Why It's Good To Be Spontaneous

Why It's Good To Be Spontaneous

A spontaneous Ireland trip is changing my planning tendencies.
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My color-coded planner always tells me exactly where to be and when. I always know what comes next, and if I don't I've at least mapped out my options first.

However, I have recently found that the best decisions as spontaneous ones.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, I was sitting in my dorm room when I received a text in a group chat from one of my best friend's Caitlin asking if we wanted to go to Ireland. She had found cheap plane tickets, and while she actually wanted to go, she didn't wholly intend for this to be a serious plan, for she had expected us to say "no."

Normally, there would've been no way I would have said yes. However, I have been to Ireland before and it's one of my favorite places, so I was willing to do anything to go back.

So, despite my better judgment, I responded, "Honestly... Yeah."

My other friends responded affirmatively as well, and what had started as an only slightly serious want to travel quickly turned into a fully-fledged international trip in only two month's time.

In less than 12 hours our flights and accommodations were booked.

This is my first time taking a trip without the guidance of parents or a school group. It's also definitely the first time I've ever decided to go on a trip without months and months of preparation.

It's freeing not knowing exactly what we'll be doing at every single moment. I've had to resist the urge to plan everything out down to the minute. However, by not planning out every single little thing there'll be more time to explore and discover.

I'm still definitely a planner, and I'm sure we'll still plan some of the duration of our week, but I'm enjoying being a little spontaneous too.

Some of the best plans, such as going to Ireland with your best friends, arise spontaneously.

Cover Image Credit: Emily Scheuring

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Meet The College Student Who Took A Solo Road Trip Across The United States

With only a cooler, a bag of electronics, and a bag of clothes, Alex Kim embarked on the trip of a lifetime.

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Not many college students can say that they've taken a road trip across the United States. Even fewer can say that they've gone on that journey alone.

However, Alex Kim can say that within one month, he drove from the east coast to the west coast of the United States by himself. And he made sure to hit all the major attractions on the way.

You name it — the White House, Cloud Gate, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and Yosemite — Kim has been to all those places.

Kim is currently a senior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, majoring in religious studies with a minor in human rights. He plans to attend law school in the fall of 2019. So, he knew that if he wanted to take a trip across the states, the summer of 2018 would be the perfect time.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

I had the opportunity to meet Kim when he briefly stopped by Lawrence, Kansas, near the final stretch of his journey. When he told me about his trip, I was baffled, intrigued, and impressed all at once.

To take a long road trip with friends is one thing, but to take a month-long road trip by himself is an entirely different story.

Kim said he simply wanted to meet people. He had the opportunity to meet other brothers in his fraternity, Pi Alpha Phi, and made quite a few friends (myself included!) on the way. He also visited family friends and people that he knew through Greek life.

Besides meeting people, this trip also consisted mostly of driving an 6-8 hours per day, listening to educational podcasts, and traveling to national parks, monuments, and memorials. He even bought along a burner and pot to cook ramen noodles in the national parks. Kim called these meals his "ramen adventures."

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Kim said this trip was extremely of out of his comfort zone, but it helped that he went alone because he was able to set his own schedules, plan his own routes, and do everything at his own discretion.

When asked about why he decided to go alone, Kim said "Going with someone else means that I will spend way more money than I should… If I went with another person, I also have to cater sleeping accommodations as well."

There were many times where Kim simply slept in his car because he didn't know anyone in the area, or he didn't want to pay for a hotel or Airbnb. But he didn't have to sleep in his car the whole trip. Half the time, he had friends or family members who were willing to house him for a night or so.

In addition, going alone gave Kim a lot of time to reflect on his past and what's to come in his future.

"I can't tell you how many times I thought of what my next chapter of life will be," Kim said.

However, going alone also presented its fair share of obstacles. Some difficulties included bad weather, over exhaustion, too much caffeine, and lack of sleep and nutritious food. One of the biggest problems that he faced was loneliness.

Kim admitted that there were periods of time where he felt extremely lonely. When he knew that he wasn't going to see people for a while, he would call his parents in the morning to tell them where he had been and that he was doing well.

There was one instance where he was first traveling to a national park, Yellowstone Park, and he internally freaked out. For the most part, Kim heard nothing but complete radio silence because there was no reception. Kim said that he felt scared because he wasn't in control of his loneliness.

Aside from those challenges, Kim was glad to say that the road trip went well, and he didn't have any car trouble.

For him, some notable locations were New York City and Los Angeles. Kim didn't really go to L.A. for sightseeing, but rather to pay his respects to an old mentor who passed away. Even though he explored much of nature and national parks, he said that the most breathtaking view was not in fact at a national park, but at a family friend's farm in Harlington, Nebraska.

