Rolling with the punches: the art of flexibility in travel

“The reason vagabonding is so addictive is that, joyfully, you’ll never quite find what you dreamed. Indeed, the most vivid travel experiences usually find you by accident, and the qualities that will make you fall in love with a place are rarely the features that took you there.”

Travel plans, whether for weekend trips or longterm adventures, often unfold much differently than expected. Away from creature comforts and the safety of an unchanging routine, much of travel is left to chance and circumstance, leading to unexpected and treasured experiences and also to disappointments. Botched itineraries, disaster bus rides and bad weather that don’t align with preconceived ideas of the perfect experience could leave you wondering why you left the comforts of home in the first place. When the plans change, however, the ability to simply roll with the punches becomes invaluable.

I haven’t mastered the art of true flexibility, but this notion began to make more sense after an Italian vacation “gone wrong.”

The off-season bargain airfare to Italy seemed too good to be true. Eleven and a half months of work was boiling down to this vacation, and a comprehensive ten day itinerary of wine tours, sun soaked bike rides and pool time left little room for unforeseen changes in the master plan. I would sip cappuccinos and read voraciously at outdoor cafes, reserving afternoons for long jaunts around the city.

What to do when the extended forecast calls for torrential downpours and hurricane winds? Aside from cursing the travel gods who had undoubtedly conspired against me, I could either refresh the page or modify the plan and enjoy a different side of Florence. I put on my raincoat, bought a 5 euro umbrella and hit the streets.

By day three, I began to realize that museum hopping and hot coffee drinking in the downpours of Florence were some of the most enjoyable days of my travels.

Bumps on the road are frequent reminders that worst case scenarios aren’t always earth shattering. As we travel, we continue to challenge ourselves in being open to unpredictability, for travel is an ongoing lesson in keeping it real.

Posted by | Comments (3)  | February 15, 2012
Category: General

3 Responses to “Rolling with the punches: the art of flexibility in travel”

  1. Lane Says:

    I remember on the island of Aruba we had planned to relax on the beach. Instead, a storm came ashore and washed away those plans. Soaked and tired we sought out a restaurant, where we found the greatest French seafood soup ever. Four years later, I still remember that hot bowl of soup on a cold, stormy day. Sometimes life provides the most unexpected, and better-than-anticipated, events.

  2. Rolf Potts Says:

    This is all the more reason to keep your itinerary flexible from the start. Regardless of how great a tour looks, or how detailed you are in planning your travel agenda, elements like weather can put the best-laid plans to waste. That’s why long-term trips in particular benefit from a willingness to throw out your itinerary if need be.

    And of course even if you’re stuck in an itinerary, attitude and resilience count, as Sarah points out.

  3. Erin Says:

    Great point. Any good website or resource suggestions to help plan for bad weather alternatives?

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