If you’ve read a few of my blog posts before, you’d know that I am a planner. I enjoy the spontaneous moments that arise while travelling, but the thought of not having a plan for where I’m sleeping in a few nights scares me too much to think about a long term backpacking trip with no itinerary, like a lot of travellers I’ve met over the years do. In December 2018-January 2019 I went on my first international trip in almost 9 months, a long time for me. Naturally I had planned every detail I could and felt more prepared for this trip than I had for any trip in years. Even though the title is dramatic I should clarify that I LOVED my trip and had a fantastic time. Yet SO many things went wrong. All that planning and I was still doing last minute bookings, missing tours, having bookings cancelled or not put through the system, having friends not meet me (visa dramas woo) and running around Vietnam alone too many times. So with all the things that went wrong despite my meticulous planning, what did I learn?
- Most of your favourite trip memories will be when things don’t go to plan
One of my favourite memories on the Gadventures tour I was on for 9 days of my trip was actually when our plans to go on a boat trip were cancelled due to a tropical storm nearby. We were in a developing part of Sihanoukville in Cambodia which meant little Wi-Fi, staying in a hotel that wasn’t fully completed, and the first semi-cold weather of the trip. Yet we all decided to find a nearby hostel with a speaker, pool, pool table and cheap drinks and had a great time doing nothing. Of course I got to see and experience most of things I wanted on that trip, but also bonding with people of a similar age but from different places around the world was (corny moment coming up) something money couldn’t buy.
- Sometimes things will turn out better than you planned
The part of the trip that ended up completely different to what was planned was the Vietnam leg of my trip, which was planned with a friend I was meeting in Ho Chi Minh City to travel north with. With both of our commitments in mind we planned an express trip of Vietnam, but when she wasn’t able to get into the country we had a lot of sorting out to do. Firstly we had a lot of bookings to amend or cancel, then I needed to budget for paying double for hotels and a single supplement for a cruise we had booked. Yes, that sucked, and also I didn’t get to travel with my friend. Even though travelling solo doesn’t bother me, I ended up alone for only one day (my last) as I met up with friends from my Gadventures tour and Ha Long Bay cruise for the rest of the trip, and got to see exactly what I wanted to when I felt like being alone.
- Ask for help
Until a few years ago I wouldn’t ask for help from strangers, and when I’m with others I’ll sometimes fall back into my old ways and try to get them to ask for me. Ending up mostly by myself meant I made friends with hotel staff and other travellers for tips and when I needed help. I relied less on finding the answer from my phone (sometimes due to no reception) and got more than I needed.
- And the most important, leave some room for everything to fall to pieces
While my nerves were shot more than once this trip, I started to see the value in leaving more room for spontaneity in my trips. I’m not going to just have no hostel/hotel bookings for a trip and ‘just see where the wind takes me’ but I’m going to look into refundable bookings, talk to other travellers about their plans and join if it interests me, and when plans inevitably go down the drain, I’ll try to reassure myself of all the memories that came of them.