I’m a planner. I don’t like to do things spontaneously. I have an ingrained fear of wasting time and money, which makes me overly frugal and conservative when it comes to trying new things that aren’t free or involve risk.
Now this isn’t to say that I don’t like to travel, or don’t like new experiences. I’ve been to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Costa Rica, lots of Europe, Alaska, Hawaii, and all over the continental United States. I love experiencing new cultures and seeing new landscapes. I just don’t do it spontaneously.
When I was in school, this wasn’t a problem, as there were things such as Summer Vacation or Winter Break that provided my family and me with ample time to travel the world with thorough budgeting and preparation. But now that I work a full-time job with 14 personal days, the travel bug is hard to cure. My travel since my post-graduation frolic through Europe has been almost exclusively visiting family in California, New Jersey, and Michigan, and while those are wonderful places, I’m ready to explore more of the country (and the world) with my fiance.
So, how does one go about traveling more spontaneously? I’m no expert, but this is what I’ve learned so far:
Things I’ve Learned So Far
Do Something, Not Nothing
I’m constantly worried about picking the right tour, the right hotel, the right restaurant, and the right museums, because I’m terrified that if I don’t pick correctly, it will be a waste of money and I’ll feel crummy about it. (It’s called analysis paralysis if you’re curious). Research certainly has its place, and it’s good to avoid getting ripped off, but becoming paralyzed by options often means I won’t end up doing anything. I’ve made some decisions while traveling that I regretted, and those stick with me a lot more than the ones that I loved. By re-framing decisions so that I just brush off the bad choices and revel in the good ones, I’ll take more risks and stop getting worked up over every little decision. You win some, you lose some, but if you don’t try you’ll never know!
Go With The Flow aka Stop Planning Everything
If my days are booked up in advance, there’s no time to go to a random festival my innkeeper told me about, or to go on an adventure with some couple I just met. So stop planning everything! Sure, there are some things you have to plan in advance if they’re must-sees or book up early like the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam or ATM Cave in Belize, but otherwise, there’s always stuff to do, and a lot of it is more interesting than the touristy stuff anyway.
Embrace Opportunities to Travel
I’m always panicked that if I wait until the last minute to plan a trip, flights and hotels will be expensive and booked up. But with the goal of visiting new places spontaneously, I’ll start looking for cheap flights and just hop on the next plane. If it’s somewhere new, it will be an adventure.
Be Willing To Spend Money
One of the things I learned from Europe travel is that one can only see so many gorgeous cathedrals and fortresses before they all start to blend together, and you’ll need to shell out some cash or be willing to go off the beaten path in order to try something different. I regretted not spending a bit more money to try new things. We’re not talking a lot of cash here. I’m just very frugal. So when budgeting for a trip, leave a decent amount of spending money so you don’t miss out on opportunities. Just say yes!
So What’s The Point?
There are a lot of travel blogs out there, and I’m not trying to compete with awesome sites like Nomadic Matt and My Wanderlusty Life. Thanks for the inspiration, folks! My goal with these posts is to push myself to have new experiences all the time, even if it’s just going to see a band at a venue I’ve never been to, or driving out of town for a hike. Little adventures are just as important as the big ones. I’d also like to provide travel tips for anyone interested in these destinations, but I’m mostly interested in my personal journey of discovery.
To kick things off, I started with a small adventure. Instead of sitting at home on my laptop on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I got off the couch and drove to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is a whopping 15 minutes from my house. I read my book (The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende) and enjoyed basking in the sunshine while listening to the laughter of happy families.
I think Sarah Jane Smith sums it up the best:
There is strangeness to be found, wherever you turn. Life on Earth can be an adventure too… you just need to know where to look!
Sarah Jane Smith