Just before my senior year of high school, I took a three week trip to Spain. It started in Barcelona, and everything about the trip was planned, from breakfast to after dinner. The tour guide was competent enough, and took our large group around to see all the tourist sights.
After the first week, I and a few friends were bored to tears with the scripted, generic nature of the big bus tour. While our tour guide may have known all the official “best” places in Spain to see, he didn’t know our tastes and what we hoped to get out of the experience. How could he?
As students, we were not permitted to go off on our own, but you know me well enough by now to guess that that didn’t stop us from playing hooky. At some point on a tour about some ancient guy and his famous statue, we disappeared into the crowd and didn’t rejoin the group for three days.
That first evening on our own, I remember wandering down a narrow winding cobblestone street with my friends. We didn’t know where we were going — and we didn’t care. We were completely open to whatever experience lay ahead.
We eventually came across an older woman standing outside her house. In our broken Spanish, we asked her where a good restaurant was and she replied, “Right in here,” gesturing into her house. Puzzled, yet curious, we accepted her invitation. It turned out she had four tables in her dining room, and she and her family frequently cooked for small groups. We had an amazing time learning from her and the Swiss and Roman guests she had also enticed to eat in her little home.
From that moment on, our small group had a magical time in Spain. We meet people we would not have otherwise, and got to experience parts of Barcelona that a big bus tour guide would have never known about.
Had we trusted the guide to carry us through the three weeks in Spain, I might have left that trip feeling it was a complete waste of time and money. Yet, by not trusting our external guide to know what was “right” for us — instead relying on our inner guides and having the courage to break away from the group — we placed ourselves in the flow of the experience. That flow carried us through a remarkable time in Barcelona we could have never conceived of, let alone planned for.
The funny thing is that most of us do this all of the time on vacation; it’s quite common for us to throw caution to the wind and step in the flow of the experience. After all, you’re there to have an adventure. Unfortunately, when we get back home, we often let the busyness of our schedules, and the ‘shoulds’ and ‘need tos’ of our family and career obligations dictate where we go and what we do. We often feel stuck on the bus, the magic a faraway dream or a “someday, somehow.”
How wonderful life might be if we would experience the openness of vacations in our everyday lives. What new opportunities might we jump at, if we were open to each aspect of our lives being an adventure?
What’s one aspect of your life that you allow to control you too strictly? What is one thing you can do this week to loosen its grip on your flow?
“Trust your guides, but don’t rely on them. Rely only on yourself.” ― Les Stroud, aka Surviorman