I never really thought of myself as a control freak. I always considered myself to be quite a laidback, go-with-the-flow, kind of traveller. (I can hear my friends cackling with laughter as I write this.) But honestly, here are the facts: I usually don’t organise my trips too much in advance; I don’t mind changing my plans at the last moment if something better comes along and I have been known to turn up in countries without so much as a guidebook.
However, I guess what I hadn’t realised is that travelling solo automatically makes you organised. There’s no one else to read the map to figure out how to get from A to B; problems like discovering your hostel doesn’t have your booking have to be sorted out by you alone and you can’t hide behind anybody else while they shout at an unreasonable taxi driver.
The routine I had developed on my 30b430 trip became clear when two friends came to visit me in China at the end of my nine months away. They would go off to ask about how to get to a local attraction and when they returned I’d fire a million more questions at them: How long would the journey take? How much should the taxi cost? Was it a safe area to wander around in? They were questions which had became so routine to me that it seemed strange not to ask them but my poor friends clearly thought I’d turned into some kind of obsessive Travel Sergeant.
Although I’ve always enjoyed travelling solo there were times on my trip when I was tired or fed up and I longed to have someone else to argue with corrupt officials at border crossings or make a decision about the best course of action to take during a rock fight. But somehow or other I always made it through the dramas and out the other side. And each time I resolved a problem, or made a new plan, or didn’t get pelted with rocks, it felt like a small victory.
So what I didn’t realise was how hard it would be to let go of that control on my next trip. The holiday I’m about to go on is very different from my round the world one. We’re going to South Africa for a friend’s wedding, before travelling down to Cape Town on our South African roadtrip. The bride is from South Africa and has been brilliant, planning the route and sending out itineraries. Everything looks amazing and I’m looking forward to it so much.
But what I am finding really hard is keeping a lid on all of the questions I have. And I have A LOT. Where are we going to stay that night? How are we going to get from the airport? How many days are we going to spend there?
Our friends who are going on the road trip are quite relaxed, so a lot of the answers are along the lines of: “We’ll just figure it out when we get there” or “We’ll play it by ear.” All of which suddenly seem much harder to hear when you’re used to being the one who makes the plans.
And I know that it is going to be so much fun and I really can’t wait to visit Africa for the first time. But I guess I’m also going to have to learn that sometimes you need to let go, take a step back and just enjoy the ride.
What are your thoughts on planning a trip? Do you like to be the one making all of the decisions or are you happy to sit back and let others make the plans?