The Art of the Surprise Visit
Having been on the receiving end of an amazing surprise visit on Valentine’s Day last month, I thought I’d write about one of the best gifts you can give: a surprise visit.
When you’re living abroad, it is much harder to regularly see your nearest and dearest. Those in a long-distance relationship will understand that Skype (while a life-saver) is no substitute for regularly seeing someone in the flesh. Depending on where it is you live, you may have to go months at a time without your friends, family & boyfriend/girlfriend. The cost of flights adds up quickly if you’re travelling lots, and each moment when you are actually with your loved ones is precious and to be savoured.
So when it comes to birthdays and special occasions, your presence is often one of the best presents you can give. A fair amount of covert planning and cover stories goes into planning a surprise visit home, but when it’s done well, it’s seriously worth it!
Firstly, you need to find the ideal date. A birthday, a graduation, Valentine’s Day, a wedding, etc. Yes, your surprise-ee will be disappointed and potentially angry when you tell them that you can’t attend the aforementioned event, but you have to stick to your guns and lie to them. After all, they will forgive you the white lie once they realise it was all part of an intricate plan. I’ll admit that I have caved once. In trying to explain my reason for not flying over for an important event, I used the excuse of not having enough money for the flight and having too much studying to do. The danger of using the money excuse is that they can check for themselves the cost of the flights and also even offer to pay for you. The result of saying this was that my boyfriend got really angry, declaring that I clearly wasn’t committed enough, etc. In the interests of keeping the peace I later told him that I had in fact already booked flights, so I didn’t manage to see that surprise visit through to full fruition. So, going from experience, I’d avoid the money excuse. One way to avoid this is to pretend to have booked flights for a later date, for a shorter visit.
Once you’ve decided which date to arrive, the second thing to check is what your intended surprise-ee has planned for that moment in time. Will they be at home to let you in? Are you surprising them at work or at a party? It helps if you have an accomplice on the ground to help co-ordinate the surprise-ee and make sure they’re in the desired location and the appointed time. Failing that, you could arrange a Skype session at a particular time, and make sure they’re going to be at home for the Skype. On the 14th February 2013 I nearly decided last minute to go out for drinks with some of my other friends also in long-distance and so I cancelled the planned Skype session. Circumstances transpired that I decided to stay at home in the end, but had I gone out, I would have left my boyfriend waiting on my front door step in the freezing cold for a couple of hours!
Thirdly, you have to come up with a cover story for your whereabouts. Invent something plausible and don’t be vague about your plans, as this will only arouse suspicion and potentially let the cat out of the bag.
You’re aiming to leave the surprise-ee gobsmacked and perplexed as to how you could possibly be there. A good tactic when flying, as you’ll be out of contact while in the air, is to say you’re out somewhere and your phone is “running out of battery”. This avoids any suspicion building while you’re out of contact.
Then lastly: the arrival. An additional present may or may not be necessary, depending on the occasion, but make sure you have it in hand for the all important opening of the front door or the entrance into the restaurant. The surprise-ee is likely to experience speechlessness, potentially tears, awe, excitement, emotion, but generally should provoke happiness. The effort you’ve gone to will be greatly appreciated, especially if it’s a difficult journey to make, and it truly is better than any present in the post.
However this present should only be used every now and again, and interspersed with planned & agreed visits as well. Imagine if you were receiving surprise visits once a month – it would definitely lose its appeal after a while.
If you’re surprising someone while they’re at home, there’s always a risk you’ll catch them unawares, when they’re taking a nap or vegging out and completely unprepared. So you just have to keep that in mind. Fortunately I was still in a decent state when I received my surprise visit on Valentine’s Day, but I did panic that I wasn’t as prepared as I’d have liked.
Overall it was an incredibly sweet thing to do & I’d recommend everyone who lives far away do it at some point or other.