Life List: Last-Minute Trip

spontaneous travel

Well, we did it.

We took a totally spontaneous, last-minute trip, something I’ve had on my Life List for a long time.

We recently had a three-day weekend and no plans. Four days in advance, we talked about the possibility of going somewhere we’d never been before. Three days in advance, we looked up flights to Minsk, Belarus, and Chișinău, Moldova. Travel distance and cost to both destinations was similar, but flight times to Chișinău were better. So off we went to Moldova!

A couple years ago, a friend showed up at the airport with a bag and hopped on the next available flight. Why does the magic of the unknown entice people? What itch do we want to scratch by taking a spontaneous trip? Is this the last frontier of bushwhacking into the unknown like an explorer in the days before maps had boundaries?

For some people like my friend, three days is hardly last minute. Though we have a lot of freedom, we don’t have complete freedom: We still needed to arrange for a pet sitter. We had to be home by a certain time on a certain day. Our national airport has a lot of flights, but it’s not that generous. Given our circumstances, our three-day weekend in Chișinău definitely met my goal of taking a totally spontaneous, last-minute trip.

We had a wonderful time over our long weekend relaxing and exploring Moldova’s capital city at an unhurried pace. But I also learned a few things about spontaneous travel as well:

  • There’s a reason why people book ahead. Popular sites — especially those needing guided tours — will almost certainly be filled up if you wait until the last minute. Moldova is known for its wine culture, something I hope to blog about soon. And people who travel there for the wine hit up the two wineries for which the country is best known. This is not an option if you don’t make plans in advance.
  • Without those popular sites to fall back on, you discover other places you wouldn’t have sought out otherwise. Because these two wineries had no available tours, we hired a private driver to take us 40 minutes outside the city to a quiet, privately owned winery instead. We saw the countryside, had a chance to chat with a few locals, and experienced Moldova’s wine culture in a memorable and different way.
  • On-the-spot research is a must. Where to eat? What to do? Once we arrived in Chișinău, we did a little bit of research to make sure we made the most of our time in the city.
  • Ask for help. Though I’ve asked hotel staff for recommendations before, I’ve never asked for help. But when we decided we wanted to go to a winery, we asked for help and staff helped us arrange all the details.
  • Be flexible. Want to walk into the national library because the outside intrigues you? Do it. Want to spend the morning sitting by the lake watching the kayakers? Do it. Of course, flexibility is important when traveling regardless of circumstance, but we spent most of our trip acting in the moment — and that often meant not doing anything at all.
  • Simply enjoy. You know what? You weren’t supposed to be in this place at this time, and now you are. So just appreciate and enjoy this moment for what it is.

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