Courtesy of Alex Kim

"I never thought I would say this, but I really enjoyed the countryside in Nebraska. Being away from the city lights, it was very peaceful and quiet. The sunset was breathtaking," he said.

Overall, Kim approximated that he traveled across the United States for a grand total of 9,700 miles, and despite some challenges, he really enjoyed this trip. He met new and old people and witnessed stunning views that he wouldn't have seen back in North Carolina. As a lone traveler, Kim practiced humility and now sees the world with a fresh perspective.

Kim also learned many lessons along the way and here are six that he shared:

1. Learn to rely on yourself.

2. Sometimes it's good to play it by ear. You'll have the freedom to do so much more.

3. If you can't play it by ear, always have a contingency plan.

4. The people who constantly kept up with you throughout your whole trip are you true friends.

5. Get out of your comfort zone; learn to be versatile.

6. Take time to yourself to reflect on your past, make amends if possible, and plan out your future.

After his trip, Kim returned to North Carolina, taking with him all the experience and lessons he gained from his travels. Nowadays, he keeps busy by studying for the LSAT in September and working towards getting into law school.

But would Kim take this extraordinary road trip again if he could? Most definitely.

See more pictures from his trip below.


Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

Courtesy of Alex Kim

All photos here are provided courtesy of Alex Kim.

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Italy, you will never be forgotten

Thank you, Italy.

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On July 11th, 2016, (exactly two years ago from the day I'm writing this), after an 18-hour flight, I stepped foot on Italian soil for the first time. Why was I in Europe you ask? I was fortunate enough to have received a scholarship opportunity to participate in a foreign exchange program. So, there was 17-year-old Summer with her life in a suitcase and an incredible passion for traveling, off to meet my Italian friend Cecilia and the rest of her family for the very first time. I was both thrilled and terrified at the airport as I looked for a family holding a sign reading, "Welcome Summer." Little did I know that these five Italian strangers would soon become my Italian forever family.

Cecilia has three siblings: an older sister named Marta, a younger sister named Camila, and a younger brother named Jacopo. Believe it or not, the language barrier didn't hinder the growth of our bond. Lucky for me, Italians have been taking English classes since the first grade, and with Cecilia being the brain of her siblings, she spoke English incredibly well, serving as the Queen of Translations for her siblings, parents Anna and Marco, and myself. The times we did struggle we used our hands to communicate and when that didn't work… let's just say we all downloaded Google Translate on our phones.

When I tell you the culture shock was real, it was real. Cecilia lives in Rimini, Italy and some parts of the city were very country-like with flower fields, vegetable gardens, and haystacks everywhere. The tourist in me screamed to sit on a pile of hay and so we dealt with the itchiness long enough to get a good picture. I know it sounds so insignificant like "girl it's a haystack who cares" but it's just the experience of something different in a place I've never been to before. I didn't just sit on a haystack. I sat on a bale of hay, for the first time, in ITALY.

Of all of the adventures and new experiences in Italy, my absolute favorite part of the trip was the authentic Italian food. All of the vegetables and spices Italians use in their kitchen are grown in their backyard. In movies, Italians are known for eating their meals outside with a glass of wine, warm bread and some kind of pasta dish. That is indeed the Italian lifestyle. I promise I tried every pasta known to man. Once you've made lasagna from scratch in the home of true Italians, you will never be satisfied with anything less. I distinctly remember focusing all my attention on Cecilia's Nonna (grandma) as she explained the directions to make lasagna. She told us where to place the lasagna pasta, how much meat to put on each layer and which spoon to use to spread the cheese. A lot of time, sweat and most importantly love went into perfecting that lasagna, but at the end of the night, our stomach and hearts were full.

My last week in Italy, Cecilia's family and I made the three-hour drive to Venice, Italy. It was an indescribable experience. I saw St. Mark's Basilica live in person, and the Roman and Greek Byzantine design were beautiful. As we rode in the gondola, I remember feeling so grateful for the opportunity to visit Italy and meet this incredible loving family. My trip to Italy taught me there is an entire world out there just waiting to be explored. What is front of us right now isn't all there is to life, and we must travel to learn and grow physically, mentally and spiritually. As cliché as it sounds, the possibilities are endless so go everywhere and anywhere as much as you can. Take it all in and embrace the different cultures, people, architecture, and food. We can't forget the food.

A little tradition that Cecilia's family and I started during my time in Italy was sharing common English sayings such as "Good things in life don't come easy" or "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Each week I would share a new saying with them and as a going away present they framed a picture of us and wrote all the quotes on the border of the frame. It's one of the best gifts I've ever received. So, I leave you with this saying, Saint Augustine once said, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."

Cover Image Credit:

Summer Cortes

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