On Saturday morning I received an email that alarmed me. It was from Expedia, thanking me for booking my trip to Birmingham through them. Which I had no recollection of doing. As I waited for the ‘My Booking’ page to load (my phone gets crap reception, so mobile internet for me is an experience akin to dial-up circa 1999) I assumed that I’d done what I often do, and travel ambushed myself. I’d been in the pub with my old housemate the night before, planning a return to our university haunts in Brum and I had a vague recollection of looking at hotels. It wouldn’t have been my first surprise trip. In fact, ambush travel is my preferred method.
Ambush travel is a technique I learnt from another old housemate, who has a tendency to hold people to their impromptu/drunken plans. Back in the first year I’d had a conversation with her and another friend one night about how we should go to Prague. I had no intention of actually doing it, but a few months later she rang me up and announced she’d booked her flights, making me morally obliged to join her. And so I ended up spending three nights staying in a university dorm, wandering the streets and being told that my top “was like beer” (to this day, the strangest chat-up line ever used on me).
A few years later she did the same thing on a much larger scale. I’d formed a vague plan with her to go travelling after uni, and she held me to it. And then ambushed me repeatedly for the entire three months we were away. Every night we’d sit with South America on a Shoestring and plot where to go next. After a couple of drinks she’d get me to agree to some ridiculous stuff; giant detours to pre-Incan ruins, horse rides through Argentinian canyons, speedboat trips under waterfalls. I even ended up sat in a dugout canoe in the Bolivian rainforest with a piranha dangling above my head, all because she kept making me book things in the exact instant that we thought of them, when they still seemed like a great idea.
The real great idea, it turns out, is travel ambush itself. I’ve been employing it on friends ever since; I always book the trip before they have time to back out. I’ve even been known to travel ambush myself. I’d received an email advertising some amazing flight sale, and before I knew it I’d booked myself flights to Australia in some strange travel-induced trance. It’s the ultimate in “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. The best thing is though, it’s usually still a good idea when you get there.
(The Expedia email, by the way, turned out to just be a result of their poor grasp of geography and loose definition of Birmingham, as they were actually talking about a night I’d booked in rural Oxfordshire for a friend’s wedding.)