The Golden Rule of Travel: Be Flexible.
I am a let’s-find-a-place-to-stay-and-wing-it kind of traveler. For instance, when my friends and I hopped a plane to Switzerland in Summer 2012, all we knew was that we had a hostel reservation in some town that was a three-hour train ride from Geneva. Our trip to Interlaken ended up being one of the best trips I have ever been on because we winged it. We didn’t plan at all. Each of us had specific thing we wanted to do, but didn’t care how or when we did them. I got to the top of the Swiss Alps by riding the world’s longest cable car ride to the Schilthorn. The three of us went canyonning in the gorges along the base of the Alps, and I got to do a super scary high ropes course with zip lines and tightropes (if only you knew how terrified of heights I actually am!!). The Switzerland trip was planned ish, and it is because of the lack of specific planning that the trip was such a success. It’s because we were flexible.
Several travelers or vacationers set out to follow a very specific itinerary. They have to be at this coffee shop by that time or all hell will break loose. While itineraries are great, they aren’t always the best way to plan a trip. No matter how hard you try, your trip will never go as planned. Something will go wrong causing your trip to be altered. The car rental place may take near two hours for your family to finally get a car (Seattle, Washington, Summer 2013). You may be entirely too tired to catch the right morning train (Dublin, Ireland, Summer 2012). Your dad might drive right past the hotel literally four or five times before finally figuring out exactly where the turn in is (Washington DC, Summer 2008). The “pizza” for dinner may be cooked on a tortilla shell covered in ham, onions, and some kind of smelly cheese, and make you so sick that you can’t eat anything for the rest of the night (Paris, France, Spring 2005). You and your family may come across a wild fire and not be able to stay in the intended town for the night due to evacuations (Somewhere in Southern California on the way to Los Angeles, Fall 2002). I could go on and on and on. Things go wrong. When that happens, grit your teeth and go with it. Be flexible.
If you freak out over spilled milk, you’ll miss out on other awesome moments! Because the rental car place was late, we actually got to spend more time in Seattle than originally planned. Yeah so we missed the early train to Galway that morning, but I was able to get a refund on the ferry tickets we had bought, and we never once got rained on! Once we finally got to our hotel, we heard the most comical thing on the radio that we would have missed otherwise. We still make fun of it to this day. That pizza in Paris was disgusting, but because I wasn’t stuffing my 13-year-old face, I was able to actually talk to everyone and hear his or her travel stories. And lastly because we couldn’t stay in that particular city, we had to keep driving causing us to eat an extremely late dinner at Outback where I proceeded to fall asleep in the restaurant. Our plans got screwed up, but we were flexible. We kept going and ended up having a great time anyways!
Things will go wrong. They always do. But when they do, be willing to bend a little. You’ll miss out on the other great stuff that happens if you don’t. Try not to end up so tightly wound over the things that are honestly out of your control. Let them happen.