Liz Fleming, Editor-In-Chief, Cruise & Travel Lifestyles MagazineLiz Fleming, Editor-in-Chief, Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Magazine

A well-planned itinerary is a joy to behold. On Monday at noon, we’ll tour this and on Tuesday evening, we have tickets for that, and on Wednesday….

Yes, there’s much to be said for thinking and planning ahead.

But I’m here to celebrate all those who love a surprise…to those who crave a bit of spontaneity. For me, it’s the life’s blood of authentic travel.

In fact, I fell into this fabulous business as a result of a spontaneous opportunity. Having helped a publisher to whip together a very last-minute, skin-of-the-teeth publication for a brand new travel client, I was suddenly offered the chance to go on my first press trip – to Hong Kong and Singapore.

At the time, I’d never traveled alone, had no passport and didn’t even own a suitcase with wheels. I was entirely unprepared…it was a ridiculous offer.

For one nanosecond, I considered.

“Why not?” I said and I’ve been saying the same thing now for years.

Every time I travel, opportunities arise to try something unexpected – like eating fresh seal meat on the ice with an Inuit hunter, or learning to sail a racing yacht in St. Martin, or taking the reins of a dogsled team in northern Quebec. Even carefully choreographed cruise itineraries have great off-the-chart moments like those spent biking to a locals-only bakery for just-out-of-the-oven buns or an afternoon spent touring the Christmas markets of Vienna with an off-duty Santa. Those experiences weren’t officially in the plans but happened spontaneously, creating the kind of authentic travel moments that great stories are made of.

I’m coming to believe that travel – and life in general - is all about being open to surprise.

Once, during a safari trip to Botswana, I swapped a planned jeep excursion to go on an impromptu day trip in a mokoro (flat-bottomed dugout canoe) with a young guide who was dying to show off his knowledge of the wild. We poled ten km up a lonely river, with crocodiles peering at us from the shore and hippo eyes and noses occasionally rising from the water beside the canoe, until we finally reached an island, fringed with water grass. As we got out of the mokoro, Jeremy the guide gave me three rules: 1) Listen 2) Point to anything that moves and 3) Never, ever run. Runners, he warned, become lunch.

After an hour of intense hiking during which we discovered everything from giant termite mounds to the remains of a cape buffalo devoured by lions the night before, Jeremy spoke sharply, “Don’t move!” Fearing I was about to follow the cape buffalo on the menu, I froze.

Suddenly, a herd of zebra thundered into the clearing, stopped and stared at the two non-zebras they’d surprised. We stared back, standing absolutely still. Soon sensing that we were nothing to worry about, the zebras relaxed and grazed, moving slowly towards us, until they were just twenty feet away. The only muscles I moved were the ones needed to click the shutter on my camera. After a few minutes of contented munching, the zebras abruptly lifted their heads and galloped off, leaving us to exhale and savor the wonder of it all.

When you open yourself to the moment, you never know what might happen and you have the most fun when you’re least expecting it.

We hope the articles in this issue will inspire you to create your own authentic travel experiences and that you’ll be open to the surprises we have in store for you!

Happy travels,

 Liz Fleming

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