I think I am realizing that I am living my life “in the moment.” I’m not really thinking about later today or tomorrow or next week, let alone next month. In fact, the past few days of my trip, like today, I don’t even know where I will sleep tonight or what I will be doing tomorrow. But, I’m not worried. I’m not scared. I’m not concerned. I know something will come up and I will be taken care of. Trust. Faith. Luck. Worst case is I will have to sleep in the street tonight, and do nothing tomorrow, which I am sure won’t happen!
This has been a “life changing” trip for me, in the sense that instead of being organized and knowing where I would be every moment, such as I had planned on my Alaska and New Zealand trips, that instead, for nearly five months, I was just spontaneous most of the time, not really knowing where I was going the next day, or where I would be sleeping the next night, and many times, not even knowing what I would be doing a few hours later. It has been great to live like this! The freedom and flexibility. Spontaneity at its finest!
These are two paragraphs from my journals that I had written at different times during my five-month solo European journey back in 2004. The first paragraph was written very early on in my trip, during my second week; the second paragraph was written during my fourth month. Reading these two paragraphs today, brings back thousands of memories, and gets me filled with the excitement that I felt back then. Man, what a great feelings I had during those five months – the spontaneity; the freedom. The exhilaration of being able to decide at any given moment where I wanted to go next, and what I wanted to do!
You see, prior to my Europe trip, as I alluded to in the second paragraph above, I was completely organized in my travel planning. For the Alaska and New Zealand trips (both approximately two-week trips), I had made myself itineraries, knowing exactly where I was going to be on any given day. I planned; I reserved places to stay; I booked things to do; I made lists. About the only thing that wasn’t so predetermined was where I would eat. Now granted, for these particular trips, I enjoyed this type of pre-planning. And, I needed to do this type of arranging considering the short amount of time that I had in those places. And believe me, because of all this preparation, both of my Alaska and New Zealand journeys were fantastic!!
But, something was different about having five-months time. It was too much time to plan out day-by-day. It would have been near impossible to make about 150 hostel reservations, or make sure that I didn’t miss a train, or know exactly when I wanted to visit each museum, or see each sight. Yes, I had done quite a bit of pre-planning for this Europe trip, such as picking out what countries I wanted to visit, and what cities, and what I wanted to do in each city. In fact, I did a lot of research prior to this trip. I read books, many books, highlighting and writing down the places of interest that I wanted to see; I attended travel lectures about places to visit; I looked on the Internet; I talked to people who had already been. I even had a map where I circled in pink all the general places I wanted to go, and I wrote a list of the general direction of travel, including the order of the countries, that I wanted to take. I was organized; but as it turns out, only to a point. There was no way that I could plan out day-to-day; and before I knew it, even my general direction of travel got all turned around.
My “Planning” Map
The first week of my travels, I did stick to my original plan. This was because I had made a few flight and hostel reservations that I had to stick with. But after that, the rest of my well-thought out planning mostly just went up in the air. I began realizing the joy of being spontaneous; the fun I was having just winging it; the amazing experiences I encountered when I just happened upon something that I was not planning on. Sometimes I realized that I wanted to spend more time in one place than originally thought; sometimes, I realized that something I thought sounded interesting to me before I left, no longer had its appeal; sometimes something else would happen to me that just changed my course and direction for the day, or for the next few days.
Now this is all not to say that the pre-planning I did was worthless; in fact, it made my spontaneity all that much better because at least I had a sense of the places I wanted to go, and the things I wanted to do, so that became my base. But the order in which I did them was completely changed. And after all was said and done, I found that some of the places I originally thought I would get to, I never did; but conversely, I got to many places that I did want to; and on top of that, I had thousands of experiences that no planning could allow for.
What is interesting about me is that for most of my life, I had been the planning-type (as evidenced by my Alaska and New Zealand adventures). I wanted to know where I was going, what I was doing, and to be sure that I had a place to sleep. I had always been a very organized person, paying attention to all the details, and really thinking things through. (I sound like I am writing a resume.) But during my European journey, a new part of my personality emerged. A part of me that just threw caution to the wind. A part of me that was traveling by the seat of my pants. A part of me that was living in the moment. A part of me that had faith and trust that it would all work out. A new-and-improved me!!
And the best part about everything is that fortunately luck was on my side during my five month solo European journey, and knock on wood, I never had to sleep in the street, and I always had something to do tomorrow!
I will say, however, that the planner in me returned when I went on my journey around the Baltic Sea.