The Unknown in Spontaneous Travel

The Unknown in Spontaneous Travel

There are moments when the point between daydreaming of travel and making it a reality can seem a bit spontaneous, but sometimes the adventures that have seemed less-than-thought-out can be the most amazing and transformative. A few of us at Greenheart Travel can attest to experiences that involved booking a trip without thinking it through, being irresponsible with money and credit cards to make a travel plan work out, and various other motivators (i.e. pints of beer) for how we decided to take the leap and commit to a trip.

There are times when it’s best not to over think an epic adventure and we hope that our stories below inspire you to follow your gut and take the leap on your future travels!


Scotland? Sure, Why Not?


When I decided to work abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland after I graduated, it was while I was on the phone with my friend, head hanging upside down over my bed, feeling a bit lost about my post-college career. Traveling abroad sounded a whole lot better than job interviews, and when the travel plan was proposed I didn’t focus on much beyond my love for the scenes in Braveheart and Scottish accents. I had agreed to the adventure with the same type of nonchalance as I would with someone offering me a shot of tequila. “Sure. Sounds like a good idea.”

In hindsight, I cringe at the lack of research and preparation I did for my work program. Although, it was the best way for me to go about working abroad in a foreign country. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to over-think everything that could go wrong, how much money I didn’t have in my account, how this could negatively affect my chances at an internship when I returned home, and on and on. I tend to go to the dark side when given too much time to analyze a possible adventure.

I have to give credit to my parents for not throwing a fit when I announced I had booked my one-way-flight to Scotland, without a place to live OR a job. My bank account didn’t have enough money for me to last long without work, and my credit card spending limit was laughable at best. I figured that if I had lived on $600 in London for a few months (another NOT thought-out travel plan I took the year before), Edinburgh would be a breeze.

And while I would by lying if I said it was easy and problem free when I arrived, that there were no times when I went without a meal or two, no cases of bed bugs in hostels while I searched for a flat, or no sketchy living arrangements along the way, I can say with a flutter in my heart that it was BY FAR THE GREATEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE. To this day, I feel like I’m chasing that feeling of arriving in Edinburgh without a clue of what was next after stepping off that bus, but knowing I was exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment.

– Jill Robinson, Marketing Manager


Who Needs Money to Start the New Year in Thailand?


I had been teaching in Thailand for 1 month when I found out my school was giving us 10 full days off for New Year’s vacation. Teaching had been more stressful than I had anticipated so I was pretty pumped to get some time away from the classroom. My roommate and I, along with our other teacher friends who were sprinkled around the country, decided to meet down south to do the tourist thing on the islands. My roomie and I were still unsure of the way our school did paychecks because we had only been paid once before, and that money didn’t show up in our bank accounts until about a week and-a-half later than we were told it would. So, being the smart person I am, by the time I left my apartment for the airport, I had about $100 USD to my name.

For a 10-day vacation.

That was not paid for in advance.

And there was about a 50/50 chance our direct deposit wouldn’t go through until after we got back.

I just had to cross my fingers and hope that it would work out because I was in Thailand! I had come to the country to explore and experience as much as I could! I already knew what the inside of my apartment looked like and I was not about to sit in it alone while my friends had a blast just because there was a chance I’d have no money. I could sleep outside if I needed to. And who needs food every day? Not this girl.

Before we got in line to check our bags at Don Muang airport, a green ATM caught my eye. I figured it couldn’t hurt to remind myself how much money I didn’t have to go on this vacation I couldn’t afford. I popped my bank card in, selected “Balance Inquiry” and to my delight and complete surprise, I saw all those lovely zeros sitting right there in front of me.

Hell yea! I was 32,000 baht richer and no longer had to worry about stretching my dollars.

However, I proceeded to spend almost that entire paycheck in those 10 days (and had the time of my life doing it) which left me with little to live on for the entire month of January.

It was totally worth it.

– Kara Menini, Greenheart Travel Teach and Work  Programs Manager


So I Had a Camel Meat Sandwich


Picture yourself studying abroad during college in London. Spring break is 5 days away, you’ve no plans and you’re at a pub pondering the last minute possibilities. It’s your last spring break of college and you want to make the most of it. You want to do something BIG/CRAZY but its 5 days away, how could you possibly plan for such a thing? That’s the exact situation I was in not too long ago.

There is so much to see in the UK and just across the channel to mainland Europe, but I saw a lot of that already. Remember: BIG and CRAZY were two key words here. I just didn’t exactly have the time to pull together a nomadic excursion in Mongolia. Weighing the options at the pub got me nowhere. The beer was warm and flat anyway. So I left dejected, yet hopeful that a change in scenery might kick-start my thought process.

