Travel Lessons – What I learned when I travelled to Montreal

Every vacation can provide valuable lessons that we can bring forward to our future vacations and trips. Be that experience a pitfall and learning to avoid them in the future, or scheduling more down time, there’s always something we can take away from a trip beyond good memories.

There are two main concepts that I personally learned from our Montreal work/play trip combination:

  • Staying flexible with your trip options and being okay with unknowns might bring new and unexpected memories
  • ‘Lost time’ or ‘waste of time’ actions aren’t always a waste – it all depends on perspective

Embracing flexibility and unknown can be a good thing.

As someone labelled by the group as ‘the overly-concerned-trip-planner-that-omg-there’s-no-towel-racks-we-can’t-live-there’ person, it’s really an unnerving feeling to just climb into a car and drive somewhere without concrete plans for the duration of the trip. But we did it anyway and I thought it was awesome. I was one total relaxed and happy commuter. What I learned from previous vacations, is that over planning can lead to anxiety and unhappiness. When things don’t go the way we planned, more often than not, I’ll find myself becoming upset, stressed, and unhappy. A vacation is supposed to be the opposite of all of that!

Recently I’ve been trying to observe how my family and close friends reacted in similar situations. They intentionally relax and let things flow – even if it goes against what they originally planned. The result? A whole lot of pleasant memories! So, with the whole ‘new year, new you’ motivating me, I decided that for this trip, I would let go of the planning reigns and see which path I’m taken to. Wow. What a difference it made. We were all able to focus on what was most important – creating new and happy memories. Together.

For people who know our group, you’ll know that Anson is the happy-go-lucky type and always down to try whatever there is to do. Kent, is too, but instead of happy-go-lucky, his personality comes with a pessimistic and occasionally fiery kick (we all know that so it’s okay for me to write that…I think). To be honest, I’m like that too. So when tempers flare, you better bet there’s going to be heated arguments between the two of us, with Anson as mediator. Every project, every trip has always had at least one heated argument. But this time…. there was none. Achievement unlocked! Maybe the key to a harmonious trip is to do less planning?

In any case, rolling with things as they come along came with its perks as well. If I were to have planned our trip, I don’t think I would have scheduled ourselves for a two-hour viewing session atop Mont Royal the first night we arrived in Montreal. Nor would I have known that Old Montreal would be having its annual ‘Fire on Ice’ fireworks show. I wouldn’t even have known that Old Montreal could be viewed from afar atop Mont Royal! By going with the flow, and being okay with admiring the skyline for just a little longer than most tourists, we were rewarded with a beautiful fireworks show from afar. I think Kent, Anson, and I were quite thankful that we didn’t go to Old Montreal that night. Imagine the traffic!

Backtracking is okay too – don’t sweat the ‘inefficient’ commute.

If you sat through the entire first day’s Snap from the trip, you’ll have seen that at one point we made a detour to Ottawa. But then the next snap showed that we were crossing the borders to Quebec. What happened? We wanted to make a pit stop there to see the Rideau Canal, maybe skate on it for a bit, and stop for lunch to have the legendary shawarma our Ottawa friends always rave about. Unfortunately, this winter was not cold enough for the canal to freeze in January. We discovered this fact 20 minutes into our detour.

Should we press on to Ottawa or turn back? Shawarma’s certainly did sound tempting, but the idea of driving back post-lunch coma for another two hours to get to our hotel wasn’t. So we turned back around, ultimately backtracking our steps and increasing our commute by 40 minutes.

Normally, our lessons learned here would be to Google first, then decide. But then I’d always think of the extra 40 minutes in the car as wasted effort. As part of the whole ‘going with the flow’ theme, I’ve learned to enjoy the extra 40 minutes in the car. We were so excited that we called Anson’s sick cousin that lives in Ottawa to announce our arrival.

“Hey, you still in bed?”

“*coughs* yeah…”

“Well start changing, I’m going to be in Ottawa in an hour to go skating! Let’s meet up later okay?”

“*coughs coughs* uhh…. okay…. *laughs nervously*”

****20 minutes later***

“Hey… uhh so we aren’t going to Ottawa anymore…. you can go back to bed. See you some other time!”

“…..haha okay… cool I’m still in bed anyway”

I didn’t think I would like the abruptness that much. It was just so…. random and new. Refreshing. It also served as extra fodder to feed our 6 hour conversation. Although it would have been considered time ‘lost’ from exploring Montreal, I don’t think we can say it was time wasted. Yes, we had less time to explore Montreal that night, but we were able to laugh so much more and I can honestly say, that our car ride going in was one of the most pleasant road trips I’ve ever had.

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