Even the most impromptu trip requires at least a little planning, right?? Planning is especially important when going somewhere that’s difficult to get to, requires pre-planning to do certain activities, involves multiple people (i.e. family, friends, etc.), and/or includes so many things we want to do and our time may not allow for everything. However, one of the most powerful aspects of travel is opening ourselves to uncertainty… this allows us to see ourselves differently, to see the world around us differently, to imagine new possibilities, and to contemplate life in new ways. Is it possible to strike a balance?
Balancing the need for planning and experiencing the power of uncertainty can be difficult. We’ve experienced times when this has worked very well and times when it hasn’t. We’ve taken trips where we’ve had a good enough idea going into the trips to know the possible activities, but haven’t had to pre-plan anything… every day we just did what felt right. Other times we’ve over-planned and stressed ourselves out trying to keep our schedule!
Reflecting more on the balance between planning and uncertainty, we’ve developed the belief that they don’t have to be competing interests… we can use planning with uncertainty to create the best experience possible. How is this? If we plan, we aren’t uncertain! Literally speaking, yes. Let’s be more creative!
Uncertainty is an interesting topic… something that can be really scary or powerful and exhilarating… it’s really up to each person. We’ve done a lot of reading about uncertainty, observed ourselves and others, and reflected on experiences. What we’ve found is that when people are most able to embrace uncertainty and use if for fuel, they have some sort of structure that grounds them… a daily practice in the morning, an eating schedule, a rough idea of how many hours in a day should be allocated to x, y, and z. In travel this translates to into doing enough planning to feel good going into the situation.
So, what is enough planning? Knowing how we’ll get to and from a destination, having a place to stay, confirming that there’s food nearby, understanding any safety issues, and booking something that must be booked ahead of time for an experience that can’t be missed (be controlled here – this should be very limited and should be a minimal amount of time compared to the full trip). This little bit of planning can free our minds… we don’t have to worry about the basics and can enjoy the experience.
How about researching the area? We like to research the areas we visit ahead of time to get an idea of experiences that might be worthwhile. This allows us to approach each day knowing some of the options. However, it’s important to guard against forcing too many “must do” activities and developing judgements before having the true experience firsthand. Gaining local knowledge on the ground is one of the best ways to identify activities! There’s always something that we read about that we don’t end up doing and we’re totally OK with that… we always say that if a place is that great we’ll just go back someday!
So we’ve covered the most obvious type of planning, but there’s something else… another type of planning that can sabotage a trip before it even starts… it’s planning the outcome of the experience. Have you ever approached a trip with high expectations of the experience… “once in a lifetime” or “romantic” or “magical”?
Maybe it’s because of the remote nature, the expense, the amount of time, the milestone in a relationship, etc… we highly recommend not planning the outcome of the experience. Going into the trip with expectations of the outcome puts a ton of pressure on the trip and on the people involved… let the trip happen, let the trip embrace you, know every day that it will be amazing in some way and it will be! Have thrill and joy in the unexpected that will happen each day instead of trying to make the experience fit into some preconceived notion of what it has to be!
Everyone is different and uncertainty may be something you need to ease into… each trip leaving a little more “up in the air”. It’s been a journey for us and we keep pushing ourselves to step out of our comfort zones... with each step we see more possibilities, learn and grow, and have even more amazing experiences!
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