So you want to travel the world?
To Itinerary or to not itinerary… that is the question.
Deciding where you want to go and for how long is naturally part of the process of travel and this article is dedicated to the planning of extended travel, and whether to plan a detailed itinerary – or not and is based solely on my personal experience.
When I started my travels, I booked a one way ticket from San Francisco California to Oaxaca Mexico. The intention was to spend some time meandering around Mexico before heading to the real destination which was a Rainbow Gathering in a place called Palenque (also in Mexico) for the closing of the Mayan calendar on December 21st, 2012. Before I left, I knew that I would have roughly 3 months to explore, hence the one way ticket seemed like a great idea. And for me it ended being the best thing I could have done. To give you an idea of why, I’ll tell you the story.
It all began with myself and one other travel companion who accompanied me for the beginning of the trip- who was also on a one way ticket. Together we traveled to Oaxaca (which is beautiful and a highly recommended place to visit – see the article titled OAXACA for more) and when we arrived, my friend’s bag did not arrive with mine. The first day passes, and we hear nothing about the missing luggage. On day two, we receive notice that it has been located, but is not yet on it’s way to us. As the days passed (5 in total) you can imagine my friend’s angst as she arrived in
Mexico with quite literally nothing. This however was not really a problem because I had plenty to share with her while we waited. What was becoming a problem as the time passed was the anxiety as to whether it would arrive in time for us to travel to Palenque, which was really a matter of when we wanted to be there as we did not have a pre-paid, pre-planned trip itinerary. Finally on day 4 she said to me, “we are going to Palenque tomorrow whether my bag arrives or not” to which I calmly replied, “whatever is ok with you is ok with me. I will wait with you or we can go – your choice”. The next morning her bag arrived just after we had purchased bus tickets to Palenque. Ah what a wonderful surprise that was- and just in time! So off we head to the bus – with both of our backpacks and grins from ear to ear- this was a travel the world adventure already!
The Rainbow Gathering itself is a whole other story that you can find on the site if you search under the destinations tab for – you guessed it – Rainbow Gathering 2012 – so I’ll spare you those details here and stick to the point. So after the gathering, it was time to decide where to go next. My friend wanted to stay in Mexico, so we decided to check out a village called San Cristobal De Las Casas. It was there that I saw a flyer for the third time while traveling through Mexico that was boasting a New Years Celebration in Guatemala and I finally thought- you know what? Let’s go to Guatemala!! My friend was not as intrigued as I was at first, but I told her, I would like to go, and I am leaving in 3 days- you can come or stay in Mexico. I want to travel the world. She thought about it for the 3 days on when it was go time she was in. We took a very long bus ride to a place called Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and it was this place which ended up being the second most magical part of this journey. My friend liked it so much that she ended up spending the rest of her trip time at the lake visiting all of the villages surrounding it. Myself on the other hand, after meeting some fellow travelers, decided to head east to the Guatemalan Coast and then eventually up to Belize and on to the Yucatan back in Mexico.
The beauty of not having an itinerary was that I was able to go where my interests pointed me, and to travel freely with other people I met in various hostels, cafes and beaches along the way. Being without an itinerary also allowed me to stay longer in the places I loved, and spend less time in the places I did not enjoy so much- and whether you will love a place or despise it is something you just don’t know when traveling to a new destination until you get there. So from my personal experience, being tied to an itinerary (as I have been in the past) limits your ability to really enjoy the experience and the unexpected surprises that might occur (like losing your baggage!) if you allow for the freedom of not having a pre-determined itinerary. With that said, I am also aware that some people prefer to know every little detail of their trip as it provides a certain predictable security and comfort, and I can appreciate that as well. Now I am curious as to what will you choose and why… do share your thoughts and comments!