Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Pleasure of the Plan

I've only just restarted this blog, and already I'm lagging behind. I feel like I have a really good excuse considering I'm leaving the country in six days. Travel preparations are consuming me. But as I check items off my to-do list, it seems as if the list only continues to grow. And those items aren't just your usual "buy mosquito repellant" and "pack fuzzy socks for plane," though those have certainly made an appearance on the list (and been nicely disposed of, I might add). No, the bulk of my to-do list is comprised of research. At first, it was the basics - flights and hotels. Then I dove into the logistics - how to get to said hotel on the first night after traveling for nearly 24 hours when I will be so tired I probably won't remember my own name. After that comes the fun stuff. Or at least to me.

See, researching a trip is almost as pleasurable as the traveling for me. Ok, that's not true at all, but I do love it. I enjoy reading about a place I've never been and envisioning what it will look like, later comparing that image in my mind with its reality. I pour over restaurant reviews and menus online, going so far as to plan exactly what I will eat. I research museums, parks, shops, cooking classes, outdoor markets, even subway maps, plotting my routes from Point A to Point B. I plan potential daily itineraries (and alternative itineraries, taking into account things like weather issues). In other words, I tend to take all the fun out of the spontaneity that traveling can bring. Except when I don't. Because for all the planning I do, sometimes the best laid plans...

For instance, sometimes I turn down the wrong street and I stumble onto a market I didn't realize would be there and spend two hours wandering around. Or I walk past a bakery that has a croissant in the window that looks so delicious that it literally draws me inside where I lose track of time writing and people watching the locals. Or I get completely and utterly lost where I get to experience a part of a city I might never have seen otherwise. The point being that some of my favorite travel memories have happened completely spontaneously and had absolutely nothing to do with anything I planned or could have anticipated. I would go so far as to say that the parts of my trips where I've stuck strictly to the plan... eh, not so fun after all.

So will I keep planning over the next six days? Yes. I'm a planner. No apologies for being me. But will I be on the lookout on my trip for those unplanned, amazing moments I could seize at every turn? Absolutely.

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