Travel and Adventure

Planning for a Big Trip: It’s what you do – not where you do it.

How to get motivated about planning a big trip.

For those of you who’ve read my Europe write up, you’ll be aware how completely comfortable I am with no plan whatsoever and the least preparation imaginable. 

Four years ago, following this predilection for uncertainty, I arrived in Northern Spain without any euros, phone sim or battery, map, petrol, address (or name) of the hostel I’d pre-booked, ability to speak Spanish and with a cold-sweat hangover that every now and teetered back into being half-drunk. It took me four hours to find my bed for the night, when I could have probably hit it with a stone from the ferry port I’d arrived in.

As I sat on my own under the dim half-light of broken halogen strips, falling asleep into a packet of microwave meatballs, only one thought bumbled into my mind. It was “Yes Mate. Nailed it.”

The trip was amazing while it was happening, no doubts about it, but in the weeks, months or even years that followed I began to see some of the least enjoyable elements of the trip for what they were – symptoms of piss poor planning:

  • Without any other meaningful distractions I ended up visiting way too many cathedrals, parks and markets – the bread and butter of blind luck or Tripadvisor. None of these things really interest me much.
  • While writing up a months backlog of trip reports I realised I’d missed loads of interesting things mere kilometers from the route I took – because I had no way of knowing they were there (maybe because I was spending all my time in cathedrals…).

Blanketed in retrograde fear-of-missing-out I had to admit my steadfast reluctance to get organised comes with some big pitfalls. Surely there’s a middle ground between designing all the fun out of a trip (you know: reams of paper itinerary in a plastic wallet) and just heading whichever way the wind’s blowing? 

If there was, I couldn’t find it. I obstinately avoided trip planning wherever I could, stuck in my ways. Then, only last week, I came across some great advice in an article about planning for gap years – and while I certainly missed the boat for my own parent-sponsored intercontinental booze rampage, there are enough parallels to heed the message: 

‘Instead of planning a list of sites and places to visit, think about what experiences you’d like to have while you’re away’

That’s it – travelling is as much about what you choose to do as where you choose to do it. So what do I actually want to do? What do I want to experience? 

The approach strikes a chord as in order to make this trip possible I’ve been saving up for the last three years. I’ve essentially been living a ‘life on hold’. Look…

Tom’s Tick-list
  • Buy a dirty track bike and enter the amateur racing circuit
  • Learn how to paraglide – maybe even fly a small plane one day
  • Take my KTM to the motocross track
  • Not live at my parents
  • Take a knife to a gun fight
  • Manage to stick to a loose exercise regime

In some form or another all of these are not just achievable, but maybe even more affordable to pursue during my India trip. I mean, just imagine learning to fly a paraglider to a sumptuous backdrop of a Mumbai sunset.

Getting just a few of these aspirations down on paper has unlocked a certain excitement for trip organisation that I’ve never quite had before and, making hay while the sun shines, I’ve used it to delve into researching more interesting motorcycle routes and obscure activities I can try in India.

I’m never going to structure this into any formal route plan (you certainly need to be more than a little flexible to accommodate for unforeseen adventures along the way) but the hit-list is growing, and with it so is my excitement.

I’ll save the details for another post, when it’s all come together. For now, I’m just happy to have found a little psyche for planning. #LifeGoals

2 comments on “Planning for a Big Trip: It’s what you do – not where you do it.

  1. Good thoughts. By not planing you certainly miss stuff – but saying that you don’t want a trip that just feels like you are ticking things off a list. If there is one thing that my wife gets really anxious about when travelling is where to stay, whereas I’m happy to just make it up as I go. The way we have dealt with it is to plan the overnight stops and then a loose plan – maybe a couple of big things and then make the rest up. That gives us the best of both worlds.

    • Thanks man. That’s an important point to pick up on. It feels pretty terrible to have missed out unknowingly, but that certainly shouldn’t mean you have to see everything you’ve found. And agreed, planning nights can be a good idea – if only a couple of nights before as you make the route up as you go. Pretty disheartening to be out searching for campsites all night!

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