It’s that time of year again. The stores are slammed with shoppers and the smell of pumpkin spice is so thick in the air that it makes you want to… ug.  ( In case you were wondering, we’re totally #teampeppermint… thats a thing right?) And while everyone else is running around searching for the perfect gift, the one thing that has me more excited than anything is the prospect of a crisp and clean new year full of possibility.

2016 was an incredible year for us- so many amazing trips taken, new friends made, opportunity stacked upon opportunity. Coming off a year that awesome its hard to not wonder in excited awe at what 2017 will bring for us.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0031.JPGThanksgiving 2016 from above: NC’s Outerbanks are stunning at any angle!

The general brand of travel that most websites, Instagram accounts, and blogs will try and sell you is this insanely romantic notion that travel is a spontaneous, unexpected magical thing. Sometimes it is- rarely, but sometimes. Its usually some hybrid of a well thought out bucket list mixed with a healthy level of spontaneous curiosity and a go with the flow attitude. Or at least thats how it works for us. For most trips, we start looking ahead 6-8 months, mostly because while we would more than love to be on the road full time- right now thats just not in the cards for us- so in order to make all the stars line up, the days off add up, and carve out the time for all our adventures we have no choice but to plan…honest moment, I kinda sorta like the process of it all.

As the holidays approach we’re settled in at home ins sweet Savannah, GA- but as 2016 wraps and we roll into 2017 we’re making plans  for another amazing year….

  1. Thanksgiving On The North Carolina Outer Banks  – check that one off!
  2. The Biltmore Estate By Candlelight in Asheville, NC
  3. A Winter Urban Adventure in Pittsburgh, PA
  4. New Year’s In Key West, FL 
  5. A January Fitness Getaway In Atlanta, GA
  6. Mardi Gras In New Orleans, LA
  7. A Long Time Dream Adventure In Iceland (No Date Set Yet For This One)

Thinking about these seven trips, got my mind turning on our planning process and how in this big wide world full of variety how different and all together the same it must be from how everyone else does it. The basic breakdown in how we manage our plans is pretty simple.

It usually starts with an itch…

One of us saw a show, a picture, read an article, or talked to someone who’d been somewhere or done something and thats all it takes. 2 years ago I was cleaning out our gear closet and our snowshoes tumbled out at me, one look at those puppies, and I just knew we needed to use them- flash forward 3 months later, that year we spent New Year’s in a cabin in the North Woods of Maine, snowshoeing and ice fishing. All adventure needs sometimes is a little inspiration.

iceland-2Inspiration abounds: All it took was one postcard from one friend and we knew we had to put Iceland on the list for 2017

Curiosity can be a dangerous rabbit hole, just ask Alice…

Maybe its a weird way to phrase it, but its true. Once you’ve got an itch, what do you do? You scratch it.This is also the point in the planning process, where a road diverges in the woods between our two ways of planning. This is the point where I usually start rummaging through adventure magazines, online articles, and oh of course Pinterest ( don’t you dare judge me for my chromosomal make-up!) this step could and has taken full days of my life. Given enough coffee and a full charge on my laptop and I could research trip ideas for hours. DJ on the other hand is content to do enough research to know about what there is to see and do, close the computer up and figure out the rest of the details the day we head out the door.

The absolute worse thing in the world to me, is getting home from any trip, and then finding out that we missed something absolutely epic.

Actually, pause on that, lets not say “missed”, let’s say didn’t consider. For example, when we took our trip to Puerto Rico, we both really, REALLY, really wanted to go to the island of Culebra- that just didn’t work out based on the crazy ferry system- and while we were both bummed, in the end we were okay with that- but if we had gotten to PR and someone had told us about this magical island, and the reason we didn’t get there was because we hadn’t carved out the right kind of time in the right place to make it happen- well insert sad Katie.

Time is a valuable thing…

Once we have a destination on lock down and a rough idea of how long we want or have to be there, we bust out the calendar- time of year always comes into play of course, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Whenever we can find the time for a trip we do. Often we find our biggest challenge in trip planning is trying to find some down time in between our trips- we come up with all these really fantastic travel plans and then start filling out the calendar and then realize, shit, we can’t be gone for 2 weeks come home for 4 days and then leave again, but yeah sometimes we do.

We usually spend a lot of time with maps ( I know, so old school, and not cool)- but look here young whipper snappers, I love maps. They are helpful in ways GPS’s , and the internet can never be. We do a lot of overlaying the places we want to see, with were they fall on the map. Single city destinations are easy, because they allow us just to make a quick list and do our damnedest in the time allotted to hit all the hot spots, but road trips are much much tricker. For our trip to Puerto Rico we spent nearly every evening for a week making sure that our timing and the locations of our destinations made sense with the routes we planned to take- even then I kinda messed up. No biggie.

Embrace the unknown…

9                                        An unplanned stop and snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park led us to an impromptu underwater meeting with this little guy.

Like all good plans, there is inevitably a moment where everything falls to shit and or that beautiful moment when you’re just driving down the road minding your own business and BAM! – something amazing pops up right in front of you and you just have to go explore. In both of these instances what can you but just say ok. We have always believed firmly in the motto, “It’s not an adventure until everything goes wrong”, there is some honest to god truth in that. Full circle, I think the best advice I can give all our fellow travelers in this blog post and or in any for that matter is…

Whatever you plan, don’t plan the fun out of a trip…  

Over planning is a bitch, and it’ll ruin your good time, I promise. Very few memories were ever made by sticking to a strict schedule… Example A: ” Hey do you remember that awesome time everything went perfect, and we did exactly what we planned, without any deviation at all”… sorry boys and girls, that does not make for a good bar story and life should be about collecting good bar stories.

paris2Paris 2009: The unplanned can be just as rewarding as the planned, sometimes even more.

So there it is. Sometimes  trip planning is super simple, and sometimes its not. Sometimes things go right and sometimes they don’t. From travel we gain so many things, most importantly, its the skill to adapt and find joy no matter what our circumstances are. To be grateful for the simple and beautiful gift of existing in the moment, as it is, not as we wish it would be.

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