We’ve all sat in the library daydreaming about being somewhere warmer, somewhere sunnier, being literally anywhere else in the world apart from that concrete prison. Finally, the day comes when you’ve convinced your mates to take a trip with you and you all start sky-scanning for the cheapest flights (Ryanair of course) and perusing Airbnb for the least dodgy-looking accommodation. These are the minimum requirements for any trip. Beyond these basics, how far would you ride on spontaneity before your comfort level was crossed?
Let’s go back to 2015, when I took my first trip without parental supervision. I was 18 and I spent 2 weeks with my best friend in Italy. We started planning it 6 months in advance, curating an itinerary that covered the plan for each day, down to the distances between the train stations and hostels. Even with the perfect itinerary, things did not go to plan. For example, I distinctly remember us shoving our way through a crowded vaparetto (water bus) in Venice only to reach the exit after it had started pulling away from the stop. This caused us to miss our train to Florence and spend an extra €30. On the contrary, there was a certain charm in getting lost in the ‘Floating City’ with only a paper map. That was my first taste of spontaneity and I had to admit – I kind of liked it. Suffice to say, it was the first and last time I created an itinerary.
The incessant planning of the Italy trip was followed by an escorted holiday to Malaysia and Singapore. I’m not sure if it was spending a week with a bus load of over-60’s or the lack of freedom to explore, but it was only just bearable. In great contrast, were my frequent and budgeted getaways during my Erasmus year. These trips had none of the luxuries of an escorted holiday, but had all the excitement that came with the anticipation of the unknown. I’m talking turning into a busy main high street from a quiet alleyway, suddenly surrounded by street vendors with snakes draped across their shoulders in Prague. I’m talking being caught off-guard entering the famous district in Amsterdam and seeing the women dancing in the red-lit windows. Nothing beats the adrenaline rush that goes hand in hand with the element of surprise.
Two years and 12 new countries later, I’ve realized that the best trips are the ones with the least planning. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do a little background research about the country you’re visiting; you do not want to get stuck paying over £1000 for a meal in Venice like four tourists did last month (look it up). Alternatively, you could discover that your destination is the home of a painting you’ve always wanted to see and make the time to visit it. Whatever floats your boat, it’s important to have no regrets (it’s unlikely you’re going to visit the same place again in the near future), but it’s equally important to feed your inner nomad and have fun!