The No Plan Plan

…or The Joys of Not Planning Your Trip

Fortune favors the brave – or at least that’s what they say.

The famous proverb implies that boldness is rewarded and that sometimes in life, it pays to take a risk. Who knows if it’s true or not, but I figured there is no better way to test this theory than long term travel!

In January 2017, I quit my job, said goodbye to most of my possessions, and left behind a really great living space. It was a calculated escape, the result of almost two years of dreaming and meticulous saving. Oddly, though, when it came down to the details of “getting gone” there was no definitive plan. Or even a vague one, really.

As little as two days before departure, my itinerary was nearly blank. The most certainty I could provide was this: I have a one-way ticket to Germany to meet up with some German friends. Other far-flung destinations like Malaysia, Romania, and Chile, are also on my mind. I have money saved, but plan to work along the way to make it stretch. Duration of travel: unknown.

It wasn’t enough. The sideways looks and pointed follow-up inquiries proved that this fuzzy plan just wasn’t enough for my friends, family, coworkers, or really anyone who heard this response.

Sometimes, I did try obediently to elaborate on the endless scenarios playing in my head. Every time the numbers and nouns fell into place, however, it just felt limiting and icky. It was impossible to know where the path would lead or how it would look – I just knew I wanted to be gone for a while…

One day, when fumbling to answer a familiar set of questions, I came up with The No-Plan Plan – and it stuck. While this name helped to set my own mind at ease, I knew I was just like so many other travelers. Great vagabonds like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac had long since mastered the “plug your nose and jump” approach, and who was I to challenge those guys?

Here are a few ideas I borrowed from those masters of the road (and from my own travels) aka the Joys of Not Planning:

  • Spending more time in one place gives you a better feel for the local way of life. An open plan lets you really settle in when you find a place that speaks to you.
  • Shit happens on the road, more often than not. The more open your plans are, the better equipped you are to roll with it.
  • People and things along the way will aim to shape your journey, and sometimes it’s a good idea to let them.
  • Feelings change, moods shift, and sometimes a place is not what you expected. Being able to bail on your own plans is essential.
  • Spontaneity, and escaping the overly scheduled nature of modern life, is the whole reason we do this… it’s a rush not knowing what comes next!

Believe me, the No-Plan Plan approach may cause you angst at first, compounded with each ‘here and there’ answer to the totally natural question – where are you going? More than once, I laughed at the length of my preparation and its comparative lack of detail. And the irony of the amount of effort being made for such a nebulous whiff of a future life was certainly not lost on me.

Despite that, I truly believe that less is more when planning for long term travel. While it may not make sense for a ten day trip, I’ve learned from experience that when it comes to big life decisions, like leaving everything behind to travel the world, it’s good to keep your options open!

And so it was, with the wisdom of my vagabond friends in mind, and Willie’s On the Road Again in my ears, I hugged my family goodbye and got on a plane… this is Operation Gone!

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