Zero expectations

Our daughter Jordan wants her Dad and me to plan a trip to visit her in Seoul. Yes, Korea.

The topic comes up now and then when we talk, text, and video chat.

Jordan: “When are you coming to Seoul?” and “You’ve got to come see me. You’ll love it here!”

Me: “I’m sure I would (even though I’m not so sure)” and “Instead of us booking a trip to Seoul, why don’t I get a ticket for you—to Home?”

The truth is that the word “Korea” is missing from my bucket list, which is the reason I should go.

Every time I’ve said “Yes” to traveling to a new place when, deep down, I really wanted to say “No,” my inhibitions have been proven wrong.

I’ve lost count of the number of times my zero expectations have led to extraordinary and memorable moments. That’s why I don’t like to watch movie trailers or read critics’ reviews.

Some of my favorite films were those for which I expected nothing: Shawshank RedemptionPretty Woman, and Forrest Gump, to name a few.

It’s the same with travel. I dreamt of seeing Italy, so we traveled to Scotland—Gary’s dream. 

I should have been heart-thumping excited for that trip. For one, our friends Greg and Becky joined us. 

For two, most of our itinerary was planned by my friend Mary’s Uncle Glen. We capped off our visit with him and his wife Carole at their home in Stewarton—amazing hosts. 

When the plane took flight, I knew we would have a good time. I didn’t know I’d fall in love with Scotland. 

We toured historic castles and distilleries. We followed legendary golfers on their British Open practice rounds along the old course at St. Andrews.

We rested our heads on feather pillows at a bed and breakfast in the highlands and tapped our feet to the beat of locals—dressed in kilts—dancing at a Kiely. One morning, we closed our eyes, put our finger on a map, and wound up on a ferry that took us to unforgettable Millport.

For those who don’t know it, Millport is the only town on the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde off the coast of North Ayrshire. How’s that for my Scottish geography?

We bumped into fellow Americans at a pub at the foot of The National (William) Wallace Monument. A good time was had by all—so good that we nearly missed the last train back to Edinburgh.

Again, I dreamt of seeing Italy, so we traveled to South America. Jordan lived in Chile.

I should have been heart-thumping excited that trip. For one, it gave us two full weeks with our daughter. For two, she planned our entire trip—the cities we visited, the restaurants we enjoyed, and the Airbnbs where we collapsed each evening.

We toured Pablo Neruda’s enchanting Santiago home, celebrated Thanksgiving on the veranda at the Santa Rita winery, and lost ourselves in the colorful murals along the terraced streets of Valparaiso. 

Jordan served as our interpreter and our guide and continued that role in Argentina. 

She led us to the calming waters of Termas Casheuta Spa in Mendoza, made dinner reservations at Azafran, and booked a bike tour of Buenos Aires. 

Scotland and Chile and Argentina were not places I would have chosen. They did not exist on my mental map, but they do now—in a big way.  

Maybe, when I someday board a plane to Italy, I should curb any heart-thumping enthusiasm.

For now, Italy is one of only two destinations on my bucket list.

“Only two? You need to write more down,” said my daughter Kristen.

“Naaaa. I have to leave room for all of the places I don’t plan to go that wind up surprising me.”  Places like Korea.


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