Leave Wandering Time for Surprise Discoveries

travel surprises festivals

“I like going on group tours because there are no surprises,” a traveler I met once told me. “I know the whole travel itinerary in advance and someone else is taking care of all the arrangements.”

Oh, but how many things does she miss by aiming for a trip with no surprises?

Travel surprises can be negative things if it’s your flight getting delayed or a bus breaking down. But travel surprises can be beautiful, wonderful things if you stumble upon something great you were not expecting.

Here’s a photo of a surprise in Cusco the first time I visited. We had no plans for the morning and were just wandering. Thank goodness, or we never would have discovered this.

festival Cusco Peru

Or this.

Peru festival

Coming back from the Colca Canyon on another trip to Peru, I had thankfully left enough wiggle room in the schedule that I didn’t have to whiz by Chivay where this festival was going on. The whole town was decked out. And dancing.

Colca Canyon festival

Speaking of dancing, a semi-organized biking trip I did in the Czech Republic had a nothing-to-do day tacked onto the end. Some vacation-time-starved people would have probably nixed that and gotten back to their jobs faster. I stayed and saw this couple and many others in traditional festival clothes dancing in the street.

Moravia tour

In Puerto Vallarta one day I had absolutely nothing on the agenda. So I discovered this—people dressed like Aztec royalty, on their way to the city’s main Catholic church. (?!?!)

Mexican parade

Just a few days ago, wandering around Guanajuato with no set plans, I followed the sound of a tin whistle and stumbled upon these kids.

Guanajuato street festival kids

There’s a video from a similar one when I was living there a few years ago, a block from our apartment.

Here’s a 23-second video from Guanajuato that makes me smile every time I see it.

No surprises? Why aim for that?

If you want color in your photos and color in your experiences, leave time in the travel schedule to find the surprises.


  1. Emily B. 06/23/2013
  2. chris edwards 06/26/2013
  3. Tom Miller 07/02/2013

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