Would you prefer to have an adventure, or read about one?

While there are a few adventures I would prefer to read about, for example, anything that triggers my selective fear of heights, having an adventure is far better.  How to get those adventures takes some thought, which I’ll demonstrate with a couple of examples.

My first trip to Europe is one type of adventure, one where you’re so completely thrown into a new environment that it’s overwhelming.  When Jeff and I landed in Paris we picked up our rental car, destined for our hotel.  We did a half-circle around the périphérique, exiting at the proper spot, landing on the streets of Paris without a clue where the street signs were located.  Using our map and counting intersections and roundabouts, we miraculously found the hotel.  After checking in we decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower, again figuring to use our obviously excellent map skills to locate.  After a few blocks, we noticed that the street signs are located on the sides of the buildings, about ten feet or so off the ground.  That discovered, we continued our journey to the tower and decided to buy a couple of bottles of water.  We ordered “deux eau”, or “two water”.  In rapid-fire French, the lady behind the counter replied with something like “gasse, non-gasse?”  At first I had no clue, but it only took a few seconds to deduce within the context of the situation that she was asking if we wanted sparkling or still water.  I replied “non-gasse”, Jeff held out some money so she could pick out what she needed, and we were on our way.  After a couple of days, I wanted nothing more than to fly back to my familiar, comfortable home.  On the third day, we were driven to Châteauroux, a city in south-central France, for a business meeting and towards the end, we were asked to help solve a computer problem involving a modem.  With the help of a translator, and probably a ton of good fortune, we were able to resolve the issue.  On the way back to Paris, my apprehension subsided and I was looking forward to the rest of the trip.  That’s good because the next day involved a meeting in Bristol, England and ended at a hotel bar in Vienna, Austria.  A longer story for another time.  Getting thrown into a totally unfamiliar environment and fighting your way through it will inevitably end in memorable adventures.

I learned a lesson about over-planning trips through what I first thought was an unfortunate event.  I was by myself in Napa Valley on a Friday day off and I had a list of wineries I wanted to visit.  But a network problem at work kept me on the phone all morning and by the time I was able to break free, more than half the day was shot.  Looking at my list, I decided I would first go to the ZD winery and taste their excellent chardonnays.  Having little time left, I needed to eliminate as much travel time as possible, so I asked the lady that poured the samples for a nearby recommendation.  I went to that unfamiliar winery, did a tasting, and asked for more recommendations.  This server pulled out a Napa map and began circling her choices.  She even called one of the wineries to see when they were going to close.  I followed one recommendation after another until the day was done then drove back to the hotel, reflecting on just how wonderful my day had unexpectedly become.  From that moment on, I don’t plan a trip, wine country or not, with a schedule that leaves no room for adventure.  Now a wine trip starts with what type of wine (e.g. merlot, champagne) we’re going to focus on, and each day starts with a scheduled, private tasting around 10:00 am in the direction we want to travel.  From there the rest just happens from tastings to lunch to dinner.  Leaving time for adventures was a lesson well-learned.

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