When we travel, a big part of the experience is the discovery of something new, never before experienced, seen, tasted, felt. Through this, our perceptions change and our preconceived notions dismantle. We grow. But how can we continue to learn and see things in a new light, when our surroundings and the people are more or less familiar? Is a journey to faraway exotic land the only way to stretch our minds? How can we infuse the elements of surprise into nearby travels? We asked our global neighbor Laura of Travel by Surprise to reveal the essence of a great surprise. Elements that we can borrow to create a sense of wonder in our everyday lives.
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If life is about the journey and not the destination, we give that concept new meaning at Travel By Surprise: we take the destination out of the picture entirely. We send our clients to surprise destinations; they don’t know where they’re headed until we send them off. We worry about the details so that they can be fully present on the journey.
Recently, I planned a surprise getaway for my girlfriends. Without batting an eye, they all took off from work, packed their bags, and patiently waited for me to tell them where we were going. Behind the scenes, I had an amazing time meticulously choosing what each of my friends would enjoy, the sorts of design elements that would inspire them, and the activities that would allow us to really savor our time together.
Planning a surprise getaway—even a short jaunt in your own backyard—
allows you to get outside of yourself, to see the world from a different perspective, and enhance your sense of wonder.
The surprise was wonderful. We were all squeals and giggles and laughs and hugs. The best part, though, was that I got to live with that delicious sense of anticipation for weeks—months, even—while I planned our trip. Anticipating that excitement and sharing in that joy allows me to live like I’m traveling every day, and what I love best about planning surprise trips for others.
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What are the elements of a great surprise?
Not all surprises are equally epic. I’m sure we’ve all been to a flop of a surprise party, or had a well-intentioned prank go horribly, horribly wrong. Fortunately, my surprise trip for my girlfriends went off without a hitch. We had the most delightful weekend together, exploring our backyard in Northern Michigan’s wine country. To ensure that we had a spectacular surprise, I kept a few things in mind when scheming and dreaming about how to sweep my friends off their feet.
1 - Personalize
Personalization is so important to an excellent surprise. Don’t just think about fun things to do, or what you might enjoy: truly consider what brings your friends joy, what makes them come alive, and what will foster genuine connection. Draw inspiration from their hobbies, interests, and personalities. It ensures that they will feel cared for, and that they will love what you’ve planned for them.
For instance, my friends care a lot about beautiful design. My friend, Lauren, is an aspiring interior designer, and Kelly dreams of living on a farm. I took a cue from my friends and rented a design-focused farmhouse, the Honor and Folly Cherry Orchard Farm, built in the early 1900s, sitting on 20 acres, and neighboring a cherry orchard. Everywhere we looked were inspiring, handcrafted details that captured our imagination from the start. We stayed up late into the night telling ghost stories, and we took a leisurely morning sipping coffee.
2 - The Extra-Ordinary
One of the joys of planning surprises is the “wow” factor. Kick off something magical and really solidify that you’ve embarked on something special by doing something extraordinary. We kicked off our weekend with bubbly and a delicious farm-to-table dinner at Mission Table.
Not everything needs to be extraordinary. The “ordinary” can sometimes be just as surprising. I also asked each woman to bring their favorite poem on our weekend away; I wanted to learn more about each of these creative, word-loving friends through the poetry that inspires them. We spent a leisurely morning on the porch, delighting in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, and Mary Oliver.
Our surprise getaway really celebrated our friendship, blending both the out-of-this-world and the day-to-day. My friends and I are in a wine club together, so it was only right that we should go wine tasting. But instead of sipping wine in our living rooms, we sampled Northern Michigan’s finest wines while looking out over the vineyards at Bry’s Estate.
3 - A Little Magic
When you plan a surprise, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities: what if they don’t like it? What if something goes wrong? What if…? You just can’t plan for everything. You can’t foresee the things that will go wrong: the wrong turns, the not-quite-as-right. But you also can’t plan authenticity: you can’t possibly know what conversations will be sparked, what connections will be remade, or what ideas will be inspired, rekindled, imagined. And that’s the best part! The more you plan and schedule, the less space there is for the magic.
The best thing to do is to let the magic work: leave room for the unexpected and welcome it with open arms.