never would have happened. Tee and I would have woke up early on Friday, drove to Orlando, and flown out the Albuquerque and that’s that. Done. No drive, no Meow Wolf (HOLY CRAP GO TO MEOW WOLF IT’S AMAZING). No dusty roads and green chili Sonic. No mountains careening on the horizon. Just morning in Florida, afternoon in Albuquerque. Done.
What this showed me is something I kind of always knew but is good to be reminded of: always look at sudden change as a chance for opportunity. I don’t remember who taught me this, to be honest, but the advice has stuck with me for years. Too often, we’ll have our plans get absolutely shaken and we panic. We stress out and lament the loss of our original plans. Flight delays, cancellation of plans, changes in schedule, loss of reservations, etc. are all definitely ANNOYING but can all be the chance to evolve the original plan into something different and potentially better. Time spent panicking in these situations is time that could be used starting over and finding something new to be excited in. If you ever find yourself in a situation where your plans are drastically shaken up, just stop and breath. Find a solution, regardless of how drastically different it may be from the original. Focus on YOUR joy and YOUR fulfillment from the new plan. Find the opportunity in the change.