Planning for Serendipity

Almost every family that likes to travel has one person who does the planning. In our family, that’s me. I’ve always considered planning to be half the fun of a trip — figuring out where to go, what to eat, where to stay. As you can see from the photo, I’m now focusing on our upcFullSizeRender 61oming stops in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, reviewing brochures and checking information online. Champa and I will be leaving Philadelphia tomorrow, after spending two great days with our family, and I have a pretty good idea what we’ll be doing for the next stretch. That won’t surprise anyone who has worked with me. I’m a planner who likes schedules.

Until last night, however, the extent of my planning for Pittsburgh was to know it is west of Philadelphia, along our general route. I deliberately resisted my natural urge to spend hours on TripAdvisor or local websites coming up with a detailed plan. For there and elsewhere, I have tried to keep our trip open to serendipity, or at least to keep planning to a minimum. If we’re so busy racing to Site No. 4 in a city, I figure, we may not spot the charming church fair or local pie stand along the road, much less stop to take a look.FullSizeRender 46

When people asked me over the past several months why I would walk away from a job and colleagues I love to travel around the United States and Nepal, I spoke often of how Champa and I love to travel — which we do — and of our desire to take a break from the conventional routine. But it was more than that. After being tied to calendars and project schedules for so many years, I wanted to embrace the unknown. The phrase I found myself using was “put myself in the path of serendipity.” Mike Schoenfeld heard me say it so often that he bought me this book about the origins and unexpected usages of the word “serendipity.”

I’m not sure Pittsburgh and Cleveland have appeared often in the same sentence as “serendipity,” and the top photo shows I will retain my planning instincts no matter how serendipitous my current intentions. Still, I know there has to be a better balance between the two, and I want to find it. Louis Pasteur famously noted that chance favors the prepared mind. And, yes, Drew Carey famously noted that Cleveland rocks. So bring it on.

[An Editorial Note: The Blue Devil gnome we’ve nicknamed “G” is still traveling with us. You can follow his humorous photo adventures — GNome Expression — at davidjarmul on Instagram. We welcome your comments here about both this blog and the Instagram photos. Write us!]

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