I completely understand the desire to plan; I plan every working day down to the minute with a strict routine. I do this to increase my productivity, as without it I’d almost certainly spend 90% of my time on either Facebook or Reddit.
But travel is a different beast.
We’ve all sat down and made that pretty travel itinerary that outlines our trip day by day, or hour by hour. And, because we’re creatures of expectation thanks to our swollen frontal lobes, we like to have things set out for us.
We’ve developed a fear of the unknown that in the present world doesn’t do us much good.
Playing it safe as a result of fear can flat-out ruin a travel experience before you’ve even left for the airport, so be sure to make a note of…
…The 5 Worst Travel Itinerary Mistakes
1. Planning your travel itinerary too rigidly
Travel planning is a part of travel culture which makes it hard to challenge, but challenge it we must. A whole lot of people love the idea of going with the flow, but when it comes down to it line-by-line plans seem to win out.
Downloading an itinerary template and filling out the spaces makes us feel good, because it lets us believe we’re in control. The reality of the situation is that we are not.
If we’re unwilling to change our plans at short notice, there’s a good chance we’re going to miss out on spontaneous experiences. These unexpected experiences are crucial to our development. They loosen the grip of our expectations and help us appreciate the present moment for what it is; the only moment we have.
Squeezing too much in
Don’t try to do too much.
How can we enjoy the simplicity of a life on the road if we don’t take the time to breathe things in?
It’s okay, I get it – some of us only have a limited time to see the places we travel to. But surely being in a place allows for a deeper, richer experience.
Learning how to really exist in an unfamiliar place takes time. We need to invest that time, slowly, to develop an appreciation of what the here and now really gifts us.
Another danger of over-planning a travel itinerary is building expectations.
An expectation is a form of attachment – an attachment to or belief in a future that hasn’t yet happened. If that belief turns out to be nonsense, we can find ourselves deflated.
“We assumed that everything would be fine, but then there was a bus crash and it took 6 hours to get to Bangkok instead of 3. We missed our connecting flight to Indonesia and our weekend plans were ruined.”
The stress that comes from well-established plans going wrong, or things being different to the way we imagined, is far worse than the challenge of sorting things out when we arrive at the destination.
Don’t just take my word for it – try it yourself.
Forgetting to add breathing space
If we absolutely have to make a travel itinerary, which I still do from time to time, we can’t forget to include time for reflection.
I don’t mean 30 minutes breathing room in case your taxi is late picking you up, I mean creating a true mental space to appreciate what you’re experiencing.
If our schedules are filled with back to back adventure, we don’t have time to let our minds settle. If we don’t let our minds settle to absorb the experiences, we’re not giving ourselves the chance to grow.
Sometimes I’ll take a whole day out of travelling to meditate and go out for short walks. The space allows me to root myself deep in the experience and enjoy myself all the more for it.
Letting your itinerary rule you
Letting travel plans rule us is the most potent poison on this list because it’s such an easy trap to fall into. It’s better to think of a travel itinerary as a list of ideas rather than a binding contract.
I once saw a couple’s travel itinerary become more important than the trip itself, and that led to all sorts of problems.
Control may be an illusion, but choice is not. It’s up to us to decide whether to follow plans we’ve outlined or throw them away.
Travelling the world and engaging with the people in it has the power to change us fundamentally. If we open our minds to what these experiences have to teach, we become stronger, happier and more compassionate people ready to do real good in the world.
What does your travel itinerary look like? Do you have a story about a time when a strict schedule did more harm than good? Share your experiences in the comments below.
At twenty-past seven in the evening outside Shinjuku station, Tokyo after I’d finished a shift at the school I was teaching in I had a revelation; I needed to rid myself of addictive technology or I’d go completely mad. The revelation came as a surprise to me as I love technology with a capital L. I was finally living in a country I’d wanted to visit since before my teenage years and I was doing nothing but wasting time on my laptop and checking Facebook on my phone.
I sold my phone almost immediately and told people they could contact me via email if absolutely necessary and starved myself of technology. ItThe experience changed the way I use modern tech forever.
