Planning. Oh, planning. The bane of many a traveller out there, planning is the thorn in the side of the beauty of exploring new places for so many. Whether or not you’re a person who’s planning is simply booking a flight or bus to their next destination, or a person who likes to have their accommodation lined up well in advance as well as flights booked several months ahead, it’s a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with.
When it comes to planning, I definitely fall into the latter category. I’m a planning nut who’ll try and figure things out as far in advance as possible, jumping on flights and scoping out things like festivals and potentially awesome CouchSurfing hosts or hotel deals faster than the airlines can charge me those pesky booking fees.
OK, so maybe I’m not quite that fast.
I’m heading around the world next year, departing on March 27th, 2013 to be precise. Planning is like crack to me, and I approached the whole idea of scheduling my trip with absolute glee. I decided exactly where I wanted to go, when I’d be there, how long for, and I’d be travelling with my partner. All sorted.
Or so I thought.
My partner and I had initially planned to travel together but this is no longer possible. He’ll just be graduating university or doing an internship and be thrown into South Korea’s viciously competitive job market. Taking time off to travel simply isn’t an option here. So, that’s the first thing that went kaput. I’m travelling solo.
The act of planning for a round the world trip, of course, involves a heck of a lot of research. I wanted to go to Africa first and do a safari in Zambia. From there, I’d head through Malawi, down to Mozambique, and fly out of South Africa.
However, when I dug a little deeper, I found that the end of March is a bit of a dodgy time for safaris in Zambia – you’re not really guaranteed to see any animals. Malawi is easy enough to travel in, but crossing the border into Mozambique seems hellish – and not to mention, Mozambique is absurdly expensive. Then, South Africa. The only place in South Africa I have any desire to visit is Cape Town, but all the cheap flight deals I could find – and the best connection from Mozambique overland – operate out of Johannesburg.
I’ve scratched all that now. I’ll still go to Africa, but I have absolutely no idea where. West Africa? Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso? Perhaps. Maybe Ethiopia. Somewhere undiscovered and completely different, like Eritrea? Or maybe I will do that safari in Zambia – but that’s an experience I want to share with my partner.
As I mentioned before, I do have my first flight booked. However, it’s for the USA, not Africa. I’ll be starting in Boston. I asked for advice on where to go in the eastern USA, and received lots of tips and advice on where to go. People commented, “why aren’t you going to California?” Not enough time, I replied.
Then I found an amazing deal to San Francisco. I booked it. So yes, I’m going to California.
From there, I’m off to Colombia – a country I’d planned on visiting almost last on my trip – and after that, Canada. Canada wasn’t even on my list to begin with, and I disappointed a few of my Canuck friends by telling them I wouldn’t be going. Then, it was announced that TBEX 2013 will be taking place in Toronto and, on a whim, I booked a flight from Bogota to Toronto.
All this confusion and organised chaos only covers the first two or three months of my trip. I thought I had things down, knew what I was doing, but then I understood something. I understood why people travelling always tell you not to plan too far ahead. Why they tell you that it’s best ifyour plans have some kind of fluiditiy to them.
Things pop up that you don’t expect and you’ll find amazing flight deals or information on things like fantastic festivals, over-the-top visa requirements, inclement weather or seductive foodporn that will change your plans entirely.
So, what am I doing after Toronto? I’m thinking of visiting Montreal. In terms of a country I’ll be going to? I have absolutely no idea. Nothing is planned. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is wide open.
Maybe I’ll decide on something a couple of months down the line. Maybe I’ll decide when I’m in Canada. Who knows?
I’ve yet to hit the road, but I’m already understanding that the best plan to have is to keep your options and your mind open – and to have your finger on the mouse when you find that irresistible deal to somewhere you hadn’t considered before.
About the author: Tom Stockwell always had his nose stuck in an atlas as a child, and pretended that the stairs in his home were a magic carpet whisking him away to some faraway country that he’d seen on the map. Now, he’s travelling the world and has taught in Korea, explored snow covered beaches in Poland, partied at Sydney Mardi Gras and almost thrown up from trying durian in Kuala Lumpur. You can keep up with Tom’s adventures through his blog, Waegook Tom, via Facebook, and by following @waegook_tom on Twitter, too.