Spontaneous or structured. Which travel style are you?


Years ago, I had a chance encounter with an intriguing stranger at a tea house in Kathmandu.

As we sipped Jasmine tea, we delved into a conversation that seemed reserved for two seasoned travelers with an unashamed zeal for exploring the world.

Within a mere fifteen minutes, our dialogue spanned the globe, exchanging news, insights, and secrets, fueled by our mutual passion for discovery. We parted ways without exchanging names, yet the bond felt as deep and familiar as if we had known each other for years. This encounter epitomizes what I cherish most about travel. It leaves your soul vulnerable to unfamiliar things yet teems with endless possibilities.

It offers you the luck of meeting captivating strangers and the simple pleasures of sipping Jasmine tea in a teahouse tucked away in an ancient square. Above all, travel bestows upon you the invaluable gift of awareness. By immersing yourself in different ways of life, you also discover new aspects of yourself. As David Mitchell aptly said, “Travel far enough, to meet yourself.”

The debate over the merits of spontaneity versus detailed planning in travel is classic, each approach holding its distinct charm. Spontaneous travel kindles an adventurous spirit and paves the way for unexpected and unique encounters. Consider, for instance, the delight of stumbling upon a secret local swimming spot, a hidden treasure often revealed through casual conversations with locals rather than through meticulous planning.

However, without prior arrangements, you risk encountering unhelpful routes, or worse, finding flights and accommodations fully booked. Conversely, planned travel offers you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your accommodation, travel routes, and scheduled activities in advance. Yet, that level of preparation demands significant time and effort and can feel emotionally and physically draining when adhering strictly to a pre-determined itinerary.

A three-year survey by VacationRenter in the US found a direct correlation between spontaneous travel and higher trip satisfaction. While acknowledging the merits of planning, the survey highlights its emotional drawbacks: planners often associated their trips with stress, whereas spontaneous travelers frequently reported stress-free experiences
Nevertheless, planned travel still has its advantages. As Benjamin Franklin famously noted, “Those who fail to plan are planning to fail.”

Numerous factors can influence your travel experience, from mindset and age to weather conditions and destination choices. For example, exploring a bustling metropolis demands meticulous planning to optimize your time and budget, particularly when visiting museums or landmarks. On the other hand, a beach getaway invites a more relaxed itinerary focused on unwinding without strict schedules. Yet, it’s often the rigidity of plans, rather than the planning itself, that induces stress. Flexibility can be key to navigating unexpected circumstances and enjoying spontaneous moments. Furthermore, the survey underscores the desire of many travelers to share their adventures with loved ones. Regardless of travel style, journeys possess a remarkable capacity to strengthen relationships.

Over time, I’ve encountered a spectrum of travel experiences, from small, cherished moments to costly mishaps that demanded adjustments to my plans. However, these experiences have not dampened my passion for exploring new places, instead, they have imparted invaluable lessons in resilience and adaptability.

Much like the landscapes I have visited and the cultures I have encountered, my travel style has also changed. I transformed from being a spontaneous girl with a backpack and the wind as my guide into a more balanced traveler with a deeper appreciation for the world. Although my adventurous spirit remains part of me, I have come to appreciate that the true beauty of exploration lies in embracing the diverse options that travel offers and letting go of rigid expectations. I firmly believe that the most enriching travel experiences stem from the connections forged with people along the way- connections that cannot be penciled into a 10:30 AM breakfast slot.

At its core, traveling is an affirmation of life – a resounding YES to new experiences, cultures, and adventures waiting to be discovered. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to travel.

Whether it is an exhilarating adventure that ignites your spirit or a serene family vacation by the beach, each excursion offers its unique blend of joy. Thus, regardless of the path you choose, the memories and stories will be treasured for a lifetime.