We all do it.
We sit at our computer for hours, perusing every last Google result, planning every activity, and researching every locale through which we may pass. Sometimes the obsession becomes neurotic. A mountain, city, or festival occupies our waking thoughts and often even our dreams. An expansive vista becomes the computer background and the list of gear required (or wanted) slowly grows.
Perhaps we just do it to pass time until our next adventure. Descending back into the grind after an amazing trip seems to stifle even the most resilient among us. Occupying our thoughts with our next epic journey can be sweet, sweet torture, but at least it gives us something to look forward to. We certainly do learn some useful knowledge about where we will shortly (with any luck) find ourselves. Often, however, a small glitch in the plan throws the entire trip’s itinerary off.
During my time traveling domestically and abroad I have found that flexibility and knowledge go hand in hand, but plans don’t always work out as you would imagine. For many people this would cause a certain amount of stress. Instead of worrying about a hiccup in your travel itinerary, use it as an opportunity to make the most out of your travels. Sometimes “plan b” ends up being better than the original plan!
1. Have a contingency plan!
Don’t just assume that everything is going to go off without a hitch. Have a backup plan, or even two! Being prepared for unexpected circumstances means that when they happen, they are much less stressful. When you are relaxed and prepared, your backup plan can be just as fun as your original.
2. Look for locals and ask them about the areas they know best!
There is only so much that you can learn as an armchair traveler. The internet is a valuable resource, but try leaving some wiggle room in your itinerary. If you have a friend you are visiting, ask for a tour or a visit to his/her favorite place. If you don’t know anyone in the area you are traveling, make some friends! Many people would be more than happy to talk about their favorite places where they live and some might even take you on a personal tour. This lets you relax since you have up to date information and perhaps even your own tour guide!
3. Don’t be afraid to change plans if something better comes by!
Some of my best travel memories have occurred when I changed my plans last minute and jumped on some ill-researched alternative to what I thought I would be doing. Many times you will meet other travelers who are chest deep in some epic adventure and just looking for company. Sometimes you run into a local that is more than happy to show you some incredible places and top-notch hospitality. I would have missed rafting raging rivers and climbing granite peaks if I had not been so quick to change my original plans. Sure there is a little bit of uncertainty, but with the right attitude, that uncertainty just makes everything that much more exciting!
4. Think outside the box!
If you tried to do everything you found in a travel guide you would need months in just one area. There is no shortage of awesome things to do, but often, some of the best things are off the beaten paths and unknown to most. Exploring the unknown adds a level of excitement. This can mean everything from “unique” places to sleep (like abandoned railway cars) to trading skills for room and board (like offering to fix computers for a free couple of nights at the hostel). Be creative and look for an opportunity!
Your attitude is the biggest factor of your enjoyment and the only thing that you can really control. A poor attitude can make a problem into a disaster and leave a bad taste in your mouth for any future travels. A good attitude, on the other hand, can make an unexpected travel event feel like an actual adventure. After all it was Gilbert Chesterton that said: An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.