This blog entry was originally posted on June 14, 2007.

In the Nov/Dec 2006 edition of National Geographic Traveler‘s “Real Travel” column entitled, “Surprise Gifts,” contributing editor Daisann McLane writes about a realization that many seasoned travelers have come to know:  that some of the best travel experiences happen when something doesn’t go according to plan, ultimately leading you to sometimes happy, but definitely memorable situations.  She writes:

“Travel happiness is that instant in time when everything you didn’t plan seems to fall together in a perfect moment: people, atmosphere, history, scenery — and strong coffee…  Because a stopover is usually a last-minute decision, something done on a whim, or perhaps even forced on you by delays or carrier schedules, the odds are strong that it will end up being on of these unexpected traveler’s highs.”

For example, in my own travels, I hadn’t planned on getting mugged at knifepoint in Cape Town (boy, I didn’t see that coming!), but that unexpected moment led me to missed flights, which led me to an unexpected overland detour through Zambia, where I made ex-pat friends who led me to more friends in Tanzania — one of which took me to dinner and recognized me as her neighbor from our old hood in Jersey City, NJ.  On a post-college trip backpacking trip around Europe, an unexpected stop through Basel, Switzerland led me to a great time at world class zoo and a cute little market with delicious sausages.  In Mali, on an extended layover in Mopti en route to Timbuktu, I bumped into a British woman who eventually rang my doorbell in New York the week I returned — only to invite me to a fancy house party at the British deputy consul general’s flat in NYC.  Surprise gifts, as McLane puts it.

But I digress.  The point is, overplanning a trip too tightly is not necessarily a good thing; you set up expectations of yourself that may not necessarily be met — and anything can happen on the road to alter it:  the people you meet, the people you don’t meet, the things that you do, the things that happen to you.  Perhaps travel can be a microcosm of Life itself; people make plans and set expectations of themselves — what they’ll be when they grow up, what type of person they’ll marry (if they do at all), where they’ll live, etc.  But as we all know, reality is never so cookie-cut — as the saying goes, “Life is what happens in between the things that you planned on.”  I don’t know where or when I first heard that, but it’s been one of the mottoes I’ve forever kept in my psyche — that, together with the immortal words of Indiana Jones, “I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go.”  I’ve learned it’s best not to overplan your life; there should be room for the inevitable and unexpected twists — it’s natural to evolve and adapt to new environments, experiences and people.

IF YOU’VE READ IN BETWEEN the lines of the “Twisted” blog, you may or may not have figured out that I currently have a Blogreader/girlfriend named Steph, who is worth bringing up again now since I’ll be with her on the surprise trip I mentioned in a comment at the end of the last blog entry: a relaxing and romantic jaunt through Europe for two and a half weeks.  Relaxation and romance in Europe, yes — another departure from my usual gung-ho style of independent travel, this one on the exact opposite side of the spectrum of tornado chasing, with its long, 13-hour days of sitting in a van.  The thought of me with someone may come as a surprise to some people as I’ve been known in some circles to be the eternal and sometimes preachy poster boy of singlehood, but all I can say is hey, Life is what happens in between the things that you planned on — or in my case, in between travel blogs.

I met Steph at the youthful, high-school-esque interactive ad agency I work at in New York City, where, as I’ve stated before, we drink beer and forward YouTube links to each other all day.  With many friends in common, Stephanie and I had known about each other for months but didn’t really hit it off until we were put on the same project together for an undisclosed electronics corporation.  It was a gradual affair: working closely together on the project led to after work drinks, which led to doing duets at company karaoke parties, which ultimately led to being on nighttime conference calls with our client in Korea, pushing the mute button so we could make out without them hearing.  Eventually one thing led to another and we saw each other more and more, and before I knew it, we had gone all the way… and by that, I mean we actually met Gary Coleman.  (It was Steph who had taken the picture of me and Gary [and my friend Moe] before).

Of course, we have our things in common outside of work; travel and adventure are no strangers to Stephanie.  “You’re the only person in my age range that has been almost everywhere I’ve been,” she once told me early on when she realized what I did outside the office.  With extensive travels through Asia, a study abroad in India, numerous trips to Europe — even living in Paris for nine months — and multiple safaris in Africa, Steph is definitely a match to my global tripping self.  Moreover, her hobbies and experiences over the years have made her even more endearing to me — this cycling, bowling, rock climbing, scuba diving, road tripping, Guitar Hero-playing, motorbike riding, breakfast cereal eating, karaoke singing, kickball playing, VH-1 reality show watching, roller coaster riding, story editing, salmon sushi loving, competitive skiing girl from Michigan is definitely the “surprise gift” of the year to me.

