Recently, one of my friends (yes, I do have friends) asked me to do a post about traveling with no plans. I have taken two trips, New Zealand and biking in Europe, without planning beforehand. Both times, when I got off the plane, shots of panic and excitement simultaneously went through my body. I began to ask myself a million questions. “Why did I think this was a good idea?” “This isn’t so bad, why was I so nervous?” “Where am I going to sleep?” “Where am I going?” More distressingly than all of these questions was the fact that I was talking to myself. I must have looked like a crazy person.
This week’s tip applies to everyone, even if you will never travel without plans. My main tip is don’t talk to yourself in public. You will look crazy and no one will want to talk to you (trust me, it has happened to me before).
My main advice is very simple, Talk to Everyone! Talk to locals and fellow travelers to figure out the best places to visit. They will know better than any travel book or tour guide. By using these two resources you will have unforgettable experiences that you would have otherwise missed. Even when I plan my trips, I ask people for suggestions. Often times I scrap plans and follow the advice of others, which usually ends up being 10 times, nay 20 times better than my original plan.
Many people don’t ask for suggestions because they are afraid. Ask! If it’s a local, they will love to share information about their home with you. Every traveler is looking for someone to share their experiences and discoveries with. That is the whole purpose of my blog (I’m still trying to find someone who will listen to my crazy talk, well besides myself). I literally spent hours listening to locals describe how things once were and how they have changed. Fellow travelers have talked non-stop about their favorite destinations and crazy experiences they had along the way. One of my favorite parts of traveling is the immediate friendships that are formed by asking someone a simple question about their home, trip, or life.
Just a quick comment, make sure you ask a specific question. For example, don’t ask “what’s there to do in Auckland?” There are a million things. Instead, ask about things that interest you. “Where’s the best place to go for a scenic walk in the mountains?” You’re probably more likely to get slapped than get a suggestion for that last example, but you get the point.
Make sure you confirm any recommendation with other people. You will meet people who have no idea what they are talking about, but they want to feel important, so they’ll give you a suggestion. One time in South Africa, someone asked me for directions. I pointed down the road and said take a right at the second light. I had no idea where he needed to go, but it felt incredible that someone thought I was a local (or at least knew the area). The funny thing is, when that guy stopped me, I was completely lost and was looking to ask someone for directions. Good thing I didn’t ask first.
You can find the best place to eat, the cheapest hotel, the coolest local attraction, and any other thing you can think of. Just Ask!
What suggestions do you have for someone traveling with no plans? Have you ever knowingly given someone wrong directions or talked about something you knew nothing about?