Forget The Gap Year Itinerary, Go With The Flow.

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“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.” Bruce Lee.

I have written a few times now on how it is a good idea to travel slowly on your gap year, to plan not to plan, to not be so rigid with your itinerary that you leave out any chance of spontaneity in your trip at all. But sometimes it is good to just throw the itinerary out of the window completely!

Like the very wise Bruce Lee once said, be like water, and he was so right. In travel, just like in Wing Chun and his very own Jeet Kun Do, it is so important that you remain flexible and open to new possibilities and experiences.

When you set off on your own backpacking adventure you will meet so many interesting new people, see so many interesting new things and have new experiences you never even imagined thrust upon you that it makes it impossible to fit everything into an already packed itinerary.

Don’t get me wrong I understand the urge to see as much as you can and tick off all the must see sights on your trip, especially if you have limited time in any given place, and I agree that does require some planning. But if you are too rigid in your plans, if you are too stuck to the absolute certainty of your itinerary, you can miss out on some truly amazing experiences.

And at the end of the day, independent travel is all about those spontaneous, new experiences.

I have had some of my best travel experiences completely by accident, completely unplanned, simply because I was willing to change my plans at the last second and go with a gut decision.

On my very first backpacking trip over a decade ago, I had never originally planned to go to Cambodia. But I got on the wrong long distance bus in Bangkok and fell asleep and was only woken up at the border when I needed to show my passport and get my visa! I could have panicked and got all stressed, but I simply ditched my already rough itinerary, postponed my visit to Ko Chang for a bit and headed for Siem Reap instead. I had no guide book for Cambodia, no prior research or clue of what was there, and it ended up being one of the absolute highlights of an already amazing trip! I simply carried on to Ko Chang later after I had left Cambodia.

And like many backpackers intoxicated by the lures of Thailand on their first independent trip, as soon as I hit the islands of the Andaman coast for the first time I immediately decided to put the departure date of my plane ticket home a couple of months! Island life does have a way of sucking you in and keeping you a lot longer than you intended to be there for, and if I had stuck to my original planned itinerary I never would have seen some of the islands I did, or spend time with some of the awesome people I met there. I definitely wouldn’t have had time to get my PADI certificate which was another spur of the moment decision which I am really grateful I had the chance to do.

“We often get so caught up in our destination that we forget to appreciate the journey. Appreciation is a wonderful thing, don’t overlook it.” Unknown quote.

I have kept this independent, go with the flow spirit in every trip and adventure I have taken since that very first backpacking trip, and I have had some amazing experiences and met some amazing people as a result.

So when you are travelling go with your gut instinct, be flexible and enjoy the path your travels lead you down, not the one that you try and force yourself through. The places, the experiences, the people that you have and meet along the way are all part of the travel experience. It is these exact experiences that you started travelling for in the first place! And it is up to you to follow your gut instinct and enjoy them!

So go, travel spontaneously. “Become like water my friend.”

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Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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8 comments on “Forget The Gap Year Itinerary, Go With The Flow.
  1. Daidri says:

    I love the thought of traveling like water and just go with the flow!!! I’ve embraced this concept more with age and boy am I glad. I still may have panicked a bit if I’d been the one who fell asleep on the bus and ended up at a different location… just a little! 🙂

    • Haha, a little panic is okay. ;D I think this is a concept that has developed with age and many, many trips for me too. It is so much easier than trying to rush and see everything. Thank you for commenting.

  2. Bob R says:

    Very lucky that your wrong bus adventure took you to a country where it was possible to get a visa at the border.

  3. mytanfeet says:

    You reacted very calmly to accidentally going to Cambodia! If that was me I’d totally be freaking out and probably would have just tried to turn around instead of going there. Great to hear it turned out to be a lovely adventure though!

    • Haha, well it’s all part of the adventure, right? What’s the worst that could happen? I’d get turned away and head to the nearest town for the night before carrying onto my original destination. It’s hardly anything worth worrying over. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  4. katiedwyer16 says:

    I love this advice! My favorite travel experiences have always balanced the two: a few well-chosen plans, with the majority of travel informed by happenstance and serendipity. I love traveling in a place where I speak the language and can literally show up in a new country not knowing where I’ll spend the night or how I’ll fill the next few days.

    No matter how long you spend in a place, there will be things you miss. Often the things you see when “going with the flow” will be all the better for being off the beaten trail.

    Thanks so much for this!

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a published author, qualified nurse and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent 15 years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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