Best-Laid Plans


This summer, my fiancé and I had two big trips planned: one to Spain to celebrate our birthdays – a long-anticipated jaunt across the Atlantic, an escape from our normal lives and an introduction to international travel for my life partner.

The second trip? A return home to Michigan for the both of us. We planned to spend a day or two in Flint, catch up with my family, see some old friends and then hightail it in our rental car to Torch Lake for sun and swimming and that Up North feeling.

But first, my fiancé’s uncle who lives in Torch became ill and was in the hospital. We tried not to be too disappointed; no one plans to be in the hospital, after all. But being so close to that anticipated lake water was difficult. It’s something you dream about when you live in the inferno that is Texas. It made the non-air-conditioned room at my mother’s home in Flint’s College Cultural neighborhood even more difficult to stay in, somehow.

But, we made the best of it. I drove my son to Peppa Pig World and Legoland in Auburn Hills. The whole family headed to Greenfield Village. We spent a few nights meeting up with friends around Flint. But it just wasn’t the same. Summers in Michigan are for lake swimming and Up North.

Little did we know we would be headed Up North, but not to the lake, and not for sun and fun.

We got the call on a Friday night. My fiancé’s uncle who had been ill was back in the hospital and wouldn’t survive the night. We grabbed a few things, piled into the car and I booked a hotel near the hospital on our way up. It wasn’t the Up North we’d been planning, but north we were headed, nonetheless.

We arrived in time to say goodbye and spend a sad night in a business traveler’s hotel. And as depressing as this trip proved to be, it was also a reminder of what travel does for us.

Travel often doesn’t work out as we expect; there are bumps in the road, so to speak. Detours, missed connections, delays. But sometimes, even when it isn’t what we expect, travel allows us to be in the exact right place at exactly the right time.

If we’d traveled to Michigan a week later, we would have missed that last goodbye. If we’d chosen a trip to Chicago or Los Angeles or any of the other places we had considered, we would have missed it, too.

Originally, we had been quite disappointed to not have cold beers and tan lines from many hours spent on the lake, and while what we did get was certainly less fun, it was so much more important.

As I prepare for our trip to Spain and Andorra, I’ve had time to reflect on the importance of travel. I’ve done a lot of it over the past 15 years, and I’ll have more adventures in the years to come. But so many times, the places I’ve been to have led me exactly where I needed to be. The time on the French Riviera watching a family eat dinner at sunset and realizing I wanted a child of my own, when I’d never wanted one before. A time in Antwerp when I met a group of Italian businessmen who took me on an adventure that was one of the most exciting of my life. A last-minute invitation to a party while on vacation that would re-introduce me to my now fiancé.

Travel did all of that for me.

So as I pack, I keep in mind that everything we’ve planned may not work out how we want it to, but instead … will work out how we need it to.


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