As much as we might wish it, no trip comes truly out of the blue – not even for those lucky few who win a competition or happen to have particularly amazing partners. There is always some level of planning that takes place. While we often think of it as a tedious part of travelling filled with calculations right out of a year 10 maths text-book, it is, nonetheless, vital to ensuring that everything lines up. The romantic notion of arriving home from work to packed bags, tickets, and a full itinerary seems too good to be true – and you know what – I reckon it is. Despite the stress, the rigorous debate over when where and how much, planning is one of the most rewarding parts of travelling.
Recently it struck me, (as it so often does) while we were sitting at the Signal Station Brasserie atop Mt Nelson engaged in the planning of our Easter Trip around Tasmania with my sister and her partner, that there are three main methods of getting a trip off the ground; the ‘hands off’ approach, the ‘plan every detail down to the minute’ method, and the ‘suck it and see’ gambit. Personally, I like to hedge my bets and mix the latter two options – and it was this approach that occupied us as we enjoyed the view (not to mention the brilliant Tassie steak and seafood). Linh and I had booked tickets months earlier, but had made no specific plans aside from meeting my sister at the airport and the promise of accommodation in the historic home she shares with her boyfriend and the landlady she refers to as ‘other mum’. We arrived after our overnight flight from Perth determined to make the most of our seven days at the bottom of Australia, but we had few ideas on how best to achieve this aim. We quickly worked out that the four of us had about three days unencumbered by work or social commitments – so we set to the business of pleasure.
We threw ideas backwards and forwards over the course of our degustation and arrived at a route scribbled out on a piece of paper (napkins are unsurprisingly useless for such purposes despite what the film industry might have you believe) which covered the specifics of our adventure. As is usually the case, we erred on the side of ambition, determined to cram in as much action as possible. Filled with Tasmanian Angus beef (cooked to perfection and weighed down by all manner of shellfish) e immediately piled into the car for a whirlwind, whistle-stop tour. Elements of this trip are sure to pop up in future blogs, but as a teaser, our route was:
Day 1 – Hobart – Wineglass Bay – Bay of Fires
Day 2 – Bay of Fires – Zip lining and beers in Launceston – Arthur River
Day 3 – Arthur River – The Tarkine Wilderness – Cradle Mountain – Hobart
Day 4 – Hobart (MONA, tasting of many things)
Day 5 – Hobart – Pirate Bay – Port Arthur – Hobart
This plan came together in under 20 minutes and was subject to multiple alterations and addendums en route. The planning style worked for us because we were all motivated to go the distance (over 2000 km in 4 days all told), and being family, we got along fairly well. The personalities of travellers is of paramount importance when selecting a planning style, and on other occasions, I’ve (against my better judgement) had great success in leaving the planning to others.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to fulfil a long-time life goal and take a tour of Egypt. My partner at the time suggested the trip and I jumped at the opportunity – endangering my employment status in the process (in line with my preference for spur of the moment planning). We quickly found that self-planning and self-guiding through Egypt was strongly discouraged by everyone that cared to butt in. In the end we booked an Intrepid Basics tour and had an agent schedule the flights. While we spent a fair amount of time choosing a trip that suited us and scheduling other activities around our start and finish dates, the planning was all done by Intrepid and we were essentially along for the ride with 10 others selected to maximise both synergy and diversity. (Or something like that). Once again, the trip was fantastic, ambitious and proved to me that hands-off planning was indeed a viable option. I particularly loved the flexibility of the tour, but was surprised at how much I enjoyed the opportunity to explore with hitherto unknown companions (although this mode of social travel is not for everyone as my former partner was quick to point out, preferring authentic cultural interaction exclusively).
Also firmly in the ‘not for everyone’ category, is travelling by the seat of your pants. Suck it and see travelling was something I’d always wanted to try, and last year I had the chance to do just that when Linh and I tackled Laos. You’ve read about that adventure a little already (https://einsteinsbarbershop.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/finding-utopia/,https://einsteinsbarbershop.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/four-floors-about-vientiane/,https://einsteinsbarbershop.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/which-wat-where/), but I was really surprised at how much planning goes in to not making any plans. While we made no bookings aside from our flights, the months leading up to our departure was a flurry of research, mapping, planning and negotiation. By our departure date we knew (or knew as well is it possible to know) the bus system backwards, were aware of the distance between all major cities and had almost daily options in terms of our itinerary opportunities. Again, the trip came together brilliantly, but it was the work beforehand that facilitated the journey’s success. Had we truly left everything to chance, we would likely have wasted a lot of time in the country and not used the limited time available to its full potential. One day I hope to be in a position to buy a ticket into the world on a whim and truly wander, but I’d need significantly longer than is offered by my enterprise bargaining agreement at present.
Regardless of the method, planning is still both the most helpful, and one of the most rewarding elements of being a traveller, and it has the added benefit of filling the chasms of time between each trip!