Here it is, I’m an over-planner. Not everyday and not with everything but more often than I’d like.
My husband and I are headed to Scotland soon, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting for decades and I’m completely paralyzed by the planning of the whole thing. I don’t want to miss out on things but at the same time I don’t want to have an itinerary that is so tight that we can’t embrace our adventurous side. We’ve been at this travel thing together for the better part of 20 years (a side effect of meeting and marrying so young). For the first 6 or 7 years we flew by the seats of our pants. Young, childless, and optimistic we rarely had hotel reservations, we carried maps because we frequently got lost when we went “adventuring”, and many times we didn’t know exactly what day we were leaving or when we were returning. Things either worked out, we figured it out, or we learned a lesson. We are both perfectly capable human beings and can manage ourselves fairly well in nearly any circumstance. So we did.
Enter our beloved kiddo and my inner planner instincts became very handy. I can plan an itinerary with the best of them. I’ve got maps, names, addresses, costs down to the penny, rest stops, hotels, Airbnbs, and everyone has exactly what they need exactly when they need it. I’m a pro. If I could get paid for this, I’d never work another job again.
This time though, since we are traveling childless (she has school and grandparents to oversee all that needs to go on), I’d like to fly by the seat of my pants again. It is way harder than I expected! I’ve always enjoyed our trips and can’t wait to go anywhere, anytime but I’ve missed the flexibility. So WHY is it so hard to be flexible? Perhaps I’m just out of practice. Perhaps it is because my professional life has consisted of putting out fires all over the place for the last decade or so and now that I have 3 seconds to think, I feel like I have to control something else. Who knows?
What I do know is this, I’ll either figure it out or I’ll drink a fair amount of Scotch to chill me out. Let’s see shall we?
Yup, just two. Here they are.
1) RUN! As fast as you can, with a packed schedule, taking lots of pictures and usually eating on the go. I have done this a few times myself, especially if I don’t have a lot of time to see a particular city or know I won’t return.
2) Pick 2 or 3 things to see each day and then just see what else happens. This is my preferred method in most places and it is definitely the way I do it if I plan to return.
If you go with option 1, you will see a lot but won’t experience as
much of the place. You likely won’t meet many people and you may feel you need a vacation when you get home from your vacation. There is nothing wrong with this method. It is your vacation to do with as you please and some people really can’t stand to stay still when they flew (or drove) all that way. So run far, and run fast my friends.
If you go with option 2, you will see nearly as much but you will really get a feel for the place. Meeting the people who live wherever you visit is the best part! If you do it well enough, you will end up with new friends with whom you can connect on Facebook or your social media of choice. That way when you are lucky enough to return you get an even deeper experience as your friends show you the secret local places that most tourists never hear about. If you play your cards right, you may even get to stay with your friends for a couple of days on a return trip. I hope your friends are as wonderful as mine. I am awakened by a lovely singing voice who then brings fresh brewed coffee to my door on a tray. I look forward to returning the favor.
Dream up your vacation and see if you can’t balance the two. We’ve been known to schedule a “down day” every 3 or 4 days if we know that we will have a particularly busy schedule during the rest of the trip. It makes a world of difference!
Well that’s a tall order for a vacation, isn’t it?
Hear me out. Travel is one of the best ways to figure out what you’re made of. It is life, concentrated. Lots of activity, locations, emotions all in a short period of time. No matter how much planning goes into your trip, something will go wrong. When things go wrong you figure out how to make the best of it and just how resilient you are. When things go right, you find great joy in unexpected places.
- Your missed flight turns into a 7 hour layover, so you learn to find fun in the airport. You play silly games with your kids or treat yourself to that bestseller everyone has been talking about and enjoy the peace and solitude you never get at home.
- Your hotel overbooks or loses your reservation. You learn how to find another quickly and how to get a refund.
- You get stuck in a cab in a monster traffic jam. You learn to use the subway system.
- You’re super hungry and can’t find an English menu, you learn to guess at the local language and enjoy the pulse of life in a new place.
- The attraction you have traveled so far to see is closed. You learn to laugh at your misfortune and go looking for other adventures. At the very least, you learn not to swear in public.
Next comes the things that go right.
- You visit museums and realize there are a few artists or schools of thought you just adore! Yay, a new hobby.
- You score tickets to a play, concert or ballet and find a new passion.
- You climb to the top of the tallest thing in the city and you are grateful for your health. Maybe you find out you aren’t so scared of heights after all.
- You happen upon a warm local restaurant on a cold night and find a brand new cuisine that you didn’t know you enjoyed.
- You sit next to a stranger on a plane and meet your soulmate
- You go camping for the first time and learn that you sleep deeply and fully outside. You find that you love to hike and that everything tastes better when cooked over a fire. You realize just how MANY stars there are and stare at the heavens for hours each night.
- You keep up with a packed itinerary and you find that your legs are much stronger than you thought.
- You test out your new camera and find out that you have a knack for photography.
- You say yes to new experiences and learn that you are still young and fun after all.
No matter what happens you will come back changed. You will be stronger, wiser, and more self-reliant. You’ll have victories to remember for the rest of your life. Share them if you can, you will change other lives too!