Accidental Pleasures

Things don’t often go as planned. Wait. Scratch that. Things almost never go as planned. But here’s the weird part. Sometimes the least expected experiences are the most satisfying.

Ten years ago, my wife and I were fortunate enough to visit India. Of course, we read a bunch of guide books and made certain that we toured the Taj Mahal. And of course it was breathtakingly beautiful. (We have the pictures to prove it!)

But what I still remember best about that trip were the unplanned moments, such as the time we happened to be in a canoe at dusk in Kerala just as a cloud of enormous fruit bats rose up en-masse from a nearby bird sanctuary and soared over our heads, darkening the sky. (For a moment, we thought they were coming for us like the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.)

It’s this kind of serendipity that veteran travel writer Edward Readicker-Henderson celebrates in “Kill Your Bucket List.” He argues that modern travel has become overly packaged, designed for the pictures you’ll take home rather than the adventure of actually getting involved with the places and people behind those picturesque photos. “Nobody just takes a vacation anymore,” he writes. “They knock the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the temples of Angkor off the list.”

Readicker-Henderson is not suggesting you go abroad with no plans at all. But he is pleading that you leave some time free in your schedule to wander around, ask questions, maybe even get lost. You’ll feel great when you actually have a conversation with one of the locals, or when you find your way home — you’ll have a real experience, rather than just checking a box and moving on to the next item on your list.

Note to writers: Sharpen your pencils! The July 1 deadline for our fourth annual Great American Fiction contest is looming. For more info, visit

Because our fiction contest has been such a success, we had an idea: Why not invite readers to submit true stories about themselves to the Post? If we select your personal essay, not only will you have the honor of being published, but we’ll pay you an honorarium of $50 and throw in a two-year subscription. For guidelines, go to Deadline for entries is September 1.

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