Thursday, September 25, 2014

Winging it

I'm a planner, a scheduler, a listmaker. I like to know what I'm going to be doing and when. I rarely like to just wing it.

(Which makes it all the more interesting that when I write fiction, I don't really outline, but write my first draft by rambling, wandering impulse. Curious.)

However, on my recent trip to Hawaii, we didn't have every day planned out. We knew a few things that we wanted to do, and we had certain flights to make, but other than that we were free to make up an itinerary as we went along.

And we kept having to change direction. It was too hot to do a hike we'd planned; some trails were closed; one trailhead parking lot was too full; a restaurant wanted us to wait too long for a table; we didn't know how we'd react to the altitude of Haleakala; we didn't know what we would find at the end of a certain road; we weren't sure we could find the trail we were trying to find; we didn't know if the tide would be high or low when we got to a certain beach.

We kept having to adjust on the fly, which is ordinarily something I hate, but this time it was all right. This time I even enjoyed it. I had coconut pie on impulse, at the moment when I saw one in a display case that looked good, and it was just what I wanted. We sought out a green sand beach on impulse. We had a beautiful desert walk that wasn't even on our radar the day before. We found little beaches and gardens hidden away from crowds, giving us the sense that these places might have materialized just for us.

Once when we were wandering the streets of Honolulu in search of a good place to have brunch (and despairing a little that there seemed to be so many more places to shop than to eat), I decided to sit down on a bench or a planter or something because I was tired. I was tired at the moment, so I sat at the moment. And then I looked up, and right in front of me was a whole rack of free magazines listing places to eat in Honolulu. We grabbed one, looked up a place, and found a great restaurant where we ended up eating twice.

The reason I'm a planner is that I often find the searching and flailing that goes with spontaneity to be annoying, a waste of time, an energy suck. But this whole trip was a case of accepting and living with what presented itself whenever our preconceived ideas didn't work out. It was a case of enjoying what was in front of us at the moment. We changed our flight from Oahu to Maui at the last minute because we got to the airport early and thought hey, why not try to hop on the earlier flight as stand-bys? And we caught a beautiful sunset because of it. We showed up at the Hilo airport and there was live music playing in the lobby. We ran into a park volunteer who told us how to find a certain place we'd been looking for. We wandered into a park ranger talk and ended up hearing a nose-flute solo.

Taking what comes was such a persistent theme on this trip that I began to suspect it might be a Life Lesson for me. Goodness knows I have been needing such a lesson when it comes to writing, because none of my writing plans in the past year have panned out. I have started asking myself: What happens if I work with what's in front of me, instead of what I wish I had, or what I thought I should have by now?


  1. I think this is so interesting. I'm so like this with the planning--although I think for different reasons. I think, for me, those empty times are too easy to fill with anxiety--when I was young, it was anxiety that people would see me being without a place; as I got older, it was whether everybody else I was with was frustrated that I (who knows why I thought it was my fault!) hadn't figured out what to do next. When my husband and I took a few days together after dropping our son at college, it was very much like you describe here--I knew where we were staying and when; he had his bike, and I had my laptop. And that was it. And just like your trip--it not only worked, but it was very nice and very relaxing.

    I might even try it again! :)