Leaving Room for Serendipity

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Someone once told me to,

“Plan enough to cover your ass, but leave room for Serendipity.”

I wish I knew who to attribute that quote too, it’s just something that’s been buzzing around in my brain for a while and obviously speaks to me.  As a terrible planner, the latter part of that comes a bit easier to me that the former, but I love the idea that wonderful things can happen if you allow them too…. plus packed itineraries just stress me out.

Recently I had a travel experience that solidified my love affair with the unknown.

The (now Fathom) Adonia- photo by EDDIE via flickr.

The (now Fathom) Adonia- photo by EDDIE via flickr.

I was invited to be among the passengers on the maiden voyage of Fathom Cruise Line‘s Adonia.  If you follow travel news you may have heard about Fathom as the first cruise line that will be sailing to Cuba since the lifted embargo.  I, however was slated to join them on their first ever voyage to the Dominican Republic where they offer impact activities such as teaching English or planting trees alongside more traditional shore excursions.

I jumped at the opportunity…. then immediately started to panic.  I travel by myself quite a bit and I’m really okay with it.  Press trips are always fine because they are usually invited media, there solo, to do a job.  This trip however, is the first press trip where I’ve been offered a plus one.  I went through my phone, and my Facebook friends, I contacted vague acquaintances and people I hadn’t spoken to in years.  I could not convince anyone in my life to go on a cruise with me.  How upsetting is that?

The best street dog in all of Colombia

See? I can make friends!

This is where the anxiety set in.  If they’re offering a plus one, that means everyone else will have a plus one.  I’ll basically be on a couples cruise by myself and everyone will laugh at me at dinner.  And that’s what it’s like being inside the head of a crazy person.

I spent all week hyping myself up and then deciding I was just going to skip it, but I ended up at the port.  In fact, I spent long enough at the port that I had already made a few friends and seen some familiar faces from the blogging world.  I don’t know what I was worried about.  Travel people are the friendliest and I felt like an absolute nutcase.

So I made friends pretty immediately…. then waited…. and waited… and finally an announcement.  The boat would not be boarding for a few more hours and we would all be offered either a trip to the Everglades or a Miami City Bus Tour.  Our first Fathom excursion!

The Florida Everglades. Kinda pretty for a giant swamp.

The Florida Everglades. Kinda pretty for a giant swamp.

The group I had been chatting with opted to just go drinking instead.  I knew I had found my tribe.  I went to the Everglades instead because I’d never been and what kind of Floridian hasn’t ridden an airboat?  Of course, I had all week to catch up on drinking with my new friends… or so I thought.

The Florida Everglades from an airboat. Life goals!

The Florida Everglades from an airboat. Life goals!

After we returned from the Everglades, we were informed that we would not be sailing as scheduled and would instead be put up in local hotels for the night and they hoped for better news tomorrow.  Half of the group was sent to the Holiday Inn and half to the Doubletree.

Room at the Doubletree Miami courtesy of Fathom Travel as we await our fate.

Not too shabby… Thanks Fathom

Honestly, I had a great day.  I wasn’t even mad about not getting on the boat.  My only complaint was how long I had to go without eating.  I was, what can only be described at hangry.

The next morning we were told there would be further instruction by 9am…then 11am… then 1pm… It wasn’t looking good.  As we all suspected by that point, at 1pm we were informed that the US Coast Guard had not cleared the ship and we would not be sailing.  It was a big disappointment, but the crowd took it well.  In fact, they erupted in two different rounds of Happy Birthday for people in the crowd, and I don’t think it was even sarcastic.  Told you travel people are the best!

I’ll note here that Fathom took great care of us and I can’t wait to try sailing with them again.  They obviously refunded what was spent, and also offered to pay for all travel expenses and flights home.  I live in Orlando, so driving back wasn’t a big deal, I was mostly upset that I had wasted days off!  That’s when the wheels started turning.  Everyone was chattering on social media and in person about where they were going next.  Some were headed to Disney World, some were booking other cruises, some were just headed to their respective homes, but the chatter I took note of was the group planning a trip to Colombia.

The colorful streets of Cartagena, Colombia

The colorful streets of Cartagena, Colombia

I had never been to South America and even though the flight left the next day, it was still less money than I was expecting to be refunded for the cruise that never was.  And that my friends is serendipity.  I went from a nervous wreck that I would be sitting at a table by myself being taunted by a boat full of happy people, to exploring a new continent with 20 some odd strangers.

