SPONTANEITY IS DEAD / by Natalie Macken

The content of my head is filled with grape vines waltzing up hills to vanishing point while low blue skies pull down like a diorama curtain.

In reality, this tiny microcosm of incognito backwater remains just a brain-dance with one huge roadblock. Substantial actuality.

We thirty-something’s are mourning the loss of spontaneity. The freedom to roam without following an over enthusiastic guide with a branded umbrella, headset and an unexplained utility vest.

‘Back in the day’ she writes with a side-grin memory of journaling with sticky-tape and pen… people didn’t plan (I know. Somewhere, someone has just e-chocked before OD’ing on a multitude of open tabs, sending them into a dull oblivion of choice).

Ambling through a country, eating when you’re hungry at an open, affordable place of consumption. Sleeping at a ‘look what we found round the corner’ with attentive, effusive, story-yarning hosts. Visiting any piece of cultural significance or even seeing the corner of it from 3 miles away through the tiny line-of-sight under a bearded man’s armpit. 

These notions are the road-kill of the super highway.

Wanderlust is still alive but without following some kind of www-dot, you will end up sight-seeing on the back of a concertina pamphlet while seriously considering the purchase of a saint made of shells.

In the space where the web has been weaving its reach to gather in a smaller world, bureaucracy has become a Big. Fat. Cat. This hungry beast takes the leftovers, preying on the non-prepared pilgrim, seeking the romantics and herding the naïve meanders into a package deal.

The logistics labyrinth has become an infographic where every variable leads to an abrupt ‘no.’ If the answer lies anywhere sideways of north, south, east or west, it doesn’t exist. The train is always full and gone is the stow-away mentality. The beds are always taken and gone is the bunking inclination.

For every encounter of such rigidity, ironically - there’s an impromptu effect. Without malfunction we’d never have experienced Lyon in the midst of a thick recession as a side effect of being ousted from a mechanically stubborn train. Having asphyxiated in a full carriage with fainting elderly, pacing claustrophobes and raging alpha types, we found ourselves eating aged fried rice in a region celebrated for its wine and cheese. As it turned out, separating spam from hard peas is much more memorable than discerning lavender overtones in Shiraz.

We also have rigidity to thank as we clutch ticket number #806 at midnight in Chambery. Deep in a line where a red-faced information officer simultaneously hampers his crushed dreams and burns a hole in punter #45’s forehead with the force of a millennium of suppressed vendetta.

When our third train came to a grinding halt, a distressed cat in carry-on let out the cry of indignation and desperation that gave voice to our inner rage. Here was the turning point. Focusing on the destination is dangerous. The loud meowing gave us a decibel-underlined reminder that the journey is not an inconvenience but where the story is.

 Maybe we’ve hit the puberty blues of wandering, teetering on the edge of travel maturity. Without a matched luggage ensemble, in full possession of will and curiosity, we’ve come to the notion – Spontaneity is dead. Is there a halfway point between spur-of-the-moment and schedule?