My parents raised me to be a traveler. I’ve experienced almost as many countries as I have birthdays, and many of those trips were with family.
My mom takes planning a trip to the extreme, filling a binder per trip with daily itineraries and pre-purchased admission tickets and Google Maps printouts and Rick Steves city guides. I learned from her that traveling was a lot of work on the front end and that deviating from the plan equaled stress and frustration–but following the plan meant eating at amazing restaurants and getting to see all the sights.
Matt, on the other hand, hates plans. When we took our cross-country road trip, he wanted to drive until we got tired and then just find a motel and crash.
And because I was raised on travel binders and hour-by-hour agendas, the roll-up-to-any-motel idea was not gonna happen.
So we compromised: I’d book our lodging, and we’d have a general idea of landmarks we wanted to hit along the way, but we were flexible to make additional stops or skip a sight with a long line. It worked really well–he appreciated that my planning meant staying with fun friends or in cool locations, and I found our spontaneous detours adventurous and exciting.
In Amsterdam, we took a similar approach. Matt booked hostels for us to stay in, and I wrote up a list of 5-6 things we might want to do in the city over the week we were there, and we figured out the rest as we went.
Sometimes, traveling without a specific itinerary means you don’t experience everything you potentially could. We never made it to the Van Gogh museum because we kept pushing it to later, tomorrow, Saturday–and then it was too late. Without planning, you also miss out on magical money- or time-saving opportunities (like skipping the lines at the Anne Frank House) that make the trip go more smoothly.
But traveling flexibly has its benefits too: you can take a walking tour on a day when it isn’t raining, stumble into cute cafes where you have the best croquettes and Dutch pea soup, or even spontaneously get a tattoo (if you’re Matt and me, anyway).
It’s all about balance.
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