Variety is the spice of life.- William Cowper
Remember this article? That post described mine and Deborah’s last day in Thailand, which was mean to be a quiet night in our hotel. It ended up being an extravagant Thai food eating competition, puppy petting marathon, and new friend making bonanza.
Deborah and I are the surprise type of couple.
We come from two different surprise-based families perfectly intertwined for maximum explosion. Deborah once flew across the world to surprise her mom for Christmas. I once took Deborah to Brussels, Rome and Naples for Valentine’s day. Deborah’s mom recently showed up at our doorstep in Berlin to escort us back to London after Deborah begged her to visit before we had to give it up. Why do we do it?
1) We value togetherness time.
Deborah and I both grew up in families that prefer to spend time together. Of the five love languages, I would say all of us have “quality time” as number 1 or 2. While a surprise can certainly also be gifts, for us, they usually take the form of an unexpected visit or an adventure. When I took Deborah on our Valentine’s trip, it meant one week of nothing but us figuring out how to enjoy our time. When Deborah’s mom came to visit, it meant she could spend more time walking around the city and making new memories with her pregnant daughter.
At the end of the day, if you’re not close with family, what do you even have?
2) Detailed plans are boring and ordinary.
Imagine if Deborah and I planned a vacation to Italy one year in advance. Imagine we plan each detail, our hotel, car routes, things we want to see. There’s nothing wrong with this approach: the planning may even itself be fun, and we may really enjoy the trip, but we would get exactly what we expect.
Now imagine we take the same trip to Italy at a moment’s notice. Well, you don’t have to imagine, because we did it. We laughed, we cried, and we ate a crap-ton of pizza. Most importantly, though, everything went from ordinary and expected to absolute bliss in a matter of seconds.
Deborah and I have fluctuated between different amounts of planning. We’ve decided the best tactic for us is to do some but minimal research, then ask as many questions as we can once we get there. There are certain things even the internet can’t tell you.
3) Things don’t really go according to plan anyway.
What happens when your partner hurts her ankle and can’t do that hike you planned 342 days ago? What happens when you get to Rome and they say you can’t rent that classic Vespa, because your license is American? What happens when you meet the potential love of your life at that really cool bar down the street from your hotel? Do you move on with your plans or do you improvise? I’ve met too many people who just move on with their plans, but also sulk in their ‘misfortune.’ “What’s even the point?” I always want to ask them.
Deborah and I thought Naples was the end-all be all of how cool Italy was. Turns out it’s pretty much garbage. If we had just stuck to our plan, we never would have discovered Positano.
4) People who like surprises adapt better.
When my mother in-law showed up at our doorstep, I couldn’t help but think of that scene from About Schmidt when Schmidt calls his daughter to let her know that he’s coming for a visit. For those who haven’t watched it, Schmidt is retired. He calls to surprise his daughter with a visit, and she freaks out about how much of an inconvenience it would be for him to come. Fereshteh is nothing like Schmidt nor in the same situation, but it was almost like his daughter’s entire life was thrown off by the slightest inconvenience. Even the phone call itself changed her attitude and probably screwed up productivity for the day. If she had just embraced the change, she could have gone about her day as normal, and later enjoyed the presence of her father, making them both feel better about themselves.
Most things that actually change our plans, whether that be a life plan or a scheduled vacation, are actually pretty minor inconveniences. Adaptation is all about attitude and goals are all about the end result.
5) The best things in life come as surprises.
We’ve all seen those heartwarming videos of soldiers coming home from deployment to their toddlers who are just floored to see them. The best things in life come unexpectedly. This is necessarily true. Any given event or thing that is expected, well, is sort of by definition just a bit more ordinary.
6) Meeting Deborah was the best surprise
When I met the love of my life, I was on a trip with my brother in Mexico. I wasn’t really looking for women, and I didn’t expect to find one I really liked. Deborah was everything I could ever ask for and more, and I almost went home without her.
Surprises are gifts. Take advantage of them. Do you have a story about a great surprise? Leave it in the comments below!