When it comes to preparing for a trip there are usually two kinds of people; the travellers who prepare everything beforehand, and those that let fate take them where they may. There are pros and cons involved with either approach to travel, and the ability to adapt can be the difference between having the best possible time, and saving some serious dollars.
I’ve tried both approaches to travel. The first few trips I did, both solo and as a group, were almost entirely preplanned and prepared. So much so that the only cost still to be paid was the day to day consumption of food and alcohol. Accommodation, transport, destination, insurance, and even additional activities (side quests I call them) were all booked and settled way before the trip began. There’s a sense of safety and comfort that follows such a plan. You feel like nothing can go wrong and you’re that much closer to returning in one piece. Of course this is futile as life cares not for your plans and you’re just as likely to have things fall apart this way as you would a more flexible approach. It’s only after you commit to this trip that you start to realise how much you’ve missed out on by locking yourself into your itinerary. In Japan and Korea I was almost entirely locked into my plans. It was my first solo venture out into the world after having done a few trips with friends and in a couple. I was terrified really. Japan might be one of the safest places on earth but I didn’t know that and if I knew it I couldn’t turn that knowledge into something that calmed me down. So I then booked my whole trip from start to finish from the comfort of my computer chair in a house by the beach in Australia. Issue with this is twofold – firstly, you are so disconnected from your destination. You’re not there… you have probably never been there and you’re only going off 2nd or 3rd hand information as to what the place is like. Secondly, you find out once you arrive and start seeing this place that there is so much more to do and see and you will miss out on the best parts of travel – impromptu trips, excursions, side quests, activities and spending time with your new friends. There is a great restriction here and while you save money on that train ticket you also are now locked into that particular train. You could have gone somewhere with a new friend for the day, but no, not anymore. Yes, you save money. Yes, you book ahead of the rest and secure a seat. Yes, you miss out on so much more.
The next form of travel is far more relaxed. It relies on spontaneity, the ability to adapt and think on your feet. This is now my preferred form of travel.
After my time in Japan I realised that my next trip needed to be a bit more flexible. My trip to Europe was made up as I went. I knew I was flying to Italy, and I knew I had to leave from Iceland for Canada before June 27th in order to make my Working Holiday Visa for Canada. That was it. Everything else in between was completely up to me and how I felt. As a consequence I stayed longer in Belgium, Denmark, and Norway. I also added on Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Finland and Iceland to the trip – all of which I absolutely adored. Not to mention the people I met in these places have tattooed themselves to my heart forever. I think back to how I was able to keep whole weeks free and how those weeks turned into fantastic experiences. I am going to assume most places have great companies that can make this kind of travel easy to achieve. In Europe I mostly travelled with Flixbus which was both cheap and convenient. I was able to explore so much more thanks to agencies like this. I will never travel rigidly again. However, it’s not all rosey and silver linings. There are cons to travelling this way. For example, you may find you pay a bit more for tickets as more often than not the prices hike up closer to the date. In addition you may have to settle for accommodation a little less than what you desired. I can almost guarantee that the sacrifices you make in these areas will be easily paid in full by the fun little adventures you find yourself on thanks to being so flexible elsewhere.
Having sat on both sides of the fence in a hostel situation I can say I do not regret living a little more on the edge in terms of planning my trip. Multiple times while having locked myself into an itinerary I have met fantastic people and not been able to join them on who knows what kind of adventure due to having pre-bought and booked plane/train/bus tickets. Sometimes it can be a benefit to just miss this bus (I’ve done this before in Belgium), and get the next, but when you’re on a budget sometimes that luxury isn’t always readily available. Conversely, when I was uncoupled from an itinerary i’ve been able to change my plans sometimes within minutes in order to not miss a thing. There are no regrets here.
I have tried both avenues and I fell in love with being flexible. My next trip is to Colombia and I’m so engrossed in keeping it flexible I haven’t even decided on which country I want to jump to after that. It’s far more exciting and the best part is whatever happens I know I have tonnes of free time to adapt to what life throws my way (our way, it’s with some mates).
Don’t get me wrong I’ve loved every trip I have been on. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in SE Asia with my big group of friends
And I adored my time in Japan and Korea where I subsequently met some of the best people who remain my friends to this day.
I’m simply saying that out of the two methods I think I’ll try to stay loosey goosey as you never know what little gems might come your way.
Now it’s your turn. How do you prepare for a trip? Do you lean more towards preparing ahead of time, or do you tend to just turn up and see where the winds take you?
Let me know in the comments below