Here’s a scientific fact: our brains like surprises even if we think we don’t. Experiments have proven that the brain’s so-called pleasure centres react more strongly when pleasures are unexpected. This means the pleasures you don’t see coming are often more rewarding than anticipated ones. If you’re not convinced, think about a time you went to the movies with no real idea of what you were about to see. If you enjoyed the movie, you probably liked it even more than if you knew all about it. Likewise, a good meal is even better if you weren’t expecting much to begin with. Same thing goes for a book or a party or anything, really – including travel.
Surprise travel is exactly what it sounds like: you go somewhere that’s a surprise to you. It’s a relatively new way to see the world and one that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It’s not spinning the globe and going to where your finger lands, but it does have an exciting roulette feel to it.
The starting point for most regular trip planning is deciding where to go. You might already have a destination in mind: maybe it’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit or perhaps it’s somewhere you need to be. Surprise travel turns all of this upside down. Instead of focusing on where you want to go, you’re focused on why. A trip planner will ask you very specific questions about your interests, motivations and needs to build an itinerary that finds its inspiration first and foremost in what it is that compels you to travel.
When I plan these trips, I tell clients well in advance if vaccinations are necessary, so they can have these organized in time. A week or so before the trip, they receive by courier a packing list, instructions on when to be at which point of departure and a sealed envelope with all the details of the adventure. I recommend that people don’t open the envelope until the last possible moment. The suspense might feel huge, but wait is worth it. There’s really nothing like not knowing what to expect until it’s time to expect it.
Also by Natasha: Retreat-ing: it’s like summer camp for grown-ups