RTW Post #7: Confessions Of A Chronic Planner

9/1/13: Bedford, MA, USA 

I’ve done my research. The majority of travel blogs advocate living life spontaneously while on the road. Don’t plan too much. Keep your options open. It makes sense. The more structured your trip the more choices you’re cutting yourself off from. After all, you won’t be able to take advantage of last minute deals or enjoy newly discovered volunteering opportunities if you’re flying out of the country the next day. There’s also the love / hate argument. What if you adore where you are and want to stay an extra month? What if you hate a place and want to move on right away? You should allow yourself the freedom to do whatever feels right. Flexibility is key, and it’s touted as the cornerstone of any enjoyable round the world trip.

Some say forget the guidebooks and follow your instincts. I say, bring on the guidebooks!

I appreciate this mantra, I’ve read the success stories, and I even agree with the philosophy, but it’s just not me. I’m that type-A co-worker who annoys people with follow-up emails until a task is complete. I’m the consumer that cross-references prices and reads a hundred reviews before clicking “Buy.” I’m a planner, plain and simple. And my partner, Katie, is cut from the same cloth. We both love to research, plan, and book before stepping on a plane. It’s our nature. But planning a year-long trip is, literally, impossible. You can’t even purchase tickets that far in advance! For us, embarking on a journey of this magnitude is…let’s see, how do I put this…it’s terrifying!

Ever since we set our sites on doing a RTW we’ve been acting like first time parents with a baby on the way. Excitement and joy filled our hearts knowing that our dream would soon be a reality. A trip around the world! Huzzah! Nesting took hold, and we spent hours pouring over travel blogs, buying the recommended gear, and reading guidebooks on what to expect when you’re expecting to go on a RTW. We listened to the experts and took copious notes. To-do lists were meticulously written, checked off, and written once again. Slowly, over the course of many months, joy relinquished its seat to acceptance, who politely made room for worry and doubt.

I've spent many hours on this front porch exploiting free wifi.

Now, as our day of departure draws near, we are freaking out! What have we gotten ourselves into? Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Will our trip be happy and healthy or plagued with misfortune? And just like any anxious parents, we don’t have any answers. We don’t know what our trip’s going to be act like, look like, we just know it’s coming.

So, in these final weeks of trepidation, we’re clinging to the familiar and doing the only thing that puts our minds at ease: we’re planning. Our plane tickets are in hand for the first half of our trip, we’ve already paid for the big excursions in South America, and nearly all our lodging is booked through to Australia! And let’s not forget all the nitty-gritty stuff that’s been sifting through our brains. We estimate that each item checked off our to-do list equals a couple hours of work – that’s a lot of time! So we’re more than happy to put in the hours now while we’ve got comfortable digs and free wi-fi.

We’re not crazy. We know not everything will go smoothly. There’ll be sickness and delays and language barriers to overcome, but the only way to overcome obstacles is to be ready when they hit. We’ll take vitamins, confirm bookings, and carry a Point-It-Dictionary wherever we go. I know I sound naive, but hell, I am naive. I’ve never done this before! Being as prepared as possible is the only way I know how to be.

Relaxing on a porch doing research sounds like a good day to me!

It hasn’t been easy morphing these last few weeks into a cram session for the biggest test of our lives, but it’s brought peace of mind and means less time wasted on the road. Instead of finding lodging we can lie in a hammock and read a book. Instead of hunting for cheap plane tickets we can explore a city market. The more ducks we have in a row the more we can sit back and listen to them quack. This may limit our choices, but we’re willing to accept those limitations in exchange for a comfortable bed.

One of the points of this trip is to examine our lives and the world around us; to change our perspectives and perhaps changes ourselves. So, you never know. It’s entirely possible that in six months time we’ll be ready to relax and go with the flow, but, for now, holding on to this rudder feels mighty right!