Before we even left for this trip, Ryan and I were adamant about one thing: our plans would always be flexible. So much so, that at the time we set out, there was only one time constraint: our backpacking campsite reservations in Banff, August 25th-27th. Outside of those dates, nothing was set in stone. And even those dates weren’t rigid; I had paid only $45 for those sites. If we didn’t make it in time, it was no huge financial loss.
We sketched a rough itinerary, estimating about a week per National Park (Grand Teton Yellowstone, Glacier, Banff), then had intentions to move west toward Vancouver, then down into Seattle, Portland, and so on. The beauty of this trip has been the looseness. It was a few weeks in that we realized: there was no way we could dedicate the proper time to the Pacific Northwest if we hauled all the way through California to Ryan’s cousin in Newport Beach. Therefore, we committed to sticking to Washington and Oregon for the second half of the trip and book flights out of one of the two states.
We couldn’t have predicted the fires this summer — not only where they would be, but their scale. Given the proliferation of fires in Canada, we were unsure if we’d make it to Banff. As luck would have it, the skies cleared the day we arrived, after we closely monitored the situation all week. However, we knew that heading to Vancouver would mean smoky skies. It was honestly a happy re-route to head to Revelstoke (perhaps our favorite of all the mountain towns we’ve seen) and then down into Washington.
Spokane proved to be sketchy and have odd energy, so we didn’t stay. We posted up in Coeur d’Alene for four days, refusing to enter Spokane again until Ryan’s watch was fixed at the Apple Store. As soon as it was, we retrieved it and immediately hit the road. Ryan and I are both concerned about the ~vibes~, and we have no issue leaving a place, be it a town, restaurant, or shop, that seems off.
The original plan was to do Washington first, Oregon second. However, Ryan really wanted to see his friends, Jake and Jenna, in Seattle, and they were out of town until September 12 (after meeting them, I see why!). So we re-routed again. We’d go to Oregon first, and that dictated our trajectory — we’d reach Mosier and my uncle Carey first, and then we could make a little loop of Bend to Eugene (and Tara) to Portland. Seattle has proven to be the only other time crunch we’ve set for ourselves: we’ll be flying out of the Seattle airport this week.
We’ve told many friends and family members — those we’ve seen on the road or caught up with on the phone — that we can really only plan week to week. It’s genuinely difficult planning further ahead than that. It’s a combination of those factors that we can’t control (like fires and Ryan’s watch being stuck in repair) and our desire to spend more or less time in certain places. Who knew we’d spend four days in Bozeman and four in Coeur d’Alene, but not even one full day in Spokane? Who knew we’d never make it to Vancouver (or California for that matter), but spend significant time in Idaho? That’s just been the nature of the trip.
On a microlevel, we are adapting on a daily basis. We relocate campsites; we pick up Trusted Housesitter gigs; we travel early or late or during lunch to piece things together. While both of us feel that our upcoming travels won’t necessarily be restful (I am going to some big family festivities while Ryan is going to a bachelor’s weekend), we agree that it will be such a nice logistical break. For a handful of days, we won’t have to be thinking about where we’ll be sleeping next, when we’ll get our next shower, where we’ll do laundry, how soon we need more ice, what groceries we’re low on, and on and on. In that respect, it will be an enormous mental reboot.
When you embrace this sort of flexibility, not only do you open yourself up to more opportunities, but you also save yourself from being too hellbent on any particular plan. You don’t get your hopes up too high, and in fact, you often find experiences far surpassing your expectations. I can’t imagine a trip that’s more rewarding, challenging, exhilarating, frustrating, and beautiful. Life isn’t always about having everything scheduled perfectly — things are bound to go awry that way. As corny as it sounds, it’s about going with the flow and riding the waves as they come.