Have you ever felt this: as your plane touches down upon returning home, you’re hit with a wave of vague disappointment, like you didn’t make the most of your trip? Sure, it was fun. But there was nothing out-of-the-ordinary about it – you simply moved around according to a pre-set itinerary, saw the things you knew you’d see, and ate where the guidebooks told you to eat.
If you’ve ever felt like this, chances are what your trip lacked was spontaneity. You didn’t return home with wild stories or once-in-a-lifetime memories; rather, you just went through the motions. Being a more spontaneous traveller requires you to do away with all the baggage (both literal and figurative) and submit to the unknown.
Here are a few simple ways to go about it!
Make a Rough Itinerary
An itinerary isn’t a bad idea – but an unshakeable itinerary is not the way to go. Planning your days to the very last second leaves no room for following the wild, random experiences of life on the road.
Plan your itinerary in broad strokes, indicating a few main places you’d like to see, but remain open to change. Plan for unplanned days – unstructured time when you can just follow the rhythm of everyday life in your destination. And if you’re presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do or see something, don’t be afraid to toss your plans out the window.
Avoid Booking All Accommodations
Ideally, if you wanted to be totally spontaneous, you wouldn’t book any accommodation, that way you aren’t bound to a certain time and place. Realistically, good accommodation books up in advance, so this isn’t always feasible. Instead, either leave a few destinations unreserved, or ensure that your accommodations have a generous cancellation policy.
Sometimes, the baggage you carry is literal. When you’re saddled with heavy suitcases, bulky bags and more outfit changes than an award show host, you don’t leave yourself much opportunity to be fleet-footed. Picking up and leaving is a hassle. Changing hotels is a chore. Even embarking on day trips becomes a burden.
If you want to be spontaneous, pack light. Buy a few shirts you can take anywhere that don’t need to be washed frequently (merino wool is best for this,) that way you only need to pack a quarter as many. Limit your pants and shorts options to a couple. Be sparing with toiletries and leave all the creature comforts at home.
Stay Away from Reviews
It’s understandable why some travellers rely on reviews. Away from the comfort and control of your home setting, you want to solicit as much advice as possible in order to have the best experience. But reviews are a double-edged sword. They may help, but they are often written and reinforced by other travellers who don’t have an intimate knowledge of the culture. Plus, they disallow you from genuinely stumbling on a hidden gem.