Breaking Free of Spreadsheet Travel
“Buddhists believe that we live our everyday lives as if inside an eggshell. Just as an unhatched chicken has few clues about what life is truly like, most of us are only vaguely aware of the greater world that surrounds us.” – Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
I’ve been re-reading Vagabonding again. It’s been about ten years since I read it the first time, and I’m discovering it anew. At first glance a travel bible, on further review there’s a good dose of stoicism and hard-won pragmatism in this book that I appreciate more now than when I read it the first time. As with re-reading Walden, it offers something new with every stage of life.
When we confirmed an upcoming trip to London and Scotland in late October, I immediately started scanning the lists of things to see in each place, lists of experiences others felt worthwhile enough to put at the top of a list. Then came planning the foundational stuff like hotels, Airbnb and traditional Bed & Breakfast reservations, which put us in specific places at specific times. Then came the logistical stuff like car rentals, trains and ferries, amount of daylight at that time of year, the hours of distilleries and let’s not forget the typical weather. Not so much London, where other than the hotel I’m planning on winging it and relying on my daughter to show us her favorite places, but Scotland… Scotland has been heavily researched. I’ve watched just about every YouTube video you can imagine, plotted travel times and scrutinized street views, until finally I’d had enough. It was sucking all the joy out of the anticipation this trip offered.
“With escape in mind, vacationers tend to approach their holiday with a grim resolve, determined to make their experience live up to their expectations; on the vagabonding road, you prepare for the long haul knowing that the predictable and the unpredictable, the pleasant and the unpleasant are not separate but part of the same ongoing reality.” – Rolf Potts, Vagabonding
I’m not this way with other travel. When I went to Newfoundland I didn’t plan my every move on a spreadsheet, I booked a place to stay, went to the meetings I needed to go to and asked the locals where they recommended I visit beyond that. Simply talking to the locals about what their favorite place is has led me to some amazing waterfalls, restaurants and historic sites I might not have seen living off a spreadsheet. But Scotland… Scotland holds a dear place in my heart. And so I over-planned with eager anticipation. Vagabonding woke me up once again, and having done what I had to do with the rough framework of our trip, I’ll leave the rest to the whims of the road. I’m eager to give driving a stick with the opposite hand. Hopefully that doesn’t distract me from actually staying on the road. There’s so much to see.
Enjoyed this one John. Good balance between research (at least some knowledge of what’s there, then meeting locals) but then _plan_ to be open to whatever seems best at the time are the ideal combo.