People are always asking me what I’ve learned from traveling, and what advice I would give to other travelers. Well, today I’m going to tell you that piece of advice:
Take time to make plans for your trip; then don’t be afraid to change them.
Travel = Change
In life in general, situations and people are constantly changing. This fact only becomes more true in the context of travel. The state of constantly moving from place to place necessarily requires some level of change. Being flexible and adaptable are the best qualities a traveler can possess. If a person is flexible and open to change, he will cope well with the everyday trials of traveling: getting lost on the bus, missing a flight, coming down with food poisoning…and the list goes on. There are always external forces at work when you are traveling that can never be anticipated and are out of a person’s control. Being able to adapt when faced with new and unexpected situations is essential.
Not only does travel involve dealing with constantly changing external forces; travel also involves dealing with changing internal forces. There’s no doubt that travel can drastically change a person from the inside. Traveling causes a person’s worldview, preconceptions, and convictions to continuously morph, break down, and reform. A traveler’s beliefs and desires WILL change – this fact is inevitable.
A Change of Plans
More than three months ago, I left home to embark on a mission to discover the world. I had a plan for where I wanted to go. I wanted to start my trip by spending at least four months in Europe. Yet from experience, I knew deep down that my plans were likely to change as my trip progressed.
Sure enough, two months later, I found myself in a conundrum. I had just left the UK to begin the second half of my trip through Europe. I was in Spain and I had a two-month unlimited Eurail pass in my hand which I could use to go almost anywhere in Europe.
But my mind had changed, and my heart wasn’t in it.
As I reached my first stop near Valencia, I felt exhausted. I had hit a rut. Despite my meticulously laid plans, I found myself overwhelmed with the desire to rest and just “take it easy.” And the thought of a jaunt through Europe, which I had dreamed about just two months ago, no longer inspired me.
After spending ten days in Spain, I made the decision to take a break. Even though I had my Eurail pass and a pre-booked plane ticket to Italy, I dropped everything and booked a ticket back to the UK for the very next day. Keeping in mind that change is an inevitable part of traveling, I haven’t looked back since. I harbor absolutely no regrets about my decision.
Traveling is about following your passions and intuitions, as much as it is about keeping an open mind. My intuitions told me to relax by spending Christmas and the New Year in the UK, while giving myself time to formulate a revised plan for my trip. After brainstorming for several weeks, I’d like to share my new plan with you. Bear in mind this (like all plans) will probably change slightly. And that’s OK.
January – United Arab Emirates (UAE) & Oman
Probably the most interesting and beautiful of the Arab Gulf countries, the UAE and Oman have always been on my list of places to visit. Dubai seems like a city from another planet; it has the world’s only 7-star hotel, an indoor ski resort, artificial islands, and the tallest building in the world. Oman is full of history and beautiful landscapes, including mountains and desert oases. Not to mention that the weather in these countries is sunny and beautiful at this time of year – a welcome break after the UK’s dreary & cold climate!
February – Iraq & Iran
I have never been to Iraq before, though I speak intermediate Iraqi Arabic. Perhaps you can see why I’m so eager to visit! This is a place that few people have ventured to visit as tourists in the aftermath of the US invasion, so I am interested to see what awaits me there. Iran is perhaps an equally intriguing destination, that has its equal share of negative coverage in the Western news. Provided that I am approved for a visa, I will arrange to take a two-week tour through an Iranian tour agency.
March – Lebanon & Egypt or Palestine
I visited Lebanon in 2011, but my visit was limited to only four days. Thus, I missed a lot of beautiful places in Lebanon that I would have loved to visit. I hope to be able to make up for this fact on this trip. If I have time and money, I might also bop over to Egypt or Palestine; two places that I’ve visited before, but would love to see again. Or if that doesn’t inspire me, than who knows where I might end up!
April – Turkey
By April, I thoroughly expect to be running out of money. Unless some unexpected miracle occurs, I will have to face the prospect of staying in one place for a while and finding a steady income. I hope to “end” my trip in Istanbul, where I will meet up with my family for a week. I say “end” because I know I will never really stop traveling. Even if I make stops in my life journey to follow other pursuits, I know I am (and always will be) a nomad!
So, fellow travelers, my advice to you is this: Go ahead and dream. Make your travel plans. But don’t be afraid or hesitant to follow your heart and constantly be remaking and re-remaking those plans. Travel will change your heart and mind in unexpected ways, and that’s not a bad thing.
Have you ever changed your travel plans at the last minute, and why?