One of the best things about travel is experiencing the unexpected.
It might be stumbling across a quirky bar in the backstreets of a huge city, or discovering a delicious new dish in a restaurant.
It could be coming across a colourful street parade or turning the corner to discover a spectacular view.
As I’ve got older, I’ve become more of a planner. I’d like to be more spontaneous, but I know that it pays to have a list of possible places to eat whenever we visit a new city, otherwise we’ll spend an hour growing increasingly fractious as we try to decide where we fancy, before inevitably ending up back where we started.
It also helps to have an idea of the things we’d like to see in each place, even if it isn’t a strict itinerary.
But some of my most memorable travel moments have involved things that weren’t planned, or visits to places I knew little about.
In Prague, it was a last minute cinema visit that taught me a lot about the history of the Czech Republic.
Even a decade after we visited Egypt, I still remember my surprise on discovering the pyramids sitting alongside the busy streets of Cairo. The image of them miles out in the desert is carefully constructed from a particular vantage point where the city lies below the skyline, hidden by hills.
And who knew that there was a KFC just across the road from the Sphinx?
Sitting in a fast food restaurant scoffing a chicken meal and enjoying a close-up view of one of the wonders of the world is still one of my most surreal travel experiences.
But the most surprising of all was probably that time I saw Michael Jackson at Disneyworld Paris.
My parents took me a few times as a kid, usually on the bus from North East England, as my dad hates to fly.
On that particular visit, we drove slowly past the Hotel New York and the tour guide told us of the rumours that the King of Pop was currently staying there.
“You might even see him in the park!”
A couple of days went by and there was no sign, only long queues on some of the rides as he apparently commandeered them for his entourage.
Then on the last day, as we were queuing for a ride on Thunder Mountain, a whisper ran through the crowd. As the train appeared from one of the tunnels, we saw him: Michael Jackson.
The people waiting for the ride were suddenly fascinated. Everyone stared across as the singer and his entourage whizzed by and disappeared. A few minutes later, they were back, taking another turn on the ride. And then another. With each glimpse people got more excited.
Then he was gone.
But that glimpse of one of the most famous faces in the world, however brief, remains one of my most vivid travel memories.
Sometimes it isn’t about the things you’ve carefully planned for, or the tourist hot spots that might not live up to your expectations. It’s about the moments that take you outside of your everyday life and give you a glimpse of the world through fresh eyes.
Those are the moments travel was made for.
If you’d like to experience a real travel surprise, Surprise Trips are currently running a competition for bloggers and vloggers. They offer travellers the chance to book a trip to one of 77 European destinations; the twist is you don’t know where you’re going until you turn up at the airport!
Find out more about the competition here. While this isn’t a sponsored post, it is my entry to said competition – I’d love to win a surprise city break, hint hint…