Leaving room for serendipity

To new friends in weird bars…

My parents didn’t love the,

“Hey, my cruise was cancelled so I’m going to Colombia with some strangers”

phone call, but in the end I ate street meat, drank 1000 mojitos on rooftops, saw every sunset over the water, and got a weird massage inside of an active volcano full of mud with 20 strangers that ended up friends.  In fact I’ve already made some future travel plans with a few of them and I can tell they are going to be terrible for my wallet and great for my soul… and that’s why you always leave room for serendipity.

El Totumo volcanic mud baths outside of Cartagena, Colombia

Photo credit: that guy we paid $1.30 to take pictures with Megan Stetzel’s phone

22 thoughts on “Leaving Room for Serendipity

  1. Great article mags!! And what a fantastic trip it was! Can’t wait for more adventures!

  2. Way to make the most of it! So glad to hear things worked out…I’m not sure that everyone would be nearly as flexible as you were! Sounds like a great trip and hope you get the chance to try Fathom again in the future.

  3. Way to turn a bad situation around! I have never been to the Everglades myself and hope to ride an airboat and visit some day. Plus, looks like you had an amazing time in Colombia 🙂

  4. I’m a firm believer in serendipity. It sounds like you combined serendipity with a good attitude and had an amazing adventure. Good for you!

  5. Some times the things we plan the least end up being the most fun of all. Love the mud bath pics!

  6. This is seriously the coolest post! I mean, I am sorry that your cruise didn’t work out, but it opened the doors for something much better to happen for you. 🙂 I love how fate works in that way sometimes.
    Also, I have never been on an air boat and I have always wanted to try that! But I am not sure about the Everglades? I am sort of afraid crocodiles, lol. I might freak out if I saw a really big one!

  7. I’ve always been a planner, but I try to leave plenty of wiggle room. Just in case. I’m glad you were bale to make the most out of the situation!

  8. Looks like you had so much fun! Great post!

  9. It sounds like it all ended up in a pretty amazing trip! I travel with kids now and leaving room for serendipity is not always easy, but whenever I can, I always try to leave some room for positive things to happen – I find more often than not, the do and it’s always a great feeling! And I agree: travel people ARE the best 🙂

  10. I love, love, love this story! First off I heard about what happened with the cruise, and it sounds like you really made the best of it. Second, I totally love Cartagena- in my opinion it’s the prettiest city in South America! So great that you all made ‘lemonade out of lemons’ and made a ton of friends in the process 🙂

  11. When I read they canceled it, I was wondering where this post was going. Way to make the most of it, and it sounds like it was definitely worth it to try solo, you wound up meeting a great group of people and visiting a new country! Love it 🙂

  12. It’s so nice when you are flexible enough to totally up and change your plans. I have never thought of it as serendipity, but I suppose it is! I’m sure many people would not have handled the cancellation with the grace that you did, but those people probably did not have an epic, life changing travel experience. I am planning a trip to Colombia in September – very excited!

  13. This is a great example of making the best of a situation and just letting things fall into place! Sounds like the Colombia trip was better than what the cruise would have been anyway – who wouldn’t choose 1000 mojitos?! Haha.

  14. I have to agree about the crazy travel itineraries. I prefer to move slowly and as you put it let serendipity take over! As for the crazy mind, I shudder to think about someone actually being able to hear the thoughts that tumble around in my brain! Totally erratic! Glad you found your tribe on the trip!

  15. I need to leave room for serendipity! I’m very much a planner but I have had moments in my life where situations presented themselves and people just turned up at exactly the right time when I needed it. If you hadn’t turned up for the cruise, you wouldn’t have met those 20 strangers and gone to Colombia with them ☺

  16. What a great reminder to be open to meeting new people and the experiences they’ll bring your way. I’m glad the trip turned out on a positive note.

  17. This is just the type of cruise I want to try! We went on an airboat when I was younger and had a blast. It’s something my kids want to try next time we’re in FL.

  18. I heard the Fathom story (although I never heard of it before the cancellation) and I think it’s a great adventure that a bunch of you went to Colombia instead of just being sad. Awesome!

  19. This is such a great story! There is always a silver lining and it looks like you had a fantastic time away. So glad you got to meet people after all and even plan future trips!

  20. […] to what I found in Cartagena, Panama City is divided into two major sections, the old and the new.  The newer section is much […]

  21. Splendid experiences. Serendipity is my favorite thing about travel.
    Charles McCool recently posted…8 Great Budapest SightsMy Profile

  22. […] travel”, whatever that meant.  Of course, that voyage was not meant to be and lead to a great adventure in Colombia.  Fast forward to June 5th, when I was finally able to make up for lost time and board the Fathom […]

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