Can Preparation & Spontaneity go Hand in Hand?

Trip Start Nov 29, 2011
Trip End Dec 10, 2011

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I've noticed for this Amsterdam trip something a little weird about my research and I wonder what it’s all about.   I have been absorbed in my usual on-line research.  I’m reading Geert Mak’s "Amsterdam, A Brief Life of the City".  I’ve completed 36-30 minute lectures on the Masters of Dutch Painting and the Age of Rembrandt and have partially completed the lecture series “How to Look at and Understand Great Art”, both DVD series from The Teaching Company (they are great series available at   I’m planting seeds!    I may not remember everything on the first pass through these content rich courses, but my hope is that I will have a background so that I can observe the paintings and use them as a springboard for approaches and techniques that I can apply in my photographic composites. Barry, Karen, Harvey & I have reached a consensus about anchoring each of the first three days with one activity of choice.  On arrival day, a canal boat cruise.  On our first full day, a three-hour walking tour of Amsterdam. On our second full day, a two-hour walking tour focused on WWII and the holocaust.  We’ve also agreed on a day trip to The Hague and Delft. 

I’ve made a “menu of possibilities” and shared it with Harvey, Barry & Karen.  Where I think it’s weird is that I went overboard in the supporting details.   I went over-the-top in creating an overview Google map with high priority places identified and then detailed Google maps with the places and restaurants identified.   The maps are keyed to documents with the details of the places & restaurants (and web links to their menus & reviews).  For only 6 nights!  Crazy?  From a collaborative perspective though, we’ll all have the same information to easily make choices when we’re there.  

I wonder if all this preparation isn’t similar to the feelings from Huangshan, China, reappearing in another variation.  Over the past seven or so years, I have been more aware that we have lived more years than we have ahead of us.  I don’t want to come to the end of my life with regrets.   We make choices of what we do and how we live our lives and in the process choose to do one thing or another every day.  The point is - there isn’t enough time to do it all. 

I’m thinking that with this “menu of possibilities” and Google maps we can spontaneously decide each day and go with the flow.  I want to be flexible, just relax and enjoy and not get hung up on seeing everything on the lists.  By clarifying highest priorities and keeping the list short, my thinking is that I can enjoy those in full revelry and not be thinking about what I’m missing – or while I’m doing one thing thinking about what I’m going to be doing next.  We have plenty of time in Amsterdam so the days can evolve with us making choices & contributing to the group’s enjoyment. 

This word “spontaineity” has been rattling around in my head for the past few months. Please don’t laugh when you read this next section!  I may appear to be digressing but it does relate to this discussion.  I’d like to be more light, less measured, less planned, open to the flow and spur of the moment, let curiosity have free reign, and be energized by playful exploration.  Reading the Wall Street Journal a few days ago, I found an article about a fancy restaurant in New York City call Eleven Madison Park.  The reviewer had written a review 5 years ago and recently revisited. On the first review, he felt that something was missing and said what the place needed was a “little Miles Davis” – as an element of style.  In this review, he said the remark had not gone unnoticed.  The staff had come up with a list of 11 words most commonly used to describe Miles Davis.  Cool. Endless.  Reinvention.  Inspired.  Forward-Moving.  Fresh.  Collaborative. Spontaneous. Vibrant.  Adventurous. Light. Innovative.  They hung it on the kitchen wall for inspiration.  I resound to many of these words and would like to foster them in me more.  It’s a delicious idea to keep these words in view, much like my word of the day practice.  At the end of each year, I choose one word for each day of the week and put that on the screen of my mind at the beginning of each day.  It’s a sort of pre-visualization mind-set.  It’s December and time for me to rework my choice of 7 key words.

In our kitchen, I have a list like a menu of possibilities.  Then Harvey & I refer to it when choosing lunch or dinner.  Most is prepared foods that I assemble and reheat.  I’d like to get to the point where my culinary skills and creativity could have a list of 16 ingredients that we have on hand and then I spontaneously create something with a select few.  It’s a concoction of menu planning and spontaneity.  I’m going to ask Karen and my foodie friend Barbara about this.  This might help us to eat healthier and also inspire my creativity and foster spontaneity. Mmmm.  Maybe when I read cookbooks, I should keep this end goal in mind and be on the lookout for approaches that can be part of that basic cooking repertoire.

This digression is all to illustrate how our travel experience is integrated into my personal development of learning, growing & changing in my everyday life. 

Can Preparation and Spontaneity go hand-in-hand?  Well, we’ll see! 

                         “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into
                          the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”
                                                                                                                            -Lillian Smith
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