Burn your itinerary! Why Travelling is Not a Checklist.

The best moments from my journeys were never planned. I found myself in places I had never heard of and met the most amazing people by luck. The world is full of beauty and mystery and I believe the best way we can spend our lives is trying to explore as much of it as possible. Travelling, however, doesn’t have a recipe. There are no must-visit places and noone can tell you which are the top ten destinations this year.

But what about my bucket-list?

Don’t get me wrong, preparation is important. Travel blogs and guides can be incredibly helpful when planning a trip and being well-informed never hurts. I also seek practical advice about budget tips, specialties and activities in a particular location, and I even enjoy looking up the local body language and key phrases beforehand so I can connect with the locals better. Though I don’t keep an actual bucket list, I think it is a great source of inspiration to explore more and to try new things if we don’t take it too seriously.

But if I could give you one piece of advice, then I would say: Make plans, but never stick to them, because expectations and assumptions never work. Ever.

The most beautiful view will leave you indifferent if you are in the wrong company. You might wait for years to see the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal and gain nothing out of it but a Facebook update. I have seen both and they were nice indeed, but none of them stirs up feelings in me or make it to my travel stories I tell over dinner to my friends.

At the same time, I wouldn’t tell anyone not to visit them either or any other place for that matter. We might go to the same city, eat the same food, listen to the same music and try the same activities, then walk away with completely distinct memories. Our minds are different and we see the world through different shapes and colours of glasses which creates a gorgeous mosaic after all.

We might get mistaken thinking that travelling is about places, when it is really about experiences and the people we share them with. All we have to do is leave our cubicle and give it a chance.

I have recently returned from a trip in Vietnam and Thailand and I can tell you that if I had to write a bucket list before, these destinations wouldn’t have come in my mind. All I wanted is to see a different side of Asia after living in India for a long time and to be able to make it on a budget. I had no expectations and I arrived free from prejudices about the people and their way of living. I just tried to say yes to as many things as possible and listened to people’s stories with an open heart.

If I think back, I don’t remember towns, but I remember the atmosphere created by people. I don’t regret the things I could have done if I had more time and money, but I can recall all the tastes, sounds, fragrances and the smiles I have seen. The glowing plankton surrounding me and a new friend on an empty beach. The chant of the monks on the marble mountain and the strong taste of the tea the locals offered me without a word while waiting for my bus.

I remember the woman who pulled our motorbike inside her garage so that we don’t get into trouble with the police for late parking. I remember the pilot who loved his job so much that he couldn’t wait to get back on board even while enjoying an incredible holiday. I remember the guitarist who survived drug addiction because music saved his life, and many more who shared their deepest feelings and unlikely moments with a stranger like me.

There are few things better than landing at a place you have never been before: It’s a blank sheet with no manual, so don’t let anyone set the rules for you! Walk around as much as you can and always stop when something catches your attention. Don’t rush anywhere! Overstay if you feel like, or move on somewhere unexpected. Ask more questions and take the time to understand what you see. Observe the way people dress, decorate their houses and organize their surrounding. Listen to the way they speak, laugh and react to the changes of the weather.

Don’t be scared to burn bridges and change plans, enjoy every moment as life brings it to you. There is no wrong way of travelling, and if someone criticizes the decisions you make on the road, then they have never discovered the true meaning of a journey. We have only one life, and these are the moments that remind us how short and volatile it is.

So don’t wait for the perfect time and the travel companion who will never make up her mind. As long as you are able to walk and have the right to travel, keep exploring: Your way, with your rules -or no rules at all. Break myths and go where noone else goes and I promise you that you will never regret any of it.

What was the craziest experience you ever had while travelling? Share with me in a comment!

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