Travel Without a Plan

Would you set off traveling without every day planned out? I do! And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way!

But wait, you say, how do you know what you’re going to do?? Well, in short, I don’t!

Okay…that’s not completely true. What I do is a lot of pre-departure research. And I don’t just use those handy dandy Lonely Planet guides (still the best in the world if you ask me), but I also scour the internet for tips on message boards and other bloggers. What are nice (and not so nice) things to see? What will the weather be like? What are some holidays that may affect my travel plans? What’s actually happening on the ground?

Lonely Planet Guides

Basically, I set off with an overview of what I’d like to do. And there don’t tend to be any set days attached to this. Sure, it might be nice to be in a particular place for a holiday, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. With this overview, I set off, using my energy level, feelings and the perceptions of my fellow travelers to shape my day to day.

Let’s take my recent Asian adventure, for example. I made an overview from which I booked my flights around. Then that overview changed about 5 different times, almost all of which happened after I departed. Two of those changes altered my flights, the first prior to my departure as an attempt to skip Chinese New Year celebrations (and the largest human migration on Earth) and the second, to extend my time in China as I was leaving earlier than expected due to unexpected bitterly cold weather! Further sights involved sites that I suddenly decided to visit, skipping over bigger tourist sites (my entire stint in the remote Western porition of China’s Sichuan province was a great example of this).

Along the way, I met plently of folks who had their entire trips planned out, some even down to the hour! My question to them is, what happens when you wish you could spend more time somewhere? Equally, I met plenty of folks who were freaking out about being behind said schedule.

Perhaps it’s because travel feels so natural to me, as well as the fact that I know that someday I’ll return to China, but rather than tying to see “everything” (at least everything from a tourist’s perspective), I stuck to a fairly limited area. So yes, I collectively spent two months in China and didn’t see the Great Wall, Army of Terracotta Warriors, or the Three Gorges Dam, but I did see plenty of incredible natural beauty and did get a healthy dose of culture!

Am I mising things by traveling this way? Sure, but it’s far less important for me to see the sights that everyone sees than it is to get what I dub a “genuine” cultureal experience. And to me, that’s exactly what travel is all about!

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4 Responses to Travel Without a Plan

  1. Nick Laborde February 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    I’m right there with ya man. To me, planning too much just adds stress to the whole experience… which is couter productive to the whole adventure.

    Also, like you said you never know what opportunities will pop up. I know from my personal experience that the greatest memories come from the unplanned adventures.

    • Aaron February 1, 2011 at 8:35 pm #

      To say they turn into some of the greatest memories is absolutely right (for that matter, pretty much anything unplanned seems to)! I didn’t plan to spend a week in the remote parts of Sichuan but it was by far one of the highlights of my time in China! So what if I didn’t see the Terracotta Warrior…they’ll still be there next time I visit!

  2. Ele June 1, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    I always have a plan, otherwise I’d just wander off, loose my way and miss out on the landmarks. Planning is an efficient way to see a place if you are short of time. But I try to include some time for just browsing through the city.

    • Aaron June 1, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Losing your way is the best thing that can happen to you when you travel, at least in my opinion. If you’re short of time, don’t try and do too much. I’m also totally okay missing the landmarks. I find that many of them tend to be overrated anyways. Here in Turkey I’ve skipped over Ephesus and Cappadocia because I wanted to instead focus on the east. And you know what? I’ve had a grand old time! I have ideas about what I’d like to do but they’re subject to change based on people I meet, things I hear about places, weather, etc.

      Just about anything can be interesting, you just have to have the right mentality.

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