When Travel Plans Go To Shit
I’ve talked about my love of planning before. Few things in life excite me more than having multiple browser tabs open to blogs, forums, and Wikitravel; a couple of Word and Excel documents up and running; and a guidebook sitting in my lap. I am the antithesis of most long term, slow travelers. I like to know where I’ll be on a certain day, what hostel I’ll be staying at, and what food I must try.
This coincides with my Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) syndrome. I want to make sure I see everything and do everything worth seeing and doing.
And if I don’t, I feel guilty.
I spent the last ten days in Taiwan. I’d spent months (yes, months) planning and re-planning my trip, tweaking minor details so I could go on a whirlwind trip around the island and not miss a thing.
I was going to spend a day in Taipei, watch the sun rise over Alishan Mountain, temple gaze in Kaohsiung, learn to surf in Kenting, and explore Taroko Gorge.
An exhausting itinerary, but one I was going to conquer happily.
The trip started as planned. It was 75 and sunny in Taipei. I lounged around in the 2-28 Peace Park, strained my neck looking up at Taipei 101, and tried a variety of weird and delicious treats at a night market.
The next day I was on a southbound train towards Chiayi, endured a terrifying bus ride up a mountain, and oohed and aah-ed when I saw the sun first peak out over the mountaintop.
Then, three days into my trip something happened that shattered my plans.
I sat crying in a hostel dorm room wondering what to do next. I wasn’t going to give up. I picked myself up and boarded my bus to Kenting. I couldn’t let the sadness deter me from my plans.
Almost as soon as I got to Kenting I realized this may have been a poor decision. The city and the people at my hostel gave me weird vibes, and the thought of learning to do something I’d most likely be terrible at sent me into near hysterics.
Alone in a foreign country with plans that I had to fulfill, I felt panicked. I called my parents and cried to them. I laid in bed eating Lay’s potato chips and drinking Taiwan Beer while feeling guilty that I was considering canceling my surfing lesson, giving up the opportunity to do something I’d wanted to learn for over ten years. Which in turn made me cry harder.
After a few hours of this pleasant cycle I decided I would return to Taipei. I knew it was the right decision (cities make me feel comfortable and there would be more of a chance to meet people), but I still couldn’t help but feel like I’d somehow failed because I wouldn’t see Kenting or Taroko Gorge. I felt like I was giving up. Like this trip was some sort of test and if I didn’t visit every planned destination it couldn’t really be considered a success.
I spent the next three days in Taipei having a great time. I met some people. I drank a lot of bubble tea. I learned how to make dumplings. I saw a dance performance. I visited a Chinese New Year market. I went to a restaurant and pointed to something on an all Chinese menu without having any idea what it could be.
But while I was waiting at Taoyuan Airport on Sunday, getting ready to board my flight back to Seoul, I couldn’t help but still feel some guilt over what I’d missed.
And then I realized I was being stupid. Besides the two or three days in the middle that were filled with crying, I’d had a pretty great trip. Why should I feel guilty about not seeing a gorge or laying out on the beach?
I put a lot of pressure on myself in life. I’m a generally anxious person.
Travel shouldn’t be something that causes me anxiety or makes me feel bad.
The reason I started traveling is because it made me feel better. It made me feel free. I didn’t have to feel stressed or anxious. I could just go. Just be.
So, I’ve made a vow. No more over planning. No more FOMO. No more guilt.
I will still do my research. I will still have an idea of what I want to see or what I want to eat, but nothing concrete.
When we travel, like in life, shit happens. I just need to remember to do what feels right at the time, and not worry about what I thought would feel right months earlier.
Do you ever feel guilt while traveling? Do you have FOMO?