Story: Vacation without a destination

Warning: The following may be habit forming and alter your normal vacation techniques. This is not for the inhibited or conventional vacationer. Extreme facial distortion due to excessive smiling and laughing is one of many symptoms you may experience.

For many, planning the perfect vacation may start weeks or even months in advance. Getting the family approval, making reservations, researching the surrounding areas for additional activities to crowd your days, mapping out the routes, and making changes to everything up to the last minute. It is what makes up the perfect trip, right?

By the time you are half way through your vacation, you can’t wait to get home so you can rest and allow the adrenalin to subside. If that’s not enough, often the vacation doesn’t meet our expectations and we start planning for the next one so it will be better.

Allow me to offer an alternative… vacation without a plan or expectations! As crazy as that may sound, you will find new and exciting things around every corner; things you never knew were out there or even existed.

The best part, you don’t have to travel half way across the country to do this. For example, if you go about 30-miles North of Grants Pass, OR, there is a town called Wolf Creek. There’s a couple of gas stations, a general store, and a couple of other shops. Nothing to write home about, right?

Wolf Creek Inn in Southern Oregon - David Crockett Photography
Wolf Creek Inn in Southern Oregon – David Crockett Photography

Wrong! Across the street from the general store is the Wolf Creek Inn and Tavern which is a historic Bed and Breakfast with a restaurant. The rooms are made up of period furniture and the proprietors are extremely friendly and willing to take you on a tour. Still need more to convince you? The food is fantastic and at a very good price.

Oh wait, there’s also a wooden covered bridge tucked back in the trees just off of the main road…. The point is, most people would look at this place as nothing more than a place to get their gas and move on to their, “Big Vacation Spot.”

Perhaps your plan was to go to Disney and ride the water log ride that lasts about one minute or so… Instead, you could take a rafting trip that lasts a half day up to multiple days. Maybe you were going to ride that little train through the park… or you could ride the Skunk train from Willits, CA to Ft. Bragg, CA, do some sight seeing, then take the train back to Willits. These old steam trains are available in various locations throughout the U.S.

As an adult, riding the Merry-Go-Round isn’t that much fun. However, a trail ride on real horses will be something the whole family will remember and enjoy.

What ever you can find to do on a small, expensive scale, you can find to do on a larger, inexpensive scale. The best part is by keeping an open mind; you will come upon these various experiences by accident and just stop… not because you planned it but because it looks fun and you just want to do it.

Therefore, here’s my suggestion: pick a small, out of the way town and explore it. Eat in the local restaurant, talk to some of the locals. Remember though, often they will not know what is exciting for us “outsiders” to see and do. To them, it’s just part of their area.

Alternatively, pick a route and stop often in all of the towns you pass through. Maybe you could select a direction and use a compass to guide you. The point is, the less you plan, the more you will find. Large cities can be a lot of fun as well. Select a district and explore it.

Antelope Bridge - Eagle Point, OR
Antelope Bridge in Eagle Point, Oregon is a wooden bridge built in 1922.

What’s the benefit of this kind of vacationing? First, you tend to slow down and actually enjoy yourself. You get to see and do things you wouldn’t otherwise do. And, you meet people and experience different cultures that create long lasting memories.

Furthermore, it tends to be a lot less expensive so you can afford to do more things. If you happen to go somewhere that you require an overnight stay… so what… it is a lot cheaper than staying at a hotel in Orlando or L.A. for two weeks along with the 100’s of dollars for entrance fees into the available parks.

The bottom line: don’t stress over creating the perfect vacation. Nine times out of ten (not an official study) it will not be as memorable as you originally planned. Instead, arm yourself with a lack of plans and just do and see the things that come your way. Stop often, eat often, talk often, and do what ever strikes your fancy, often.