Living and dying by the guidebook

Normally I’m a hell of a planner when it comes to taking trips. Not in a bullet pointed itinerary type of way, but I like to map out the who, what, where, when and how. Typically on trips, I’ve tried to hit several different countries and pack in as much as I can, which makes planning  pretty essential.  I love surfing the net, reading guidebooks and travel blogs, keeping GoogleWorld up in my browser and drawing lines and times on maps.


After missing our rapid ferry back to Estonia

Planning things out like that has never done me wrong but after going about it that way for several trips I’ve gotten back from my vacation feeling like I needed a vacation. Not that I regret doing it that way, myself and other travel companions have seen and done a lot in short periods of time but it can be kind of grueling.  The last thing you want to do on a trip is bring unnecessary stress. It can end up fun though, like the time we missed our rapid ferry from Helsinki back to Tallinn and had to catch the slow boat that ended up being some kind of weird cruise with bands, karaoke, a ball pit and slot machines!

So this time I’ve gone almost completely the opposite way and done a minimal amount of planning. I know we’re flying into Lima and staying for a night then the next day flying into Cusco for about a week before returning to Lima for our flight home. And that’s it. We’re planning on seeing Macchupichu while there but haven’t booked our trek yet. Since we’re only doing the wussy two-day “trek”  a couple of months after high season we’re hoping to book something while we’re there. The first few days will be spent getting ourselves accustomed to the altitude and seeing a lot of the sites around Cusco. As a plan B if we can’t get a pass for Macchupichu we may do an Amazon river tour which I’d also be happy with.  At any rate it will be really cool just to hang out in Cusco, hopefully with a couchsurfing local or two. I’ll try to blog about it while we’re there but I’m not sure what the internet access will be like and something tells me even my iPhone won’t be working up in the Andes.
The way I figure it anyhow is that this minimal planning method is something I’ll have to get used to. When we realize our dream of doing an extended round the world trip in the next several years that’s the way we’ll be doing it. I’m really looking forward to the day when we can arrive in a town and if we love it just decide to stay. If it blows (I’m talking to you Riga!) head out at our convenience. During my travels I’ve met a decent amount of people who landed in a town intending to stay only a few days and three months later they’re still there. It would be nice to find a new place you love and not have to move on until the travel bug hits you again.  As thirty-something Americans dealing with the  ‘only two weeks of vacation a year’  nonsense, we feel pressured to make the most of our vacations and time off.  We can feel cheated when a trip didn’t live up to the expectations of what it should have been, thus the constant planning and guidebook buying.  So we’ll see how this non planning thing goes. I’m excited for it because it’ll leave a lot of room open for flexibility and creativity (Cathedral closed? No problem, let’s walk up to the ruins!). I fully believe that the stress you may encounter when traveling shouldn’t be brought on by self-imposed schedules and guidelines.  After all, any day traveling is better than a boring day at work!

1 Comment

  1. I like your approach, a lot like my wife’s. We were on our first organized tour in Peru, we got to see a lot that we may have missed on our own,however, we were really worn out after 12 days of go,go,go. Have a great trip….report back after.

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