“I’ve never particularly liked travelling with large groups or being told where to go by somebody else. I prefer to find out for myself.”
There’s great joy in planning a vacation, and it’s been a long time since I was able to do such planning — and even longer since I last took the initiative to plan a trip beyond a few basics.
This is different from the traveling I had been doing for the last two years — as I was working while on the road, I didn’t feel like I was on any sort of vacation, except for that week I took off to see the sights in Cambodia. Sure, I was seeing sights while working, but it was only weekend sightseeing and adventures for all that time. There were also the couple visa runs I had to make while staying in Taiwan — last-minute booking for a three-day trip to Singapore isn’t quite the same as making plans in advance.
Now that I’m back to the grind and living in a cubicle (not literally, but sometimes it feels that way) I get to enjoy time off from work, albeit infrequently. I’m fortunate enough to work for a Taiwanese company that offers paid time off in addition to national holidays. I also get to exchange my overtime shifts for more paid time off.
I’m not particularly good at planning trips — just ask my friend Laura in NJ; she’s planned more of my trips while talking with me online than I have. There was also that time I asked my friend’s son for advice on my method of transportation in Cambodia (a nine-year-old can choose wisely). Most of my plans revolve around restaurants and bars, and sometimes hikes on which I get lost. I seem to find my way to the tourist attractions somehow — I wasted an extra day or two by not planning sightseeing in Seoul when I could’ve combined a few destinations in one trip.
I make lists of things to do and places to see, but I have never planned out my itinerary beyond a city and a hotel (call it my rebellion against my parents’ vacation planning). It certainly would explain why I get lost so often.
And that’s pretty much what I have done for my next trip. I’m traveling back to Indonesia — I’ve only been to Bali back when I was an expat in China. This time, I’m heading for a place I didn’t know about when I lived in China: Yogyakarta. A destination I have been longing to see for the last three years. I planned to stay there a month almost two years ago, but the budget airline website wouldn’t recognize my credit card to book a flight from Saigon, which is how I ended up in Taipei the first time.
Yes, I am a haphazard travel planner. I’ve mentioned it before. Sometimes it works out for the best — it leaves room for more options. Other times it limits possibilities (seriously, how far of a walk was that in Kyoto?).
Perhaps on this four-day trip I have through Yogyakarta and Borobudur I’ll plan more than I have in the past. With limited time and plenty to see and eat, I have to make the most of my stay, though I know I won’t be able to see and do everything I want.
Here is my list of things that I have done in the past (and will probably do again) that are generally not good travel-planning habits:
- I’ll meet people when I get there and just go along with them (alright, sometimes this works, but not often)
- Read the guidebook on the plane and fall asleep instead; save the guidebook for breakfast speed-reading
- Book a hotel the day before arrival, and only book it for one night because it’ll be easy enough to find another; then get locked out of the hotel because you were searching for a better one in Hanoi until only 11pm
- Just find a hotel in the main tourist area upon arrival…after 10pm
- Check out the tour options and prices after arrival
- Book a hotel without referencing a map with popular tourist sites for distances (hey, who doesn’t like a three-mile walk through Reykjavik in January?)