I stick right between that little line of planning a little & trying to wing it. There are people, I hear, that plan their whole trip out before they go, Gasp! Props to them but I just don’t see the adventure in that. I like to stay right at that fine line. So I make goals. Below are some tips for traveling with no plans.
Having no plan has great benefits
– Free to travel with new friends wherever they may go
– Can change course at any time. Which will help if say, a hurricane is coming where you were headed
– No disappointments when plans don’t work out… because you have none!
– The feeling of blowin’ in the wind. The adventure awaits and you have no idea what’s coming next. The most gratifying & intimidating thing about travel.
Oh, but the downsides are there as well…
– Running out of money because you are taking too much transportation
– Wasting time due to backtracking. Maybe you didn’t know that it was snowing in November in Saharan and that no buses would take you out of there. That cost me 3 days and a lot of money.
– Being lost in big cities and spending your day meandering (not in a good way)
– Missed opportunities: Tigers in Bangkok, Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam. You may not get to go back to these places. Because I looked up when the Dalai Lama would be in his home, I was lucky enough to see and learn from His Holiness. I had to stay two weeks longer, but I just cut another city out.
– Stress that comes with losing days/money on your trip
Here is my advice for balance.
Read up on the country you’re going to online. If it seems like there are a lot of activities you want to do, you should read into them more.
Example: Before I went to India I bought a guidebook on Amazon and read it at work. Not the whole thing! Just read these parts: Intro & main attractions. Skip the history and where to eat & sleep. These things you’ll figure out on the road or you can download the PDF and look it up later. It’s more beneficial to learn about the history while you’re in the country. You can apply it and will remember everything better. I email the PDF to myself, and open it on my iPhone. Once it has been opened once with 3G or wifi, you won’t need Internet to open it thereafter. You can pull it up on your bus or train ride into the next town to see what awaits you.
I keep pdf’s in my e-mail from lonely planet
I knew that, for example, in India I wanted to go to these states and these cities. You won’t make it to all but if you do, know that you want to do these activities.
this is a google doc I would add things to as I read and prepare
I needed to know that the Taj Mahal is in Agra, the Camels are in Rajasthan, I could bathe elephants in Kerala, and Volunteer at Mother Theresa’s in Calcutta. Know what’s important to you and have an idea of what path you want to take. Unless of course time and money are of no problems to you, then you can comfortably wing it!
If you are going to a country that doesn’t have anything that stands out, then do no planning at all!
It is fun to do and you should try it at least once. For me that was Thailand. I knew I wanted to lie on a beach and sip on drinks, like in laid-back Ko Lanta. I wanted a tan and I wanted to see Maya Bay where “The Beach” was filmed. That’s pretty much it. I knew at the beaches there would be scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, etc. If any of those were offered I’d be game, but I wasn’t going to make plans around them. I had a fabulous month taking ferries from beach to beach. The only thing I missed was the Tigers because I miscalculated my visa days, had to change my flight, and headed out early. A missed opportunity is always a good reason to go back.
Where to next?
Set a budget.
Try to take the route that prevents flying to save money. Make sure you know the seasons of where you travel. The amount of money that I’ve lost over time because of lack of planning is enough to make a grown man cry. You also don’t want to be at a beach during off-season (monsoon) if you’re planning on getting a tan and sipping on mimosas.
*Another great reason to have a smidge of a plan is so you have something to look forward to. If you are in a city that you have no connection with and cannot wait to leave, you can calm yourself by knowing that a train ride away is a somewhere you’re really looking forward to, like late-night gazing at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
i wasn’t stoked to sleep in this station in Allahabad, but I knew I was meeting Ashley in Varanasi in a day!
Do you travel without a plan? How do you like to keep balance? Fill me in.
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Rachel Jones is an American who left a career in nursing to live on the beaches on Goa, India two years ago where she is now a Thai masseuse, candle-maker, and travel writer. Her award winning website gives advice on the other 28 countries she's been to but has become the go-to site on India travel, focusing on off beat places & “glamorous travel”. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE magazine & was voted by Flipkey as one of the top 25 female bloggers to follow this year. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google plus.
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