Travel With No Plan

The best trips I’ve been on have been unplanned, unprovoked, and untethered. They’re the ones that were without stress, without expectations, and without disappointment. Trips that led down uncertain paths to new encounters, and often new friends.

You might be considering where to go for your next vacation, lamenting that you only have a week off…maybe 10 days if you can stretch it out by taking advantage of both weekends on either side. And because you think it’s not enough time, you plan every little detail, marking out every tourist site you’ll visit and each restaurant you’ll eat at….even where you’ll take your coffee breaks. OMG! Talk about stressful!

Don’t. Just don’t. 

So many tourist sites you can now experience virtually through Youtube videos and most of the highly touted restaurants are flooded with tourists searching for the “best” culinary experience on TripAdvisor. By planning every last detail, your trip is on a path to being more stressful than your daily life. You will need a vacation from your vacation.

So how about taking an alternative approach? One where you choose your own adventure. Simply decide on how many days you want to spend in each location and plan just one event or activity for each day. And if you’re fearless, don’t even plan your travel arrangements. Just decide on the day you’ll arrive and the day you’ll depart, read up on a few spots you want to check out, then just wing it and let the rest of the trip happen naturally. 

Base yourself in a hostel or visit cafes where it will be easy to meet like-minded travelers. Want to meet the locals? Check out bars that aren’t in the guidebooks or ask a taxi driver where the locals hang out at night. If you’re lucky, you might end up in an underground disco in Berlin, an authentic flamenco club in Madrid, or at a wedding of someone you’ve never met in Nigeria. You might even get invited to dinner. One of my most memorable travel experiences was in Cambodia in 2001 where a local man served me bone marrow soup with only a candle to light the room while he spoke about his time in the Khmer Rouge. 

But even if you don’t meet anyone, you can still seek out new and authentic experiences. How about attending a local football game because Real Madrid is in town or going to see a band you’ve never heard of just because they’re doing a concert. These spontaneous encounters and events are happening ALL the time and they don’t require any planning. 

The point is that life is happening around you, no matter where you are. You can choose to take part in it, without knowing what may happen, or you can plan everything like most tourists and post the same stories on TripAdvisor. 

So why not take the road unplanned – not just less traveled? Try it and see what happens. Because you’ll probably discover that one unique encounter will be more valuable than the same 10 experiences everyone else had.  

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