Travelling spontaneously is an age old travel custom and a backpacking art that is slowly being lost in the age of pre booking apps and gap year itineraries. I want to put that spirit of adventure back into travel and encourage everyone to – occasionally at least – ditch those itineraries.
Throwing of the shackles of life and travelling wherever and whenever the wind takes you is a wildly romantic ideal of world travel, yet the truth of the matter is the gap year industry has filled the modern traveller with ideas of prebooking everything in advance, of having fixed dates on those round the world tickets (or paying extra to get them changed), or having all of your experiences and excursions booked, paid for and sorted before you even step foot on the plane!
That really misses half the point of travelling the world independently!
Taking a gap year and travelling the world is certainly very different now to what it used to be. When I first started travelling there were no smartphones, no apps to check out places to stay and get a room booked with a few swipes of your finger, and Lonely Planet was still considered the ultimate bible, the only thing you had to do to go ‘off the track’ was go somewhere that wasn’t written in its hallowed pages.
Nowadays of course all that has changed. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to travel the world independently. In some ways it has made it too easy.
I want to remind you all that the spirit of adventure that drove you to want to travel the world in the first place doesn’t live in those pre booked tours or those accommodation review apps. It lives on in those spontaneous choices you make, the decisions to throw caution to the wind and stay longer on that island you fell in love with, or ditch the itinerary and follow those other backpackers to that awesome sounding destination you’ve only just heard of. The spirit of adventure lives on in the decision to go to the airport and seeing where the next cheap flight is heading to.
You don’t have to book everything in advance, you can simply turn up to any destination, town or city in the world and see what the lay of the land is once you get there.
Simply have an idea of the area you want to stay in when you arrive in a new destination and have a look around at some of the hostels or guesthouses you find when you get there. You can barter a good walk in price and have a room that you know you will like. Find somewhere better a day or two later? Just pack up and move! You can’t do this if you’ve paid for a room upfront!
Give yourself enough time in any new place to explore it properly and travel slowly. Don’t have a schedule so tight that you can’t take that tour that was advertised on the hostel reception desk or spend a few days exploring somewhere you never planned for.
Lift your head up from your smartphone screen and start talking to people. Locals, other travellers, staff at your hostel or the family in your guesthouse, it doesn’t matter. Meeting new people is half the fun of travel, and allowing them to guide where you go and what you do next with first hand recommendations is a perfect way to travel spontaneously! I’ve lost count of the amount of truly amazing locations I have found and things I have done based solely on local recommendations.
Of course on any long term trip some planning is necessary, and there are even exceptions to the spontaneity rule where I would wholeheartedly recommend booking a room in advance or snapping up a good deal. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything that way.
Life is an adventure, so live it that way! Travel the world and take the time to savour it, enjoy it! Live spontaneously and from time to time, just go wherever the wind – or your curiosity – takes you.
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