“If there was ever any girl I could see you with, it’s her,” my longtime friend Cheryl once told me.

Despite all the participial adjectives I used to describe her, Steph also retains her feminine side; she is not without her girlish idiosyncrasies:  obsessions with Chinese dumplings, puppies, and of course, the most womanly of obsessions, shoes.  To top it all off, she’s extremely bright, pretty, funny, witty, sarcastic, spontaneous and spunky (picture above) — it’s no wonder her personality has been compared to Natalie Portman in the movie Garden State.

IT WAS NOT THE GARDEN STATE of New Jersey but the Lake State of Michigan where I last saw Steph; after storm chasing for a week and a long weekend in Chicago, the last few unblogged days of my tour of the American midwest were spent in her home state where I visited longtime Blogreader and friend Michelle [in Michigan], went on a road trip to Kalamazoo (since I’ve already been to Timbuktu), and most significantly, accompanied Steph on a visit to her family so that I could meet them.  I was happy to have fit in with her circles, but mostly I was impressed to be welcomed by the toughest critic of them all: her dog Elwood, a discerning Portuguese water dog that won’t even warm up to some friends and family who have been in Steph’s life for years.

Michigan was fun — except for the times Elwood accidentally pounced on my balls in bed — but soon I was dropped off at Detroit County Airport for my flight back to New York.  Steph and I sat on the floor outside the security gate, kissing and hugging our goodbyes — or rather, our see-you-laters.

“A couple of jetsetters like us?  We’re bound to bump into each other at some point,” I said with a smirk, knowing quite well I’d bump into her.

I flew back to New York to take care of some business, while she flew off to Tuscany for a week-long vacation with her family.  Our planned “bump in” would happen ten days later in northern Italy, where we’ll start our European holiday through parts of Italy and Croatia, and onto other destinations neither of us have been.  (Maybe then we’ll get a more authentic photo of us at an Italian fountain rather than the faux one we saw at Caesar’s in Atlantic City, NJ.)  The second half of the trip is not yet set in stone, but the names “Bosnia,” “Interlochen,” and “Stonehenge” have come up, along with the verb — and possible future participial adjective — “sky diving.”  We’ll also split up at some point and visit friends.  I really anticipate having a fun time with Steph — the latest character in “The Trinidad Show” — unless we end up wanting to kill each other after; as many have seen on the reality show The Amazing Race, travel can really gauge the inner workings of a relationship.

As for blogging the trip, I haven’t decided what to do yet.  I didn’t intend to do a daily blog for the tornado chasing trip, but I did anyway to kill time — a “surprise gift” to my regular readers if you will.  This time around I may or may not write a blog of the trip, but if I decide to do it, it won’t be a daily one, but rather one split up in logical parts — in fact, that’s what I’m leaning towards.  As you may or may not know, I’ve usually spent a good 3-4 hours a day to maintain my daily travel blog on the road, but in this scenario it’s a little different:  if I have the choice to spend hours blogging in front of a computer or spend some intimate quality time with my girlfriend (wink wink), I’m most likely going to choose the latter — now that’s not so surprising, is it?

In any case, stay tuned… THE TRIP BEGINS JUNE 18.

Next entry: When Harry Met Erik…

Previous entry: The Calm After The Storm

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Surprises”

  • Since I’m most likely going to write this next travel blog in parts instead of daily, try RSSing me, so you know when I update.  Post a comment if you’re getting RSS bugs; we’re still working out the kinks.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/15  at  03:28 PM

  • Thanks for the storm entries and good luck and have a great next trip!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/15  at  05:31 PM

  • Have an excellent trip, man.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  02:06 PM

  • If RSS feeds aren’t working correctly for you, please email me directly with the subject heading “fix the F’ing RSS feed for TGT”...

    If using Live Bookmarks on Firefox, you must be on version 2.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  04:40 PM

  • I think I speak for all BHs when I say “Awwwwwwww…”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/17  at  05:01 PM

  • Wink wink nudge nudge, have a good one and don’t forget my chap stick! dang.

    Posted by bil  on  06/17  at  07:23 PM

  • I am so happy to hear the news…however I can’t believe you didn’t mention anything last Friday over lunch!
    I was embarrased to ask about you too but I have to tell you I agree with your friend Cheryl: Perfect for each other!

    Posted by Monica Wallin  on  06/17  at  09:40 PM

  • Thanks everyone… currently I am still in NYC in the diplomat’s lounge at the UN getting wasted with my friend Terence (3pm Monday).  I’m off on the red eye to London tonight before heading to Italy soon after…

    MARKYT:  Thanks for the QA.  TGBTGBTB is on the wiki now…

    MONICA:  Spread the word that I’m out of the office—I can’t seem to log into macmail and put up an autoresponder of my hiatus because I think my password expired.

