When it comes to travel, there are times to plan and times to relax and enjoy.

Today,I’d like to share my philosophy on travel and the balance between planning the fun and enjoying the fun.

1. Plan to get lost

This was a tough lesson learned while wandering the streets of Bangkok after being ripped off by a local taxi driver. I completely missed my cooking lesson and had no idea where I was for about three hours. In my stressed wanderings of what to do next since getting a  taxi was obviously not a great idea, I completely missed the joy of being left at the Golden Temple. One of Bangkok’s many beautiful temples that dot the city. There was even a procession of young monks going to prayer, I totally didn’t photograph I was so worried about getting myself to familiar ground.

After this experience, I continued with my days full of scheduled activities.

10 a.m. Breakfast

11 a.m. Shopping

12 p.m. Lunch with Guide

1 p.m. Water tour

4 p.m. Massage

5 p.m. Temple tour (Take photos!)

6 p.m. Temple tour (SUNSET PHOTOS!)

7 p.m. Write

9 p.m. Dinner/Going out

What I’m getting at is, I didn’t allow myself much leeway when it came to the schedule or what my expectations of the day were. I left Bangkok feeling cheated by the idea of vacation and never wanting to step foot in Thailand again. While I’m willing to blame part of this on thieving taxi drivers, leering locals and obnoxious tourists, I deserve part of the blame. I overplanned and underprepared.

Looking back, I wish I had picked a neighborhood to spend the day in, arrived early in the morning and simply wandered the city to get a feel of it. I wish I had been willing to walk into any street stall rather than requiring a guide or going to specifically recommended destinations according to Lonely Planet. Trips where I let myself get lost are always much more enjoyable in the moment than ones where I panic when things don’t go exactly according to the PLAN.

2. Embrace the unexpected

I learned this trick in Malaysia when I was left unexpectedly with an extra two days in  Kuala Lumpur. Since extra time wasn’t in the great plan, I didn’t know what to do. I spent most of the first morning simply searching for a hostel. Once I found one, my hosts made excellent suggestions on how to spend the next day of my surprising stay.

I am so glad I took their advice!

The city tour for a day completely changed the way I feel about KL. I fell in love with the city. My gracious hosts were kind enough to point out all the places worth spending more than 15 minutes in. And I had a wonderful time spending the morning in Little India and the evening in the Business Center. Two neighborhoods I would have bypassed on my own, but enjoyed immensely because I had no clear plan.

3. Plan to relax

For those who just can’t let go of the plan, schedule time to relax.It took a lot of getting lost, finding my way again, and discovering completely unexpected surprises for me to let go of the Type A planner personality long enough to chill out. A good place to start is by just writing in a block of time to sit, read, write or whatever it is you do to enjoy where you when you are there.

When you’re making your itinerary for any trip, remember travel is the perfect opportunity to relax, enjoy and try something new–like letting go.

How do you stay “in the moment” when you travel?

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4 thoughts on “Traveling in the Present

  1. Great tips! Having learned from our experience Down Under (stressful driving all over NZ), we’re hoping to let go and truly learn to be on holiday when we’re in Reykjavik in July. But I keep thinking, we’ve only got 8 days and want to see it all! I know it’s not possible so am going to try and focus on quality of experience over quantity.

  2. Totally agree with this post. I’m an impulsive planner and had to try hard to let it go on my current trip and just see what happens. Now that I’m in the habit, I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can go to far on the no plans front though, with disastrous consequences. I think a good balance between planning and ‘rolling with it’ is the way forward!

    -Mark

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