My friends and family would tell you I’m not a very spontaneous person. As much as I hate to admit that, they’re right. But today’s blog post is here to encourage you (and me!) to be a little more adventurous, at least while traveling.
Serendipity can make for great memories.
One experience that comes to mind took place in Amsterdam a few years ago. As my cousin Carole and I came upon Dam Square, the historical center of the city, we decided to take a break for coffee at one of the outdoor cafes ringing the square. As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed young people milling about in the center of the square in ever larger numbers. Others stood on the fringe with cameras, laughing and apparently waiting for something interesting to happen.
We were drawn to join them out of curiosity and just as the clock struck the hour, a huge pillow fight broke out before our eyes! It was a flash mob pillow fight which, at the time, I thought was some unique occurrence, singular to this fabulous city (which I’d already fallen in love with). We didn’t have pillows, of course, but we joined in with the delighted spectators, laughing and trying to capture the moment on film.
As it turns out, flash mob pillow fights have been taking place across the globe for a while. But on that day in Amsterdam, it was new to me and a wonderful, silly surprise as we casually explored the city.
On International Pillow Fight Day in March 2008, the Wall Street Journal estimated more than 5,000 people participated in New York City alone. Word spread through social media and the feathers flew in more than 25 cities, from Sydney to Stockholm.
(If you’re going to be in California in September, you might want to attend the World Pillow Fighting Championship in Rohnert Park at Sonoma Mountain Village. This is no flash mob. People will pay to compete or to be a spectator, but pillow fighting continues to pop up in the U.S. from Washington, DC to San Francisco.)
The point is not about searching for flash mob pillow fights, of course. It’s about wandering around and being a part of a city’s scene. It’s stopping to sway to the echoing tune of a talented musician in the tunnel of a Paris Metro stop, or watching a beautiful bride and groom pose for photos with Rome’s Coliseum in the background on a sunny October afternoon.
While staying in an apartment in Florence, we woke up Sunday morning to see that a flea and antiques market had magically sprung up overnight in the square and streets just opposite our building. I learned later that the market is open just one Sunday a month and we’d been lucky enough to catch it on this trip.
I found a dainty, old porcelain napkin holder that now displays my bookmark collection. And the colorful cover of a 1950s Italian magazine was perfect for framing and now hangs prominently in my kitchen. Best souvenirs ever!
So when we travel, yes . . . of course we want to climb the Eiffel Tower, or to stare up in awe at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But you know what? They’re not going anywhere. See the sites you’ve been waiting a lifetime to experience, but also, take your time. Look around.
You might be tickled by some flying feathers, too.