So, this list isn’t necessarily a list of things that will make your travels easier, but one that will make them richer.
photo by Barnaby Dorfman on Flickr
Let’s start with the most obvious – a diary. Writing down your thoughts every day has more value than most people realise. A diary will not judge you like ‘friends’ on Facebook – it’s an open forum for you to have a private conversation with yourself. Only you can judge what appears on its pages.
Carrying a diary can help you free yourself from a social media addiction by giving you a space to brain vomit through the best and worst of times. You might even develop a deep relationship with the most important person of all – yourself.
A film camera
photo by Garry Knight on Flickr
I have a digital SLR, but that’s not to say I’m not an advocate of a good film camera – in fact I infinitely prefer them. It’s not about the quality or the convenience, but about the restrictions. This blog is all about being restriction-free, but when you’re working with something like a film camera the importance of getting the right shot the first time around is paramount.
Knowing that you don’t have a screen to review what you’ve just taken means that you’ll take much greater care when taking photos. It will encourage you to be more intimate with your subject and the surroundings and help you develop a sense of perspective, both literally and metaphorically.
Photos of home
photo by Kurtis Garbutt on Flickr
These can work in two ways…
a) Remind you of the people who mean the most to you and in turn give you a willpower boost
b) Remind you of what you’ve escaped from
Both of which I think are incredibly useful motivators for winning freedom.
A book about something you’ve always wanted to learn
photo by Cal Evans on Flickr
No matter what anyone tells you, travelling can be a lonely affair even if you’re not travelling alone. When you have your moment of self-realisation you’ll likely realise how isolated you’ve become from ‘the world’, and you’ll grasp at the air to find ways to reconnect.
The trick is that it’s not ‘the world’ you need to reconnect with – it’s yourself. One of the best ways to get to know yourself is to try and learn something new. Pick something that you’ve always wanted to try and is easy to do on the road – whatever the results may be you’ll learn heaps about who you thought you were and have a lot of fun in the process.
A list of jokes in the local language
photo by Gavin Bobo on Flickr
This has served me well in more instances than I can remember. Making people laugh is just about the perfect way to gain access to any culture if you know the right things to say.
Google a few jokes in the language of the places you’re headed and, when you get the opportunity, read them out to the locals. You might end up making a complete fool of yourself, but either way they’re going to laugh with you or at you.
Do you agree with these? Is there a piece of technology you couldn’t bear to travel without? Whatever your answer let us know in the comments below.
We might as well face up to the fact that the attention depleting smartphone in your pocket isn’t going away anytime soon. The best thing to do is fill it with things that help you in your day to day experience of the world. In this case we’re looking at apps, although it’s worth noting that the five apps below are ones you’re probably never going to find useful. Think of it as me being kind and doing some BS filtering for you.
1. Find Nearest McDonalds
I have nothing against free-will. Not a thing, but i will say this: If you’re so desperate for a McDonalds that you need an app to find one nearest to you, you’re in serious trouble in life. what’s more is that if you have any map application all you need do is type McDonald’s in the search field and it does exactly the same thing. When you’re in a foreign country, please do your best to try the local food rather than eating burgers and fries. The app isn’t even free!
Was I? Several times while using this app I ‘checked in’ at places I’ve never been to. It’s a bit like Foursquare but much worse. the user experience is poor and when you’ve used the far superior Foursquare it’s difficult to see the point of iWasHere. There are several functions that I won’t describe here that seem to encourage intrusive, stalkerish behaviours and that alone is enough to put me off. Don’t waste your brain power on this one.
3. Coppertone MyUVAlert
This is an app that beeps at you when you need to reapply sunscreen and suggests products to buy. I think that’s all I really need to say.
I might be going crazy, but an app that measures the electrical output of your travel gadgets seems a bit counter-intuitive. Using electricity to measure how much electricity you’re wasting is just bonkers. I’ve come up with a much better solution: Use your electronic devices as little as possible or not at all when you’re away. Why not enjoy your trip instead of wasting energy by wasting energy.
I’m in two minds about this app. On the one hand it’s hilariously funny in that it lists an enormous number of expletives in foreign languages, but on the other it’s useless to you while travelling unless you want to start a fight and get thrown into a Thai prison. In fact I’d go as far as to say it actually hinders you because it teaches you how to insult people in their home country. Not something you want to be doing as an ambassador for the country you’re from.