Your itinerary – not needed
Before we leave, it sometimes makes us feel better if we have
a plan for which countries we are planning to visit, what to
see, and how long we are going to stay. That way we know we
can see everything we want to see, and have the security of
knowing what we are going to do the next day. We can make
sure all of our rooms are booked ahead of time and a cab
waiting for us at our arrival point. Keeping to a schedule
ensures we don’t miss anything that we want to see.
Don’t do it.
For some people, not knowing where they are going to sleep
the next night or which city they are going to be in the next
day is a frightening step into the unknown. Some cannot even
fathom the idea of not creating a day to day plan of a trip. It
takes a little courage and some experience before you realize
that you do not need to plan everything in advance. If you
must plan, make it rough, on paper, and in pencil. That way
you can easily make changes or throw it out.
Over the course of my travels, I met up with hundreds of other
backpackers and found a general commonality on how they all
planned their trip.
Everyone has a general idea of the direction where they are
going and how long they are going to be travelling. Beyond
that, most of the planning happens the day before when they
feel its time to leave their current spot.
The reason for this is that you do not know what a place has to
offer until you get there. Travel guides, the Internet, and word
of mouth are great ways of finding out if the city could be of
interest to you before you arrive. But the accuracy and
coverage of these places is sometimes quite limited and
potentially out of date. Also, the amount of work required to
research this is cumbersome and not usually worth your while.
The best laid plans are those made up when you arrive in the
city and walk into the local tourist agency or hostel.
When you first start backpacking, it takes a week or two of
“on the road” time travelling to different areas before you lose
your need to ‘have a room reserved for you, and a taxi waiting
for you at the train station’. You realize how easy it is to travel
on the spur of the moment and how limiting an itinerary really
I do not usually plan for more than a day or two in advance.
However, I do have a plan of a general route that I follow
around the world, and which countries I want to visit. This is
mainly to avoid back-tracking. Beyond that, I have no clue
what is going to happen or what I am going to do.
Keep in mind your route and plan are not set in stone. It will
change and evolve as you go to different places, talk to locals,
and find out from other backpackers what is “cool” to see and
do. This is the making for numerous side-trips. You have a
choice to make: should you throw away your precious
schedule or do something that interests you? Basically, when
you come to a new place, if you like it, stay a little longer, if
you hate it, just leave the following day and go somewhere
else. No worries!
Note: Some of my greatest times have been when I found
something new and changed my timetable or when I met
someone who would take me to an interesting place. There
may be a concert or an event that you discover which may
require a ‘detour’ of a couple days.