The impromptu end of my need to plan

A student reflects on how a spontaneous trip on July 5, 2022, led her to realize the importance of unplanned experiences.


July 5, 2022

Since I was a little girl, I have always been a planner. Comprehensive lists, schedules and itineraries were essential for me to function as a child and even as a teenager. I would go to bed outlining details about the next day, and every second had to be accounted for. 

The excessive scheduling and organization brought me comfort and made it easier for me to function but left little room for spontaneous fun and unplanned adventures. I’d feel incredibly anxious if things didn’t go as I had meticulously planned them to.

However, on July 5, 2022, I realized planning everything was ultimately overrated. My friends and I — although I had nothing to do with the decision — impulsively took a day trip. It turned out to be one of the best days of my life. 

The night before our trip, one of my best friends, Susi, called me and four of our friends and asked if we wanted to go to Guatapé, Colombia, in the morning. Guatapé was a little town two and a half hours away from where we lived, so it made for a good day trip. 

As she was listing the fun activities we could do throughout the day, I was trying to come up with an excuse not to go. 

I started pointing out what could go wrong, desperately trying to find a way out of the trip. However, Susi had an answer for almost everything, and what she didn’t know, she said we could figure out on the fly, which was something I was not accustomed to. 

I was too embarrassed to explain to Susi I didn’t want to go because it was too short notice and not included in my schedule, so I reluctantly agreed and unrealistically hoped some last-minute emergency would cancel the trip. 

The next morning, I got ready for the adventure, feeling unsure and anxious about what was ahead. All of my friends showed up at my house, and while we waited for the last person to arrive, I remember wishing for the day to end already. 

Despite my initial discomfort, the trip got off to a great start with an exciting car ride. My friends and I listened to music and screamed our favorite songs at the top of our lungs. We reminisced about high school and exchanged random nostalgic stories for the entire two and a half hours. 

By the time we arrived in Guatapé, I had already (against all of my expectations) started to recover from my initial disapproval of the trip, even though a core part of me still wished to  follow my own schedule. 

Our first stop was lunch, with which we sipped iced lemonade, perfect for combatting the hot weather. As I sat in the corner of the little Colombian restaurant, I opened an app on my phone where I had a detailed list of what I was originally supposed to do that day: finishing the last few immigration steps before coming to Temple and arranging the details of my upcoming trip to the United States. 

I stared at it while my friends became background noise, and following an entirely unexpected impulse — my friends’ love for impulsivity must have been rubbing on me — I deleted the whole list, put my phone away and rejoined the conversation.

We decided to explore Guatapé to avoid falling into a food-induced coma. We wandered around without a specific destination in mind, taking pictures and exploring the little shops where local artisans had beautiful art displays. 

Unintentionally, we discovered a hidden alley with dozens of hanging colorful umbrellas creating a mesmerizing shade. For a minute I didn’t feel like I was two and a half hours away from home but in an entirely different world. Taking in the beautiful sight, I had completely forgotten what I planned for the day. 

We continued with our walk and ended up strolling down the shore of Guatapé’s reservoir. When a tour guide approached us and offered to take us on a boat ride, my friends and I only thought about it for a few seconds before saying yes. Yet another unprecedented activity for me.

In a matter of minutes, my friends and I found ourselves on board a little white boat, floating upstream without a care. One of my friends started playing reggaeton music on the speaker, and I simply sat down and relaxed. 

I remember the moment clearly: the sun was shining, the wind was messing up my hair and I was consumed with blissful happiness. I watched my friend do a silly dance in the middle of the boat, while two of my other friends engaged in a deep conversation about college and life after high school. 

If I had said no the night before, I would have missed out on a core memory with my friends, and I wouldn’t have experienced one of the happiest days of my life.

On that boat, under the summer heat, I was happy, and it was completely separate from any schedule or  planned itinerary. July 5, 2022, changed my life, and since then I’ve decided to stop planning out every moment. Now, I embrace chaos, spontaneity and unplanned adventures because I’ve learned the best memories can come from the most disorganized plans.

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