Okay fellow Type-A’ers, it’s time to put aside your checklists and step away from the travel guides.
As tempting as it is, your vacation does not need to be strategically planned down to a minute-by-minute itinerary. Packing too much into a limited time period can be stressful and allow little time to encounter off-the-path hidden treasures. Every day of our lives is over-planned. Between waking up to an alarm and attending work meetings to scheduling gym time and organizing our weekly food-prep menus, we are constantly overloading ourselves with plans, calendars and time constraints.
Vacations should be a time to breathe, to live in the moment, to open ourselves to new experiences and give ourselves space to discover charming locales. Spontaneity offers opportunity to turn off the mental switch and embrace whatever comes across our path. Often, it’s when we don’t plan that we have the special encounters that most travelers never get to experience.
So, I’m letting you in on the secrets to not over-planning your trip.
You only need the basics.
Challenge yourself to plan as little as possible. Sure, you can figure out how to get from the airport to your accommodation. Maybe even suss out a highly recommended eatery for a special dinner. But, other than the necessary logistics, keep your calendar empty and freely open to opportunities.
Bring along a wish list.
Pick a few highlights of the region that you most desire. After all, you selected your destination for a particular reason. Does the countryside offer rock climbing? Snorkeling on the reefs, perhaps? Maybe the city has world-renowned museums! Whatever your heart’s desire, make a short list and pull it out when you feel inspired. This way, you still accomplish a few of your “bucket-list items,” but you’re not trying to fit them into an already jam-packed schedule.
But…what does one do with an unscheduled schedule?
Wake up to wide open days. Pick activities based on how you feel and what you desire in that very moment. Select an option from your wish list that most suits your mood and activity level for that day. Or simply follow the rhythm of the destination. Stroll through city lanes without a map. Relax on a sidewalk cafe and observe everyday life. Rent a bicycle and explore the countryside. You’ll be surprised at what and who you encounter!
Your vacation is a time to slow down. Linger along the shore and watch for signs of ocean life. Talk with your travel partner (really talk) and ask about their childhood pastimes. Revel in the colors of a sunset sinking below the horizon. Take long mental breaks. Sip your coffee. Get lost and ask for directions instead of turning on your smartphone.
Only by slowing down will you truly get the most out of your travels, appreciate where you are and embrace the flavors, aromas, sounds and gorgeous-beyond-belief sights. Yes, of course it’s overwhelming to head off on a trip without a carefully planned schedule in your pocket. Challenge yourself! And remember that locals, tourist bureaus, your AirBnB hosts, hotel manager, bartenders, restaurant owners, and pretty much everyone you encounter will more than likely be happy to help you. The currents of travel are every-changing. You just need to adjust your sails and follow their path!