Friends who have travelled with me know that I’m the kind of person who makes detailed Excel spreadsheets to plan every holiday trip. Everything that you need to know when you go on travel, from museums’ opening hours, restaurants’ specialties, to easy-to-follow transportation tips, I’ve included in my little itinerary booklet. And I hold onto it like some sort of a holy guidebook, having a subconscious belief that I should follow everything that I planned to a T, for fear that my holiday would be ruined if I don’t do so.
I know that sounds like a crazy way to plan a journey, but I’m so used to this way of pre-exploring the city before I visit the places that I actually quite enjoy the whole process. This level of planning might seem boring and unnecessary to most, but to me it’s like having an appetiser before a very much anticipated main course. It’s getting me ready for the big delicious meal!
But just a couple of weeks ago, I travelled to Busan, South Korea without even having a plan like I used to. While it might not sound as daring to most people, it was kind of an adventure to me, the kind of traveller who likes to plan everything ahead.
To start with, I didn’t really just book my tickets and accommodation the night before and decided “Oh let’s not plan anything and it’ll be fun!”. Well, I’m not that spontaneous. I did a tiny little bit of research here and there, but I never got around to actually sit down and plan my trip like I usually do. I was busy with work and my friend and I decided to book the tickets just several weeks beforehand so we didn’t really have much time. So when it got to the day before our trip, I just said to myself: alright, this will be an unplanned adventure for us two. How exciting!
Even without my usual “holy guidebook”, this 5-day trip turned out to be just as fun and memorable like the ones when I did extensive researching. For this of course I’ll have to thank my travel buddy Karen for being so understanding and supportive. Being a person who’s so used to planning, I’d have to admit that I panicked a little when I knew we had to go on this trip unprepared. She constantly assured me: “It’s okay to not have a plan, we’ll just see the city like a real tourist.” Yup, she’s right. While I still love the security of having my booklet with me, I have come to enjoy the freedom of being a little more laid-back in trip-planning. Here’s a few of my takes on this whole idea of “Sometimes, not having a plan might not be a bad thing”.
Less stress on following the itinerary
My trip planning always includes very exact details like which train we’re going to catch or how much time we are to spend at a place. I’d have to admit this is mainly to feed my obsessive behaviour of making the plan look detailed and flawless. When I didn’t have a plan to follow in Busan, I didn’t have to worry about following any itinerary. If I like a place, I can spend more time there. And if I don’t, I can walk around for a bit and just leave. I get to listen to my heart and do what I really want at that moment. On our second day, we went to Haeundae Beach after lunch and we ended up spending a few hours there just enjoying the view and the breeze. It was truly relaxing.
Even though we didn’t do much on the beach, we had a great time and enjoyed ourselves a lot. And I think it’s because…
It feels more like a holiday
I still remember the last time when I went on an ad-hoc weekend getaway to Macau without a plan and I came back feeling refreshed and recharged. At work we have schedules to follow and deadlines to meet. We try our best to organise our work so that everything is in place. It’s fulfilling to see things go as planned but I’m starting to realise that a fun vacation might not need that much of planning like I used to think and can still be enjoyable. Planning less might make me panic a little at first, but once I got used to it I actually quite like it. I felt more like on holiday, instead of being in a race to check all the items on my to-do list.
Discover good restaurants and fun places
On our first day in Busan we were pretty much tired from not having enough sleep on a red-eye flight. Thanks to not having a plan, we went back to our Airbnb place after lunch and planned to have a “short” nap that turned out to be a 3-hour one. When we woke up it was already time for dinner. We walked around our neighbourhood and discovered this really awesome restaurant that served Korean rural home cooking dishes. Price is unbelievably cheap and food is incredibly delicious. My mouth is watering just looking back at the photos!
I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers security over risks, but I liked the surprises (more about food and places in a later post!) that came along in this unplanned adventure. Appetisers are certainly good to begin your meal with, but sometimes getting right into the big main course might even make you enjoy your meal even more, at least that’s what I experienced in this trip.