You book a flight, pack a bag and maybe have a look through some travel guides. You’ve got your travel insurance and visa if needed. In your mind, you are prepared. You are all set to go on your next adventure. Then people start to ask you questions. It seems perhaps you are not as prepared as you thought. Why else can you not answer some basic questions about your chosen destination? Well don’t worry. It’s okay to not be able to answer those questions.
Two Types of Traveller
Broadly speaking, there are two types of travellers. The first is the planner. This is the person who has their entire itinerary sorted. They know exactly where they’ll be staying, what they’ll be doing each day and a whole host of other practical information. The second traveller is the spontaneous one. This is the one you will book a flight (sometimes only a week in advance) and off they go. They don’t book their accommodation in advance and is a big believer in flexible tickets. They may have some ideas of where they are interested in going or staying but they’re open to new ideas too. Now just because you are one type of traveller for a particular trip it doesn’t mean you are always that traveller. Sometimes time constraints mean you may have to plan a little bit more. Other times you are totally flexible and adaptable.
If you are the second type of traveller you will only book the necessities and your packing will reflect your adaptability. This means you may not know everything there is to know about your destination. Friends and family who are interested in your travels want to know about it though. They will ask for details, details which you simply do not know. They’re trying to paint a picture in their head about where you will be but the problem is you haven’t even started painting the picture yet.
I have just moved to China, Xi’an to be exact. I have moved here to teach English with a 1 year contract. It’s a big commitment so I think some of my friends and families were surprised when I stumbled over some of the questions they asked. Surely if I had committed to living and working somewhere for a year I would have researched that place to confirm it was somewhere I wanted to live? Well no not really actually. I mean part of it was I had a friend based here so she could get me a job pretty easily. The other part though was that if I am going to experience Chinese culture does it really matter where about in the country I lived?
It had been such a challenge to get my work visa for China that when I finally got it I booked a flight that left within the week. My family were torn between understanding my eagerness and shocked I was suddenly leaving so soon. It made for a hectic week as I ordered money and booked insurance that I didn’t have much time to even think about what my new lifestyle may be like. It was 5 days before I departed that someone asked me what the weather was like there. I gave a generic hot in the summer, colder in the winter answer. (This answer literally works for most countries.) However, I realised I didn’t know how hot it actually got or how cold. I had packed for all seasons regardless as I knew I would see each season at least once. A couple of days later (when I had a quiet moment) I finally looked up the forecast. I was shocked to realise it was currently 40c during the day. Still no idea how cold it will get in winter.
Experience the Culture
I am a big believer in experiencing the new culture and lifestyle in which you find yourself. It is one of the main reasons I travel. I want to experience different ways of life and different ways of thinking. It’s hard to do that if you already having an opinion when you arrive. I want to discover the culture as organically as possible and keep an open mind throughout. Therefore, I don’t extensively research my chosen destination as it will ruin the surprise, so to speak. I don’t know specifics about the food I’ll be eating or the habits of the locals. I am just excited to discover it all.
So next time you are thinking about your next adventure, don’t over plan. And when family and friends start asking questions about your new life, just tell them that you haven’t started living it yet. You can share what you learn as and when you learn it first hand rather than relaying someone else’s experience and perspective.
Are you a planner or spontaneous backpacker? Do you get stumped by questions about your travel plans?