As I prepare for my trip, the one piece of advice I keep hearing over and over again is that I should not plan too much.
This is a major problem for me because I am a planner with a capital P.
When I traveled in the past (usually for about 2 weeks at the most), I planned every day out in advance. My theory was that I had such limited time; I needed to make sure I squeezed in everything I wanted to see. I didn’t want to waste time trying to figure things out on the fly.
Likewise, if it was up to me, I would have my entire trip planned out with a day-by-day itinerary for the entire 10 months or a year or however long I’ll be gone. See, right there I have a problem. If it was up to me, I would know exactly how long this trip will last.
And actually, I do have an idea and I do have an itinerary.
I created the itinerary with a goal of coming up with a budget. I needed to have an idea of how much this whole adventure was going to cost me so I would know how much I needed to save and, thus, when I would be ready to begin. So I spent countless hours poring through guidebooks and web sites coming up with an estimate of how much time I might want to spend in each country, which cities I might like to visit and what sites I’d like to see, how much a typical hostel or guesthouse will cost and what the average meal might run. All of this information got thrown into a massive spreadsheet (thanks to Shannon of A Little Adrift for her awesome template) and according to this spreadsheet at this moment (it has changed often), this trip will last exactly 319 days.
But I am going to force myself not to follow it.
Believe me when I say that will be a challenge.
In fact, most aspects of trying to plan for this trip have been a challenge. Early on, I hated not knowing if or when my condo would sell, which would have a huge impact on my ability to travel long-term in the first place. Then, I hated not knowing yet whether the wonderful country of Russia would decide to grant me a 3-month business visa (they did!). I also hated not being able to apply for worldwide medical insurance until 30 days before I leave (seriously, what is the reasoning behind that??). And I hate that with less than a month until my departure, I still don’t know the identities of the families with whom I will be living in Russia.
I like to have a plan and I don’t deal well with uncertainty.
I know people are right. I don’t want to force myself to stick to an itinerary just because it’s there. I want to feel free to stay in Latvia a while longer if I absolutely love it or leave Ukraine after 3 days if I hate it (I don’t think I will, but who knows?). If I learn anything on this trip, I hope I will learn to be more flexible and spontaneous. I hope I will allow myself to throw the itinerary out the window once in a while and even if I have Plan A in my head, I hope I will be happy resorting to Plan B or C or even D. Even better, I hope I can learn to be content sometimes going without a plan altogether.
But then again, is having a plan really all that bad?