One of the things that attracted me to my husband when we first started dating was the fact that he liked to travel as much as I did. A year into our relationship, we had the opportunity to spend a month traveling in France and Spain. It was during this trip that our true travel colors emerged.

You see, when it comes to travel, I’m a notorious planner (so much so that I often have trouble staying in the moment), and my husband is a pro at flying by the seat of his pants (which means he misses opportunities he could have had if he only planned a bit more). Needless to say, it’s a miracle we were still together at the end of the month.

Since that fateful trip ten years ago, we’ve become more successful at merging our travel styles, thanks to both of us being able to see the beauty in each approach. Suffice it to say, a key component of our travel lifestyle has been finding a happy medium, a blend of planning and spontaneity while traveling.

Planning vs. Spontaneity

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There are plenty of pros and cons to both methods.

Meticulous planning your itinerary and researching a destination allows to you understand the range of sights and activities at your destination, along with scoring great deals on flights and hotels. BUT being invested in one “right way” of doing things can lead to missing out on unexpectedly opportunities, while over-scheduling your days full of activities can make you feel guilty or somehow “unsuccessful” if you don’t get to all of them). Personally, I’ve come to regret the times I was so set on seeing certain sights that I passed up an opportunity to engage in an interesting conversation with a local while strolling through an area where most tourists don’t get to go.

Spontaneous travelers, meanwhile, are more open to new opportunities and experiences that aren’t necessarily found on websites and in guidebooks and can add energy to adventures, wherever they may lead. They also have to deal with discomfort, both physical and mental (i.e. stress), putting a damper on the otherwise exciting vibe of exploring somewhere new. If you’re winging it, you may not get a good night’s sleep because you didn’t book a hotel room in advance and couldn’t get any rest at the noisy hostel, or going for hours without eating because you hopped a train without a meal car. Travel spontaneity can also be costly.

The Happy Medium

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We’ve found that the best approach is a blend of these two styles of travel. I like to have lodging and a loose framework of what I’d like to see and do, and then I follow my husband’s lead and allow myself be open to the opportunities that present themselves while we’re exploring a new place together.

While we were planning our most trip to Barcelona, we talked about priorities for what we wanted to see and do during our time there. I booked our plane tickets and lodging so that I could feel calm about the “big picture.” Once we settled into our rental apartment, we looked at a map of the city and decided where we wanted to spend our days. Each day we had a goal of seeing or doing one thing (a museum, famous site, restaurant etc.) in the neighborhood we were exploring. The rest of the time we wandered and took a more “moment to moment” approach. If we were hungry, we tucked into a taverna. If we saw an interesting museum, we visited it. If we got tired, we went back to the apartment and took a nap. One day we woke up and decided that we were in the mood for a day trip to the nearby beach city of Sitges, so we went straight to the train station and bought tickets. I loved the freedom that came with a loose itinerary, and my husband appreciated the fact that we still saw so much of the city (and beyond).

I call that a win-win.

What are your thoughts on meticulously planned vs. completely spontaneous travel? Let us know in the comments section.

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About The Author

Jen Bouchard

An insatiable foodie, art collector, and international literature aficionado, I have traveled throughout Europe, Asia, the U.S. and Canada. For the past fifteen years, I have written about my adventures for various travel and literary publications. I am the owner of Lucidité Writing (www.luciditewriting.com) and Bouchard Design Co.