Sometimes it pays to plan ahead. In the past I’ve always been a big planner: pouring over Lonely Planet and creating detailed itineraries. For me planning is part of the fun! It’s a way to make sure I get to see and do everything I want. I used to lovingly craft out written lists and plans of where to go and what to see.
Until I learned that sometimes you just have to throw all of that out the window. Over time I’ve found that when a really good opportunity comes along you need to be flexible enough to jump on it. It’s the key to memorable and life changing travel experiences.
Here are some of my most impulsive travel decisions:
Solo Travel to Scotland
I’d never been anywhere on my own before, but after a weekend romance in Dover I decided to take the train up to Edinburgh simply because a boy asked me to. The boy ended up being a complete dude, but it was my first taste of solo travel and that was love at first sight.
Off the Track in Croatia
A year later I was backpacking through Eastern Europe. I’d meticulously planned my itinerary, down to reserving all of the hostels for 2 months (!) worth of travel. But when some new friends told me about the Plitvice Waterfalls and invited me along, I couldn’t resist. Even though I had some (totally unnecessary) angst about breaking my reservations I tagged along and I’m so glad I did because Plitvice remains one of the most naturally beautifully places I’ve ever been.
Throwing out New Zealand for China
When I was planning my epic round-the-world trip, I spent a lot of time planning my year abroad. My first three stops (Japan, New Zealand, Australia) were pretty much set in stone. That is until I met a handsome boy jus a couple months before leaving who totally rocked my world. “Come to China,” he said, and just like that I decided that yes, I would.
That was really a turning point for me, as I realized that making long-term travel plans is futile, life will always get in the way. My RTW trip ended up looking nothing like I expected (in fact- I never even made it all the way around), but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Cutting SE Asia Short
Backpacking through Laos and Cambodia by myself was exhausting, and I quickly found myself getting burned out. One evening alone in my guest house I found myself searching for cheap flights to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, or anywhere really. My heart wasn’t in it, so I flew back to China instead for some much needed relaxation. I never did get to see Chiang Mai, but I know I’ll enjoy it more when I actually do make it.
Last Minute TBEX
Even though I had a blast at 2010’s Travel Blog Exchange convention, I highly doubted I would make it to the 2011 event. I was off on the other side of the world after all and didn’t really see my route taking me through Vancouver.
This all changed when I decided to go home and visit my family for a couple of months over the summer. Suddenly my route was taking me right over Vancouver, and a quick search confirmed it would cost the same amount to fly from Xi’an to DC as to fly from Xi’an to Vancouver to DC. It was time to scramble around for accommodation because yes I was going. Sure I was zonked out on caffeine and jet lag all weekend, but it was still a good time.
Coming to Bogota
I announced months ago that I was headed to South America to work on Everywhere Connection. Only problem was, we didn’t know where to start tackling that giant continent. On a casual Skype call with our friend Jeff, I casually mentioned that we were hoping to do some house-sitting. “Why don’t you house sit for me?”
It was sooner than we’d planned, and Bogota had never really figured into our plans, but why not really? The fact that airfare was cheap pretty much clinched it. We were going to Colombia!
That pretty much brings us up to date. So far Bogota has turned out to be a pretty awesome place. I’m glad we came. I’m almost always glad when I step away from the norm and do something impulsive or different.
I think that planning ahead has a lot to do with feeling secure. People like to know where they are going and what they will be doing because it makes them feel safe. When you make an impulsive travel decision, you are taking a risk. Sometimes you’ll be handsomely rewarded and sometimes you’ll be terribly disappointed, but no matter what you’ll end up with a story to tell.