…And kick-start it did. As I walked to my dorm room, the question running through my head was: where is the closest place I can go where I will feel the furthest away? I opened the door to my room and the key to my answer was staring me straight on. My roommate was an international studies major and a massive map geek. He had them plastered all over the walls; possibilities abounded.

I drew a virtual circle a few inches from London. The outer edges hit Estonia, Iceland, Turkey, Romania… and then… Morocco. Have I ever had any prior interest in Morocco? No. Did I speak French or Arabic? Nope. Had I any idea where I might stay? Not a clue. Why Morocco in particular? *shrug* Now any regular Joe might see the answers to these questions as massive barriers to this trip. The more important questions were: Is this big? Yes. Is this crazy? Most definitely. The answers to these questions broke through the barriers of the former and encouraged me to embrace a bit of ambiguity and spontaneity. On that impulse, I booked my flight to Marrakesh right then and there. The only thing that was certain in my head was that I was bringing my bike.

Fast-forward 5 days and I’ve landed in Marrakesh airport at 9:30pm and am assembling my bike in the baggage claim area. Then, even then, I did not have a clear picture on where I was staying that night. No hostels I could find had online reservations; I merely had a map and a general idea of where they were.

I would love to tell you that this is when I embarked on my trip, with fancy free vibes without any feeling of insecurity whatsoever. This was NOT the case. As I was riding my bike at night out of the airport and towards the city, I had a major holy crap moment. My wide-eyed enthusiasm for spontaneity switched immediately to a sobering realization that I had no clue where I was. The map I had only vaguely matched the actual streets. Street signs, in the rare occasion they existed, were in Arabic and French; two languages, as I mentioned before, I had no familiarity with. I turned down one and came across a group of teenagers having quite a loud argument boarding on a physical fight. Nope. Taking another street. (Did I mention this was at night?)

Eventually, I stumbled upon a group of hostels where I was headed. A man was standing under a sign to one and waived me toward him. When I approached I could see his humongous smile and although I didn’t understand the French he spoke to me, I only assume that he was saying even in the dark streets he pegged me a mile away for a foreigner.

After he helped me store my bike and I got settled into my room, I was a lot calmer. (The mint tea the owner offered helped massively in this regard.) I took some time on the balcony staring out onto the streets and orienting myself on the map as best I could. That night I resolved to snap back into reality. This is big and this is crazy and this is totally foreign. It is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to see the Sahara and it was at this time I began to plan a route. Before I went to sleep a had a 350km trip in mind.

What followed over the next 6 days was one of the most incredible and transformative trips I have ever taken. I saw the start of the Sahara, rode through rocky desert, river valleys lined with lush palm trees, ancient ruins. I summited the snow-capped Atlas Mountains at the Col du Tichka at 2,260m, and whizzed past beautiful orange groves/farm land decending the northern slopes of the Atlas at 50mph. I shopped in souks, had the most amazing oranges I’ve ever tasted, mint tea, coffee, dates, olives, couscous, and tagine. At the end of the trip, I even met a few locals over mint hookah we had a great time speaking broken English and they took me out for their favorite street food: a camel meat sandwich.

This was the perfect cap to my trip. With each salty bite of my sandwich I thought of not only distance, altitude, terrain I conquered, but also the barriers that planning usually bring on. It is an experience that I will look back on forever especially for the life lesson: ask ‘why not’ instead of ‘why’. Embrace a bit of ambiguity and get out there!

– Kyle Trebotich – Director of Greenheart Travel


Being Fiscally Responsible vs. London? Duh. London


By the end of my time working in Berlin, I had spent all my savings on electro music festivals, traveling, and late night kebab. I was fast approaching broke, sleeping on a friend’s couch, and living out of a tiny suitcase. Fortunately, the “hipster or homeless?” look was considered cool in my neighborhood because all of my clothes were ripped and I had to wear the same thing every day. So when a friend of mine invited me to crash at her flat in London for a few days, of course, I had to decline. “No, thank you. I can’t afford it because I spent all my money on Radler.”

Just kidding! Obviously, I said yes. London? YES. Instead of creating a plan to get my finances back on track, I was overtaken by the depressing thought of wasting my last opportunity to travel in Europe. I swiftly bought a cheap flight leaving that Friday. The next four days, I walked aimlessly around Hyde Park, East London, and along the Thames, eating out of grocery stores and shamelessly letting boys with cute accents buy me pints.

My dwindling resources were at the back of my mind, but, London! I was in London! When I flew back to the States from Germany a week later, my bank account was dry, but my head was swimming with wonderful memories. I had stretched and squeezed every last bit of adventure from my time abroad.

– Molly Fried, Outreach Coordinator


What last minute trips have you taken? What program are you ready to apply for without much time to plan? Comment below and inspire each other to commit to the travel adventure!

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