Why Traveling With No Plans is the Best Plan
Updated: Apr 1
When we think of travel, we tend to think of months of planning, drooling over Google Images of destinations, and poring over guidebooks to map out the best possible route. Making a plan before you travel can be a great way to maximize your time and understand exactly what you are getting into. But sometimes, traveling without a plan is the best plan. Being spontaneous opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities. Even forgetting to get the right tickets or pack the right things can end up being a great travel story, and an experience you can learn from.
Here are a couple of reasons why you should scrap your plan, and just go travel!
1. The Freedom of Choice
Planner types may feel overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending myriad of options, while a detailed agenda can leave a free spirit feeling restricted. The trick here is to find the right balance for your personality. Any good travel blog will tell you that traveling is all about pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, and this is a perfect place to start if you typically plan your vacations minute to minute. Arrive at a new destination with nothing but your hotel reservation and return flight, and you will quickly realize all the lesser known sights you have at your disposal.
Of course you will still be able to get around to the major monuments, but afterwards you will be forced to wander. Inevitably, you will stumble upon places and things you never would have if you had come bogged down with a pre-planned, day-to-day agenda of museums, bus tours, and restaurant reservations. Make enough plans to ensure you have a place to sleep and a way back home again, but don’t overbook yourself and risk the chance of missing out on those hidden diamonds in the rough in your new temporary destination.
Deep breath. No, you’re not having a heart attack. Yes, it does feel like you’re going to un-swallow that ridiculously disgusting and expensive airport food. Have no fear - this is just adrenaline kicking in! Don’t know where you’re going? Don’t know what you’re doing? Didn’t you know these situations are what fight-or-flight was made for!? Everyone should take a spontaneous vacation at least once in their life. That scary, excited feeling of not knowing where you’ll be headed or what you’ll be doing next makes the experience 100 times richer. Your heightened senses will solidify this trip into the deepest parts of your memory. The sound of the ocean will undoubtedly take you flying back to that last second road trip from Bilbao (Spain) to the beaches of Biarritz (France) and San Sebastian (Spain). You never thought that you could experience such distinct places (and two different countries!) in the same day. The spontaneity of such adventures will make certain you never forget.
3. Making Friends
As kids we’re drilled with that warning “Don’t talk to strangers!” But then what we forget as adults is that talking to strangers can be full of happy surprises! The best way to get to know the culture of your destination is by talking to the people who actually live there! For some people this is a lot easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be as terrifying as that nightmarish daydream you’re concocting in your mind (please, everyone, stop watching Taken). All it takes is a simple “Can you take a picture for me?” and next thing you know you’ve gotten recommendations for the best local eateries and cafés not found in the guidebook.
Don’t let language barriers hold you back either. A little body language and few enough words to get your point across can go a long way. When you return home again your friends will be so impressed with your knowledge of the local culture which you will never experience in tourist traps.
4. The Stories
In the end, this is the best part about the people, places, and things encountered during time spent abroad. Pictures and souvenirs are great too, but what do they mean if there are no words to go along with them? With the world becoming more and more connected, it’s almost not enough anymore to say “Hey, want to see a picture of me at The Colosseum?”. There’s a desensitization to photos and run-of-the-mill typical tourist spots now that anyone can type “Taj Mahal” into google and see it for themselves. Or if they are particularly skilled, photoshop themselves into said Google images. It’s basically the same as being there, right?
So what’s the moral of this story? The trips that you plan will pale in comparison to the ones you make on the fly. Running around a city with your nose in a guidebook or map guarantees you will miss out on 95% of the experience these incredible places have to offer and the stories that are waiting there to happen to you. Why not strive to surprise people, and more importantly yourself, with a little unplanned adventure and see where it could take you?