Sometimes a great pre-trip idea just doesn’t feel so great after you’re on the road. Maybe the weather is bad, the culture isn’t what you thought it would be or you found yourself happily stuck somewhere else.
My first big trip to Europe, I had a month planned before I left and thought I’d plan the rest while I was travelling. I wanted to know where I was going to be for the next month, how I was going to get there and what I was going to do.
I knew some flexibility was necessary, but I felt I had to have a rough plan in my mind (ok, a bit more than a rough plan). After a month of planned travel in Ireland, that whole philosophy was thrown out the window.
Don’t be bound to a checklist
Before my trip, I thought I needed to go to every museum and important site in my guidebook. I had one year (which turned into 20 months), so I had plenty of time. I thought to do each city justice, I needed to do everything in the guidebook. I found that I did enjoy museums and the tourist sites, but only in moderation.
There are some major sites you must see – the Louvre, Vatican Museum and the Reichstag to name a few – but after a while, I didn’t feel I needed (or wanted) to go to every little museum, castle and historical site in my guidebook.
Take time off
One important thing I didn’t take into account at the beginning of my trip was giving myself days off. If I’m on the road for more than a week, I deserve a weekend. Travel is hard and you do need a break (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). You might be forced to take a day off if museums, shops and sites are closed, but intentional breaks give you a chance to relax, de-stress and take in what you’re experiencing.
I love those breaks when I travel. I might head to the park and read, go on a walk with a new friend, watch a movie or just sleep in. Breaks while travelling are great.
Find a theme
Everyone’s got a different interest be it photography, music or history. My travel goal now is culinary. I love trying new foods and dishes on the road.
Travelling with a culinary focus definitely opens you up to local people, so you still get to experience the culture. Travelling plate to plate and city to city certainly makes for memorable experiences.
A road trip I took with my grandma had this culinary mindset. We drove from Seattle to Portland, San Francisco and Sacramento. Of course, visiting my friends was a highlight and a multi-generational road trip is unforgettable, but the food I was able to try really made my trip memorable and unique.
My idea of travel has morphed into going to a place, getting to know the culture, making new friends, eating delicious food and only moving on when I feel I’m ready to leave, not when everything in my guidebook is ticked off my list.
This type of travel is much more relaxed and feel-flowing but it’s impossible to plan. I try to have an idea of where I’ll go next, but I still maintain flexibility so I can stay longer if I want to or leave early if that’s what I felt I need to do.
Before leaving home, it’s good to have an idea of what sort of things you think you want to do. Unless you have a deep desire to do enough things to fill your entire schedule, it’s a good idea to leave some flexibility.
Remember you’ve always got the option to completely change your plans and start your planning from scratch (or just throw it out the window and follow the wind) if your trip isn’t going the way you want. You might find something else that you love or realise that you loathe what you planned – it happens to all of us.