Traveling Without a Plan
You’re too late. There’s no way they’ll let you on the plane now.” The British ticket agent’s words stunned me. But once I got over the shock of having missed my flight for a weekend getaway to Ireland I realized that not knowing where you’ll end up is precisely what makes travel so extraordinary—good news for those of us who dread the time-consuming stress of trying to plan the perfect vacation. I’d been worrying for weeks before my trip to Ireland, because we had no idea where we’d go or what we’d do once we got to our destination—no plans beyond flights and lodging. But after we missed our flight I realized that it’s only when you have a plan that it can go wrong.
By roaming plan-free for a weekend through cities and countryside I discovered several strategies to create a low-stress, high-adventure travel experience without pre-travel hassle.
Be Flexible: My friend and I knew we were flying from London to Dublin and spending one night there. We knew we had two beds reserved in a hostel. Our weekend was open to suggestion, and it wasn’t long before the suggestions came. That evening, after checking into our hostel and wandering the streets of Dublin to find some dinner, we learned about an Irish dancing party at the hostel. We had a blast learning Irish jigs and we met people from all over the world who, like us, were traveling without a plan—and having the time of their lives.
Go with the flow. Don’t let an agenda get in the way of unique opportunities that come along. Watch for flyers advertising a local event you could attend. Irish dancing in Ireland was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we simply stumbled across.
If you get lost, look around and be ready to explore interesting neighborhoods or landscapes: Don’t be so focused on your agenda that you bypass unique points of interest.
If you must plan, leave room to be flexible. You never know what will come your way.
Follow Your Whims: Once you’re at your destination, feel free to wander through the town. While wandering, you might also come across an intriguing museum or art gallery, or a beautiful park. Some of the world’s best-kept secrets are in those out-of-the-way places that pop up when you’re not even looking.
I would also recommend taking only one easy-to-carry backpack for luggage. This is especially helpful if you’re planning a short weekend trip, as you can go wherever you want without having to collect and lug baggage.
Talk to Locals: When we arrived in the town of Limerick, my friend and I had no idea what to expect or what to do. After wandering through the town a bit more, we still had no idea how we would manage to fill the time. Then we learned the valuable obvious lesson of asking the locals. The owner of a bed and breakfast eagerly directed us to a pub around the corner that had traditional Irish bands playing each night and told us about a folk park nearby that gives a glimpse of historical country life in Ireland—both hidden treasures we wouldn’t have discovered from the guidebooks.
Ask the desk clerk at your hotel or your server at a restaurant to point you to cultural events, historical sites, good restaurants, or fun shops.
Try Different Ways to Get from Here to There and Back: The way you go doesn’t have to be the way you come back. We often assume it’s cheaper to buy roundtrip tickets, but that’s not always the case. When we went to Ireland, we flew to Dublin, took a bus all the way across Ireland to Limerick, and flew back to London from the nearby Shannon Airport. This way we got to see more of the country, and had more time to explore.
It’s also good to keep in mind that, there is a wide variety of transport from which to choose.
REBAKAH CLARK lives in Salem, OR, where she is a freelance writer.