Let Go and Enjoy: Surprise traveler tells us what it’s like to not know where you’re going.
Surprise traveling is a unique way of getting to know new places, with an added adrenalin boost of not knowing your destination until you’re at the airport. Going on a surprise getaway might seem like a big ‘no’ for someone who likes to be in control – and honestly, aren’t we all that someone at some point? –, but the truth is that anyone who’s ever gone to a surprise destination has nothing but praise for this style of traveling.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just someone looking for an adventure, surprise traveling will open your eyes to a level of excitement you haven’t felt before, and if you still have some doubts, we bring you the perfect cure for your skepticism.
Meet Tatiana, who, along with her boyfriend Matthew, decided to go on a surprise vacation to try something truly new, ending up in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a full weekend of color, summer heat, and fun.
What made you want to go on a surprise getaway?
I’ve always loved traveling, and so has Matthew; it’s actually one of the best things we have in common. So we took it upon ourselves to visit as many places as we could in one year, and a few months ago we stumbled upon this brand new concept to us: surprise traveling. We didn’t even know that was a thing! So we thought, why not? We’ve traveled the traditional way before and we love it, but the excitement you get from a mystery destination is really on a whole different level.
How did you deal with not knowing where you were going? Did you open your destination letter at the airport or before?
I was pretty relaxed about it but then the envelope arrived and I got so anxious! Matthew almost had to hide it from me because it became so hard to not just open it and find out where we were going, but we were good travelers and waited until we were at the airport.
Leaving it until the last minute might sound crazy to some – and maybe it is, a little bit! -, but it’s just such an exciting and new thing to do. When we found out we were going to Mexico we were thrilled; we expected something in the States, but seeing Playa del Carmen printed on paper made me go nuts.
How do you prepare for a trip when you don't know the destination? What do you take with you?
Well, you pack your basic stuff like clothes and toiletries, but one of the reasons why I would recommend traveling in the summer is that it’s pretty much the same weather in any of the destinations – maybe some places are hotter than others, but your luggage won’t change much. Sunscreen is always important. Just take what you think you’ll need no matter where you’ll go because it’s easy to overpack.
Also, we got an email a few days before our trip telling us to take our swimsuits since the hotel had a swimming pool, so it’s the little things that give you hints as to what you’ll need.
What was the best part of your trip?
Playa del Carmen is so alive! It’s just brimming with life and colors and energy, you know? Maybe it’s the weather that makes everything so bright, but we loved getting out on the beach and just people-watch because everything was so foreign and interesting.
I had wanted to visit Mexico for years, I always wanted to take a closer look at their culture and their cities, so what I loved the most was seeing how their traditions were so ingrained into modern life. Also, the hotel we stayed at was so cool!
A piece of advice for people who are going on their first surprise trip?
Just take it in stride, let go, and enjoy! The most important advice I can give you is to turn nerves into excitement; no matter the destination you get, you are given a list of cool places and events to go to, so it’s impossible to get bored or not know what to do in a city you didn’t know you were visiting.
It’s such a unique experience and something so cool to tell your friends and family about. It opens you up to surprises and spontaneity, so I 100% recommend doing it at least once if you have the means.
What do you take away from this experience?
That staying open to new experiences is the best way to live your life. Traveling is one of the most beautiful and exciting things you can do; every place you visit gives you so much to learn, and allowing yourself to be genuinely surprised by a destination offers you a point of view that can be completely different to what you normally perceive.
Surprise traveling teaches you how to think on the spot, how to take what’s really important with you, and how to relinquish control of where you’re going, which is something everybody should do once in a while. I’m so glad Matthew and I shared this, and we are definitely doing it again next year!
Are you into surprise traveling? Would you actually do it or do you prefer knowing your destination beforehand? Tell us in the comments!
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My wife and I usually take 2-3 trips per year, and this was one of the most enjoyable ones yet. Next-where planned a whole agenda for us, full of places to explore that we would never have thought to go to. Our hotel was in prime location downtown, walking distance from almost everywhere we wanted to go. We will definitely let Next-Where plan another trip for us and have already recommended them to my friends.
One last thing, the scavenger hunt was great. I’ve been to New York twice before and never stepped foot in Central Park. We ended up spending about half of a day exploring and enjoying it because of the scavenger hunt (even for hours after we completed it) so please don’t ever abandon that portion of the trip experience.