“So, can you come with us in two weeks?” my uncle asked on the other end of the phone. I paused and considered the implications of skipping the first week of school to go on my uncle’s company cruise to help with my four cousins. My initial instinct was to say no. I had work, plans to be with my family until the end of Christmas break, homework, and a full class load that coming semester. But after talking it over with several people, who all encouraged me to do something spontaneous for once, I called my uncle back and told him I’d love to go.

Two weeks later, I was skipping the first week of school, watching the sun set over the ocean, getting my hair done in cornrows, and trying snails for dinner. The straight-A weekly planner in me couldn’t believe what I’d done, but rearranging my schedule to be spontaneous ended up being worth it. I wouldn’t trade the closeness I now have with my cousins, the experience of visiting three different countries, and the memories of that trip for anything.

On other trips, spontaneity brought me to a small indoor market in Oaxaca, Mexico, where I found the perfect steaming-hot tamale and fresh mango smoothie. In the Philippines, spontaneity brought me to bright green rice fields as far as the eye could see. Spontaneity made me jump in the ocean in North Carolina fully clothed, try hang gliding, and eat a fertilized duck egg.

I’ve learned that leaving some room in your itinerary and travel plans to explore means traveling off the beaten path, discovering something new, and embarking on adventures you wouldn’t have otherwise. Spontaneity may not always be as easy as saying yes to a free cruise. Sometimes it requires getting out of a comfort zone, breaking a status quo, or taking the road less traveled, but I think you’ll always find it a rewarding experience.

In this issue, you’ll read about an author getting out of her comfort zone on a fishing trip to Alaska. You’ll read about challenging common ways of thinking about volunteering abroad. You’ll read about being a mindful traveler, soaking in the place where you are. As you explore the world through this issue of Stowaway, I hope you’ll be inspired to be a little more spontaneous on your next expedition into the wide world.

—Mckenna Clarke