I’m used to improvising. I suck at planning. For some people, it’s the other way around. Some are good at both (if this is your case, I have to admit, I envy you).
In the history of my travels, there’s not one single trip completely and thoroughly planned. Even if I plan a part or ‘most’ of it, I end up leaving some things up to improvisation. If there’s a part properly planned, then it’s usually where to sleep. I’ll book a campsite, a hostel, or find a place where I can sleep in my car. But that’s about it. And, yes, flights are pretty good to plan and have solved beforehand, I agree. Or budget. But I’m ALWAYS on a tight budget so I guess I somehow got used to it and, concerning short trips, don’t have to think about it that much (actually, I usually end up spending less when I don’t plan the budget than when I do).
But here’s the thing. I’ve got two big trips ahead of me. One of them is to Hawai’i and the other one is a road trip with my parents.
And both of them need to be properly planned.
Because, firstly, the Hawai’i one is a big cut through my budget (and with the taxing season, that’s really tight) and, secondly, because I’m bringing my parents along on the road trip, I can’t improvise that much with sleeping, food, etc. because that would certainly create a lot of stress on them (well, especially my mum) and it’s generally probably not a wise thing to bring parents somewhere where you have no place to sleep.
While starting to write this article, I had exactly three weeks before leaving to the islands of Hawai’i and Kauai. Today, it’s much, much less time and I can finally say I’ve got a place to sleep. Well, not quite. Tired of going through the hassle of fining a reasonably priced hostel, failing with Couchsurfing, and after my number got denied by AirBNB (screw you, damn thing! – yes, I was really mad), I said enough and bought wilderness permits for both islands (which is what I thought about doing almost since the beginning but decided that the “safer” option would be to have a roof above my head at night). Mind you, it’s still rain season on Kauai and Mt. Waialeale on the said island is, getting over 460 inches of rain per year, known as the second wettest place in the world.
I’d like to call myself adventurous but the truth for many people (including my parents and sometimes even myself) would probably be that I’m plainly just an idiot.
Talking about planning, try to guess what I spent most of my time on? No, it wasn’t trying to find cheap flights, or my fight with AirBNB. The thing I’m most concerned about is not me getting wet in the rain, or being hungry because I didn’t figure out the amount of food well. No.
The one thing that I gave the most time of all the other things I tried to plan was how to keep my poor non-weather resistant camera dry.
Another thing that I partly plan, especially when I’m going someplace which I know I won’t be coming back to (probably ever), is what places and spots to visit there. It’s good to have at least a general idea and itinerary, plus a list of if-I-have-more-time spots to visit, so one doesn’t waste precious time while there.
Amongst all the things that I don’t plan, there’s one thing that I always have to plan. Even if the whole trip from the start to the end is just one huge improvisation, leaving home on a whim with 30 minutes to pack and get everything ready for a weekend in the Sierras or so, I have to have my sleep planned. I know my body pretty well by now and I know how not having enough or even having too much sleep affects me. I can go 45 hours without sleep but I need to get my body ready for it in a certain way so it doesn’t get dangerous for me.
What I think is good NOT to plan is an exact minute-by-minute itinerary. Because if one has this perfect itinerary and something goes wrong… guess what happens? It creates stress. In some cases, a lot of stress.
Also, having a day when you don’t have anything – and I really mean ANYTHING – planned is great if one wants to really get the feeling of the place and see it the way it is. Take a stroll through the streets or drive to a place you heard about from locals.
I don’t really know how to talk about not-planning because I think I improvise things that I don’t even realize other people normally plan… but I think I covered the basics here.
So, in the end, TO PLAN OR NOT TO PLAN?
And all I can tell is that it’s up to you, what you feel most comfortable with. Planning causes me stress but not-planning might cause stress to you. I think nothing should be overdone.
Plan but leave space for improvisation. Improvise but have a plan at least that basic that you have a number to call or a place to go when something goes wrong.
Do whatever you feel is the best for you (and maybe your grandma’s nerves, like finding a spot with a phone service about once a week and letting her and people close to you know that you’re still more or less alive).
And if you feel like it, please do share with me and the others what works or doesn’t work for you down in the comments. It might really help some, maybe even target causes of anxiety or stresses regarding some of our travels.
Have a great day and see you back here some other time!