• Laura T Petersen

To Plan or to Experience?



Distance signs at Veed View on Kho Lanta

Before departing California, we did not spend endless hours planning out all the details of this long trip. We planned parts of it, our anchor points - Laos for volunteering (which we cancelled), Singapore to stay with John’s college friend, the Gold Coast of Australia with friends from Seattle and Ecuador for Christmas with my family. The rest we decided to plan as we go. We already have changed what plans we had, not going to Laos due to the heat and Dengue fever. Our last minute re-routing through Thailand and Bali before going to Singapore worked out surprisingly well.


However a constant tension for me is balancing the time I spend researching our next destination and experiencing the place we are currently in. I have had to concede that I will not see everything there is to see, I will not always eat at the best restaurant (which often requires research) and there will be disappointment along the way as places are not always as advertised. This trip requires so many decisions on a daily basis, where to eat, where to stay, what to see while sticking to a budget. We have been good about distributing the decision making, sometimes Keegan picks out the restaurant, Naomi picks out our lodging, sometimes John and I go and do our own thing.


We have also experienced how extensive planning can quickly be thrown out the window, if one of us doesn’t feel well. At this point all of us have had our own experience with travel belly which derails our best laid plans. So how much planning is necessary? It’s a balance. Sometimes I fall off, my desire to find an even better hotel deal may cause me to spend an hour comparing websites and then choosing the same place I chose within 10 minutes. The best fulfilling feeling comes from doing just enough research that leads to a perfectly wonderfully memorable day.


The Internet certainly makes planning much easier, we can book hotels, walking tours, and excursions. We can access endless reviews of places which can lead me down a rabbit hole that consumes precious time. Time feels more precious in these far from home destinations to which we are likely to never return. The impetus to make the most of it sometimes feels like a burden. I am getting better at letting go of expectations, checklists and unrealistic crammed timelines. I acknowledge I have FOMO - the fear of missing out - and am getting better at asking myself what is truly important. I am learning to prioritize and balance my destination desires and our collective well being. Ignoring my self critical voice that pops up when things are not going smoothly, is getting easier. I remind myself that without the lows we would not appreciate the high points nearly as much.

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