Are you a travel planner? Or are you more likely to book a flight and see what experiences the country has to throw at you? I’ve always been the latter, or so I thought.
One time I arrived into Santiago, to travel South America for five months with no plan of what to see. I knew I would hike the Inca Trail and there was a beautiful waterfall I was keen to check out (just for the record, the word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t even begin to do Iguazu Falls justice). I met locals off the bus and stayed in their homes. I looked where the next bus was heading and checked my guidebook (until I lost it) to see if anything was cool to see. I was free and easy and had a ball.
Another time, I bought a campervan with friends to drive around Europe with only a vague itinerary at best. After leaving London, we set off for the ferry at Dover without a map or a clue how to get there. I hadn’t even realised that I’d be driving on the right hand side of the road until arriving into Calais. We put our faith in the gods and they served up some amazing experiences. Since then, I have followed a similar path on a number of my trips, all ending with beautiful consequences.
Obviously, I was younger then but the truth is, I miss those days. I was motivated to book a ticket and pack a bag, but the world was an open book and I made the best with whichever page fell open. I still travel a fair amount and have had, and continue to have some truly remarkable experiences.
WHAT ARE THESE REMARKABLE EXPERIENCES IAIN?
I’ve heard the guttural groan of electric-blue Antarctic glaciers as they calve from the mainland. I watched a leopard sitting on the branch of an Acacia tree, devouring its kill in the Serengeti. I’ve witnessed Arctic Polar Bears biding their time as they wait for the Hudson Bay to freeze over, and flown in a five-person helicopter, landing on an ice-sheet in the shadows of Mt Denali. I’ve smelt the fresh aroma of the African plains just after the annual rains come, slept on rice tatami floors in a Japanese ryokan, and pulled piranha from the Amazon River by hook. I could go on but I would really just be showing off.
Danakil Depression – Ethiopia
My point is, in the midst of this lack of planning, I found I’ve actually become a meticulous planner. Somewhere between bargaining for a two-night hotel stay at a bus station, and this preset day, I now plan every detail.
Churchill – Manitoba
PROS – I’ve done my research and don’t leave the country until I’ve seen all I should, and done all I can.
CONS – There isn’t much room for flexibility, or time for those experiences which you can’t plan for, but end up being the most memorable.
Christ the Redeemer – Brazil
HOW DOES ONE BECOME A METICULOUS PLANNER?
I know how it happened. Years of working as a tour leader and following an itinerary which I couldn’t deviate from. Plus, over the past decade I’ve worked as a Product and Operations Manager for various tour operators, which has essentially brainwashed me into thinking I need a clear travel strategy. Now, I try to fit too much into my holiday, leaving no room to get myself into situations that I normally wouldn’t allow myself to get into.
This December, I’ve booked a flight in and out of Cameroon in West Africa and with the exception of my entry visa, the plan is there will be no plan. One month in Cameroon, relying only on who I meet, and what feels right at the time. I’m pretty excited.