It started snowing about an hour outside of South Station. It wasn’t a soft, pretty snow like in the movies. Rather, heaping buckets of thick, sloppy slush spilled from the sky, coating the roads like batter being poured into a cake pan. It was a snowstorm symphony; as traffic decrescendoed the horn section blared, and the windshield wipers went from a steady allegretto to a vivacious allegrissimo. Several of my bus mates appeared to be Instagramming or live-tweeting the whole performance.
Meanwhile, I turned another page in the book I was reading—perhaps even stifled a yawn—and thought phlegmatically, “Gee, I’m glad this isn’t happening in Boston.”
I’d checked the weather reports thrice before departing, and all sources indicated clear skies and tolerable temperatures for the duration of the weekend. That meant it was safe to commit to my comprehensive itinerary—which I’d finalized a week in advance—now laminated and tucked neatly inside my suitcase. This unexpected patch of weather was obviously a fluke, and I was certain it’d curtail by the time we reached the city center.
Yet the flurries didn’t falter as we drove onward, and my confidence slowly morphed into concern, and eventually sheer panic. When the now harried bus driver announced we’d finally arrived at our destination, I stayed glued to my seat, staring with mouth ajar at the frenzied scene outside. “But,” I began to say, yet nobody was listening. Instead, the other passengers filed quickly off the bus and into the streets as if nature wasn’t slowly annihilating their once peaceful city.
It took two failed attempts at navigating the subway, one unwieldy and overpriced cab ride, and several slips and falls for me to eventually locate the quaint Cambridge apartment I’d rented for the weekend. By then, I was exhausted and utterly dismayed. Tearing off my soaking wet clothes, I collapsed on the unfamiliar bed—itinerary in hand—with the intent of regrouping, rescheduling, and trying to salvage the remainder of the day.
Instead, I succumbed to a much-needed and wholly unplanned three-hour nap.
Although all of my trips are planned down to the hour (See: The Lucy Bird Method for Smart Weekend Travel), this wasn’t the first time said plans have been unexpectedly derailed. During my first half-hour in Istanbul, I was unceremoniously detained by airport security after inadvertently setting off a metal detector. While living in France back in 2011, I suffered a severe eye infection (conveniently one week before my international health insurance kicked in) which kept me bedridden for weeks, and forced me to pay irritable, non-English speaking doctors hundreds of euros to ensure I didn’t go blind. While on vacation in Barcelona, a cute bartender invited me to go dancing after his shift, so I ditched my friends and stayed out with him until six in the morning. On the train ride home, I fell asleep and had my camera and cellphone stolen.
Although unfortunate and unexpected, I’ve never wished for any of these experiences to be different, and that’s because they are completely, uniquely mine (although I’m certain I wasn’t the first foreigner to be wooed by that handsome Spanish bartender.) For any traveler, there will always be unexpected mishaps on your adventures, be it inclement weather, delayed flights, double-bookings, lost reservations, stolen wallets, or cancelled concerts. However, it’s these events and the steps we take to accommodate them that inevitably define our experience. It’s the chance conversations, delays, reroutes, and aimless wanderings that evolve into our favorite memories. Without unpredictability, we’d all be left with the same cookie-cutter experiences and identical set of photographs, and as a result, the wonderful, mysterious magic of traveling would be lost.
So let me tell you what I didn’t do on that first day in Boston. I didn’t have lunch at Quincy Market. I didn’t go ice skating on Frog Pond. I didn’t have a beer at Cheers or explore the South End art scene. I didn’t walk the Freedom Trail or visit Paul Revere’s house. I didn’t have dinner atop the Prudential Tower or take pictures of the amazing view. I didn’t do any of these things although each had been carefully penned into my itinerary. Instead, I napped. When I awoke, I took a hot shower, ordered some Chinese takeout, and settled in for a night of Netflix and cheap wine. I watched the snow ebb and flow outside the window in the apartment that wasn’t mine, and wondered if it was acceptable to admit that I was completely content letting all my scrupulous plans go straight to hell.
…But if you’re curious to know what I did do during my time in Boston, check out my photos from that snowy weekend, here.