a plan for the unexpected

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Last year around late March I took a trip to Florence. I stayed at a B&B outside the city, took the local bus into the city square when I wanted to check out museums and whatnot, and explored the countryside around the B&B when I was more interested in a peace and quiet kind of adventure.

What I remember best about Florence, without question, were the little things I didn’t plan on happening or seeing. For example, that photo up there was taken on the bridge that faces the way more popular bridge crammed full of jewelry shops and souvenirs and such. That bridge is, from what I could tell, always crowded and always noisy and as soon as I walked through it once, I made a bloodless vow with myself never to go through again (that said, I could probably be persuaded to with the promise of any kind of Italian food waiting on the other side, for I am besotted with Italian food).

So I preferred the smaller, less popular bridge. It featured no shops, no souvenirs, just some impressive stonesmanship and a way to get from one side of the Arno to the other. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and followed the example of my fellow tourists and took photos of the famous breath-crushing bridge of shout-y salesmanship. When I finished with that, I just rested my arms on the wall and studied the sights. Tried to imagine the city hundreds of years ago, and what people might have been talking about as they crossed this bridge. Trouble with family, what to eat for lunch, the latest plague, etc.

Then I lifted my weight onto my arms and peered over the side, curious to see the water, and saw a wide triangular ledge holding two boys. One was sketching, and the other was just relaxing. Or pondering and relaxing. I didn’t think to ask. A few other tourists noticed me looking over the wall for much longer than interest in water would traditionally demand, and followed my line of sight to the boys. Suddenly people were crowing around behind the artist to see what he was making. He never looked up, just kept working on his drawing of the bridge opposite him.

That’s my favorite photo from Florence because it was unexpected. Just like my favorite photo from my trip to Barcelona last year is the photo of my shoe stuck in a wall. The things that I don’t plan always end up being my favorite parts of a trip.

That’s why I don’t make strict plans when I travel. It’s why I prefer walking from place to place. I like giving the universe some opportunities to have someone say, “Hey, you, you seem to be in need of some free Ben & Jerry’s. Here you go, and you know what, here’s the paperwork for a free penthouse in Tokyo. I used to live there, but pah! I’ve got five others and you look like you’d enjoy a penthouse. Have a nice day!”

Indeed, kind imagined madam and/or sir. Indeed.

Good day, citizens of the unexpected!

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