Making Plans Makes Me Happy

Planning makes me happy.

Before I left on this trip, I wrote about the perils of being a planner. I wrote about how I would try to be more spontaneous on this trip. How I would try to not plan so much.

Although it may not be apparent to all of you, I am actually quite proud of the extent to which I have improvised over the last several months.

For example, when things didn’t turn out as I anticipated with my homestay and volunteer program in St Petersburg, I got nervous about my plan to do the same program in Moscow. As a result, I cut my time in Moscow in half, stayed an extra five days in St. Petersburg once the homestay ended, and added in a few days in Veliky Novgorod on my way to Moscow.

I made a detour to Poland over the holidays. I cancelled plans to visit Krakow when I wasn’t feeling it and stayed in Warsaw for a week longer than planned.

I showed up at the bus station in Minsk to find a bus to Grodno without booking ahead of time. Believe it or not, I had never done that before (confession: I probably wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t already know that the buses ran hourly so if I didn’t make it on one, the wait for the next one wouldn’t be long).

But while many people get a rush out of spontaneity and savor flexibility, not knowing how I am getting from point A to point B and where I will stay when I get there stresses me out. I like the security of reserving accommodations and booking train or bus tickets in advance.

I am happiest when I have plans.

One day while I was in L’viv recently, I spent an afternoon making plans for the rest of my time in Ukraine and into Moldova. I had to switch things up unexpectedly when I learned the train I wanted to take to Kolomyya a few days later was already sold out. I could’ve taken the bus instead, but I was warned it would be cold and uncomfortable at this time of year. The bus station was also far out of town so I would have had to take a taxi and I wouldn’t be able to book ahead of time.  It made me nervous.

So I devised Plan B.

I got online and found a place to stay in another town called Ivano-Frankivsk that is in between L’viv and Kolomyya. Then I hit the train ticket office again (conveniently just two blocks from my hostel) and bought a ticket there.  It has easier (and shorter) transport connections to Kolomyya so I could easily move on – and I was planning to go there as a day trip anyway so I wasn’t really going out of my way.

While I was at it, I started looking at my transport options to Moldova. I had planned to go there from Kamyanets-Podilsky but then learned that the bus that I thought ran daily only runs on Tuesdays. I had planned to be in Kamyanets Thursday through Sunday, so sticking with that bus would require me to change up my itinerary quite a bit and likely miss some things I wanted to see in Ukraine.

With some more digging around, I discovered more frequent (and shorter!) bus connections between the town of Chernivtsi and Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. Like Ivano-Frankivsk, I had planned to visit Chernivtsi as a day trip anyway, so it made sense to just stay a night and leave from there to Moldova instead. In the span of about ten minutes, I reserved a spot in a hostel in Chernivtsi and bought my bus ticket online.

And I smiled.

How do you like to travel? Spontaneously? Or with plans already in place?

15 thoughts on “Making Plans Makes Me Happy”

  1. Such an interesting post, especially for me since I’m the opposite. Planning stresses me out! Perhaps it’s some kind of reaction against my mom (who loves to plan trips more than anything) and my boyfriend (who’s always thinking in detail about next year or the year after.)

    But I’m happiest when I have plenty of time to figure it out as I go along. And learn the language. And ask the locals. And walk. And explore.


    1. I think I like a good mix – I like to know where I’m staying when I get some where and I like having some idea about how to get from one place to the next. But once I get somewhere, I love to just wander and explore. And once I got to Central Asia, at the end of my trip, I had to throw all planning out the window as it just wasn’t possible!

  2. I like the idea of being spontaneous but so far I haven’t completely embraced it. My RTW trip did certainly force me to loosen up a bit about the planning, but I really enjoy planning my trips. I do have this idea for Andy and I to just go to the train station on a Friday after work, see what’s on the board that leaves within an hour, and just pick something. I feel better when I have a plan too, even if I have to change the plan. At least I had something to start with.

  3. I’m with you Katie! As someone who has done a lot of traveling (with a fair amount of that being in Eastern Europe) I can say with certainty that I am a planning freak. My boyfriend tends to think I’m a bit crazy with it, but honestly, having a solid plan (+ at least one good backup) just makes me so much more relaxed and it really allows me to enjoy my time rather than being paranoid about what’s going to happen next.

    While Eastern Europe isn’t always the most conducive to planning (try scheduling a meeting with anyone more than a week in advance), I always feel that the effort pays off.

    Good luck in Chisinau! If you want any tips/hints/pointers or just to meet up for a coffee drop me a tweet @Erin_Baumann. I’ll be around until Friday, 24 February.

    1. Thanks Erin! Just sent you a tweet!

      And yes, eastern Europe isn’t always so conducive to making plans, but I have a feeling it will just get more challenging as I head into the Caucasus and Central Asia!

  4. I hear you! I am a planner and will always be. Not having a plan makes me nervous. And here what’s worse. I not only have a plan…I usually have a plan B!
    When I arrived in Hanoi I discovered that the hotel I had booked for a whole month was a complete hell hole, but I already had the name and address of another hotel. I went, check the rooms, made the move, and have been in the most wonderful hotel ever since then!

  5. I never thought I was a planner. I always resisted that label. Yet when Ali and I started looking at traveling together, I realize just how much of a planner I am. In some ways far more than her.

    I definitely like to have hotels and train times booked. The long German exposure has made me sensitive to trains and the times it takes to get anywhere.

    Despite which I want to have as few of the activities planned out beforehand. I like being able to decide on a daily basis (according to weather) what to do.

    In New Zealand, we rejiggered our trip midway due to the earthquakes in Christchurch. It turned out awesome and it only took us a few hours of talking and calling.

    1. I always like knowing in advance what kinds of things are available to do but then be flexible based on my mood, the weather, etc.

  6. I’m definitely in the Planner category. As well as the whole peace of mind thing, I love researching and that in turn helps get me in the zone for where I’m going.

    Also, I don’t get to travel internationally very often so trips when they happen are a big deal. I would hate to go somewhere only to find out later that I’d missed something awesome because I didn’t know about it.

    The important things for me to have sorted in advance are where I am on a certain day, accommodation, and how I get from A to B. But then aside from having ideas of what I want to do when I am somewhere, I try not to lock day-to-day plans down any further than that. Planned spontaneity??

    1. I like that – planned spontaneity!

      So true about when you take shorter trips and not wanting to miss anything. I always like to have an idea beforehand of what the major sights are I want to see or activities I want to do so I don’t waste time once I get somewhere figuring that out. Or get somewhere and find that the place I wanted to visit is only open certain days or the activity I wanted to do had to be booked in advance.

  7. I’m with you on this – I like to know how I’m getting from Point A to Point B and where I’ll be sleeping each night. Those things I like to plan, otherwise they stress me out like they do you.

    I save the spontaneous decisions for everything else, though!

    Plus, for me, planning is half the fun!

  8. I am totally a planner too. On one of my first solo trips, I had to change my plans for a 4-day desert hike due to wildfires. I had a meltdown right there in the middle of nowhere while people were losing their homes to fire. Selfish, yes, but it was an a-ha moment for me. I have become a more laid back traveler since then, but having a plan and sticking to it actually de-stresses me. Kudos to you for also being a planner!

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