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?
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!