I do not remember the last time I truly planned a vacation down to every single detail. Last minute vacations are my claim to fame. While planning does give you a chance to know what is possible and what is not, there are many last minute deals I have received that have eased the financial burden for me immensely. The joy of knowing there are many surprises waiting for you around every corner has made last minute travel my preferred method of getting away.
Discovering My Tribe in Asheville
When I left to go to Asheville, I had not intended it to be one of my last minute vacation destinations. I was completely stressed by my life and my job and I needed a stress-free getaway. I didn't need a vacation or a hotel deal - I literally pointed at a place on a map and decided to go there. I had heard tons of stories about the Biltmore Winery and the arts culture, so it seemed ideal for me.
I arrived, checked into a bed and breakfast and started exploring the city. I found a coffee shop that served a killer hot chocolate and breakfast sandwiches. When I sat down, I noticed a group of people who kept sneaking glances at me across the room. They seemed interested in the fact that I was writing in a notebook, and soon, one of them approached me.
He wanted to know if I was a writer, and when I told him I was, his excitement level got even higher. The group at the table where he'd been sitting were organizers for a local poetry event, and they were looking for judges. I was not sure I wanted to do this since this was a vacation, but I would later see this as one of the last minute deals that I received while traveling.
At the Poetry Event
I was accustomed to meeting unexpected people during cheap last minute vacations. I kept thinking the heavens where shining on me to have connected me with a band of poets. We went to a huge warehouse where a crowd was already waiting. Some of these people would be competing for a grand prize, and others were there to cheer the competitors to win.
No other last minute vacation had ever put me right in the heart of the thing I love to do all the time. I was grateful. I sat at the table of five judges and listened as they rattled off instructions for scoring spoken word performances. It was nothing unusual, but the entire even would come down to two people competing for the champion title.
Because I know that no one knew me here, I was free to be completely out of character. I laughed out loud at a few contestants, not caring if they saw this as mimicking. I grunted and said things out loud during fantastic performances. I made unusual faces when something was really rotten. I do not think the people who found me during this last minute travel knew what they were really asking me to do in the beginning.
I noticed one performer who was off to the side by herself. She was one of the two poets who had made it to the final round. While the other poet was busy talking to her friends, Gladys was totally focused on readying herself for the final round. I saw her not only saying her poems to herself but she was also doing extensive body stretches.
In the middle of her intense warm-up session, I went over to speak with her. I wondered for a moment if it would break any rules, but this was, after all, the mother of all last minute vacations, so I took a chance. I wanted to know what she was thinking and why she chose to do this ritual.
She then gave me a lesson that has stayed with me from that moment. She was not warming up to get ready to compete, she told me. She was doing it to release any residue she had carried with her through the week from her job, the stress of being a single mother and any other life pressures. In short, it was the way she chose to leave things behind.
The Rest of the Trip
I had many other moments of joy during that trip. I used my laptop to find any last minute deals I could find to keep my trip affordable and to keep doing things that I might not have done on a normal itinerary. I purchased sunglasses, got a prime seat at a live jazz bar and found a full-body massage deal that was almost free.
On the road home, I kept trying to find ways to do what Gladys had done when I was back in my real life. I knew I would have to find ways to leave work at work. I needed to not care about other people's drama around me. This was a call to find ways to release stress and move through my life with purpose and honor priorities.
When I got to a rest area and decided to refuel and stretch my legs, I noticed a small vendor stand on the side of the road. I think it was the handwritten signs that made me go over and see what they had for sale. There was the usual fruit, hats, and T-shirts, but what really kept me focused was the woman who was running the vendor stand.
She was a palm reader and offered to read my hands for free. I had seen this plenty of times throughout my favorite destinations so I was not willing to believe a word she said to me. She looked at me and asked me what I was running away from, and I immediately shut down. It was a question I would be pondering for the remainder of my trip home.
The question itself was not special. I knew I had come on the road to get away from the stresses of my everyday life. The thing that got to me was that she seemed to be asking a larger question that had a deeper, more spiritual connotation. Indeed, it was the moment I discovered I was running from myself.