Three Reasons Why I Travel Without a Fixed Itinerary

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Slowing down was one of the important lessons he learnt about travelling. Bourdain said that too many of us are moving at lightning speed when we travel, eager to get to the next place without stopping to absorb the culture around us. “You can’t take it in, driving by stuff. That’s not satisfying,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to just sit and watch”.

Anthony Bourdain – American celebrity chef, author and travel documentarian

I often cringe when anyone asks for my travel itinerary when planning a trip. Apart from knowing when to show up at the airport, train or bus station, I rarely hop around from one attraction to another, ticking them off the list one after another, like most mainstream travellers do. Having said that, if I’m visiting a place for the very first, there are some iconic experiences I wouldn’t eschew but beyond that I often arrive in a new city with barely a plan, preferring instead to go with the flow – relying on how I feel on the morning I wake up, which typically dictate my plan for the day.

Three reasons why I travel without a fixed itinerary:

A more immersive experience

Once, Justin and I missed a bus in a local village where we stayed in Sicily. While at the bus stop, we met a group of raucous local kids who were so intrigued with us because foreigners especially Asians are a rare sight and within minutes into a conversation we were invited for a football game. We speak zero Sicilian/Italian and neither do they speak English and yet despite our obvious language barrier, it’s so refreshing to connect with locals who are going about their daily lives – learning about their perspectives and what they think of the world beyond their charming Mediterranean island life. The experience taught me to challenge preconceived notion and stereotype of any culture and in the process realized that the more I travel, the smaller I feel and the less I seem to know of the world. 

The opportunity to cherish the little things

When I stay away from tourists traps, I end up with fewer options of what to do which allows me to explore what locals do and soak in the atmosphere – from attending a religious service in Bratislava to hiking up Mount Bukhansan close to downtown Seoul. Because travel is as much about embracing new cultures as it is about understanding of our homeland. That regardless of our nationality, culture, colour or creed, we are not so different after all and all over the world, we keep striving towards the same goal in life, which is being happy. Some of the most contented and happiest people I met boast of very little material possession and yet there are those who seemingly own the best of everything but are astoundingly unhappy. 

Step outside comfort zone

In my first solo travel, I spent time as a volunteer teaching English to a local family in Krakow, Poland. I got to observe All Saints’ Day, also known as the Day of the Dead and how it’s celebrated in the country. I had the opportunity to interact with locals who lived during communism and gained a deeper understanding on why the older folks prefer to live under communism where lives are much simpler and to a certain extent happier than present day democracy. As an avid runner, I was also invited to participate in a local village run, an experience I would’ve missed had I chosen to partake in mainstream travel.

To quote one of Anthony Bourdain’s best travel quotes – “It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough – to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go”.

How about you? Do you travel with a fixed itinerary? Share your thoughts below.

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