"I wish I were less spontaneous," said no one ever.
There's incredible allure in taking off on a whim; zagging when you would normally zig; dashing weekslong planning and just doing it. Whatever that it, is.
Throwing a few necessities in a bag, hopping in the car or on a plane, and getting lost—but not lost—among unfamiliar streets can be quite liberating. And it's a great way to test your boundaries and live more in the moment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions."
Spontaneity, especially if you rarely engage in it, is one of those new ideas that can expand your life exponentially. But in today's climate that seems to be defined entirely by uncertainty, is there mental space for more of it? Is there actual sense in pursuing it?
With caution not thrown to the wind, yes.
Let's start with air travel, which continues to welcome spontaneity thanks to safety protocols put in place by airports and airlines. At West Michigan's Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), Lisa Carr, C.M., P.E.M., Public Safety and Operations Director, is heading up the effort "Fly Safe. Fly Ford."
Travelers will find peace of mind in the many additions, including touchless hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal building, updated signage notifying passengers of the requirement to wear a facial covering while in the building, and safety and social distancing reminders near ticket counters and boarding areas. For those who forget a facial covering, five-packs—provided by FEMA—are available free at every entrance of the airport.
"Even at the security checkpoint, which can be a stressor for some people, extra precautions are in place to not only increase comfort levels but provide additional safety for the traveler," said Carr. "TSA has been exceptional through the entire COVID-19 period, adding plexiglass dividers, wearing gloves and masks with face shields, and raising the 3.4-ounce limit on hand sanitizer containers to 12 ounces."
What else is appealing about a spur-of-the-moment flight out of GRR is all the possible places you could go to. "With 22 non-stop destinations, with many connecting you to international gateways throughout the country, there's almost no limit to your travel opportunities," said Carr. "Phoenix is a popular getaway city, Austin and Minneapolis-St. Paul are great for shopping, and D.C. is a good choice because you can do so much outside."
With the rules constantly changing, Carr recommends using grr.org as a resource for the most up-to-date flight information and checking your landing city's site to ensure there are no restrictions that could put a damper on your trip. "We have the 'Fly Safe. Fly Ford.' campaign, but you should also fly smart," she said. "And, also, remember to be patient. We're all in the together."
Some think of impromptu travel as following all the last-minute flight apps for hot deals. But a road trip is another way to test your newfound taste for adventure. And much of the same advice still applies—even if you stay relatively close to home. You don't want to arrive at your terminus to find your vacation terminated. Research beforehand, so you're prepared to navigate the regulations and potential limitations of the area you're visiting.
Are you wondering "Where to?"
Popular destinations for road tripping—whether by car, motorcycle, RV or bike—are our National Parks. There are 62 official ones in the United States and they're all currently open. They're not only renowned for their spectacular beauty, they're also perfect for keeping distanced from others. And because many of them offer camping, they get extra points for providing accommodations that could be safer than a crowded hotel or resort.
Whatever you decide, keep in mind that spontaneity can be thrilling without being reckless. So go forth with abandon.
But don't abandon caution.
Visit grr.org/flysafe to learn more about "Fly Safe. Fly Ford."
Allison Kay Bannister, a West Michigan resident since 1987, professional writer since 2002 and GVSU alumna, recently launched her own freelance writing business. Allison enjoys travel, art, dance, food and exploring world cultures—and, of course, writing about all these and more.
This article originally appeared in the Oct/Nov 2020 issue of West Michigan Woman.