    EVERYONE ELSE:  Thanks!  I’m off… stay tuned!

    p.s. i’m pretty fundamental right now…

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/17  at  10:05 PM

  • well, I’m glad to here you are so happy! And besides, I really didn’t believe you when you were spouting all that singlehood stuff anyway.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/18  at  05:52 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM VENICE…  One more day here, and then Ill write up a Part One entry…

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/19  at  12:22 PM

  • BTW, Im totally at an internet cafe right now, on the student rate with my old student ISIC ID card…  Yay, young-looking Asian genes!

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/19  at  12:25 PM

  • Erik…
    Glad to hear you’re back out there.  Am working my way through Twisted, and as always, am enjoying it immensely.  Just not getting a lot of work done in the meantime…
    Have a great trip!

    Posted by Dave  on  06/20  at  05:35 AM

  • You’re back! Just bought a new laptop and did a search on google so I could add a bookmark to your (old) site in case you finally did a new trip. And there I see you’ve done a U.S. trip and onto a Eurpoean trip! where was teh link from your old blog?? Looking forward to more entries!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/21  at  07:37 AM

  • GREETINGS from the Isle of Capri!  So far I’ve gotten quite used to actually being on a vacation for a change, a trip without constant notetaking and four hours of drafts and edits each day.  I’m severely behind—but dont fret; I’m still taking notes to recreate and report the experience for when there’s a real lull in time (which there hasn’t been), or when I just get home.  My apologies to all the regular daily vicarious travelers out there!

    LINDA: Thanks again for the resort out here… it’s lovely!

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/21  at  01:04 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM POSITANO, ITALY (or as we jokingly call it, Punxsutawney, PA)!  Sorry I haven’t posted anything just yet.  As I’ve said before, the Western World is actually a harder place to get online since most people have internet at home or at work, and there aren’t internet cafes on every street corner.  So far, I haven’t had any good quality internet or even wifi opportunities, as I travel off the backpacker trail and onto the honeymooners one.  Also, I’m actually quite enjoying this trip, not blogging constantly—for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on an actual VACATION.  (Travel blogging—at least the way I do it—is a lot of work, you know.)  Don’t worry… I have a four hour ferry ride to Croatia tomorrow and will have some time to catch up on Blog duties en route… hopefully, at least Part One will be up for the Monday Rush (if there still even is one).  Ciao!

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/24  at  06:21 AM

  • I’m going to start the “Single Erik” campaign to free you from the shackles of romance.  How dare you put your personal happiness before our reading pleasures!

    Haha, just kidding dude.  Hope your having a great time.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/25  at  06:44 PM

  • AWESOME that you’re spending time w/o feeling the ‘obligation’ to the blog… good on ya!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/26  at  01:49 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM CROATIA!  As this rate, I’ll be home before the first entry is up… We missed the only day ferry from where we were in Italy to Croatia across the Adriatic; it was a whole day of detours to finally get here on the overnight ferry, so I haven’t had much time for blog duties…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/26  at  04:26 AM

  • this is your worst blog ever…
    j/k.  enjoy your vacation

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/26  at  04:26 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM ZURICH!  Yes, call me a slacker, but I’ll be in full force blogging mode when I have the time… I actually have Part One on deck—I just have to type it up.  Stay tuned!

    IAIN:  On the edge of your seat, eh?

    NOELLE:  Thanks… you know firsthand how much of an obligation it is for me; the “shackles” that Iain speaks of are actually from the blog and it’s refreshing to be free from them for a bit.

    OL DIRTY BASTOS:  I live and breathe my friend; I live and breathe…

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  06/27  at  01:47 AM

  • Not only am i on the edge of my seat but i’ve fallen off on several occasions to!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/27  at  01:43 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM SWINGIN’ LONDON where I split from Steph and spent the last couple of days with Zoe…  The trip is almost to an end, and I’ll in NYC soon—then maybe I’ll have time to write about all this.  (I’ve taken two days off from work to do so.)

    Stay tuned…

    Posted by Erik TGT  on  07/01  at  11:20 AM

  • just read the tornado blog.  nice to again have something to read during work !  well done

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This blog post is one of twelve travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Two in The Boot and Beyond," which chronicled a romantic getaway through Italy, plus jaunts to Croatia, Switzerland, and London.

Next entry:
When Harry Met Erik…

Previous entry:
The Calm After The Storm


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
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