My plan is no plan

Yes, plans can give many people that security they need when facing a whole new land.  But what might seem totally scary from one side of the world, can look pretty okay once you’ve landed and started familiarizing yourself with the area.

On the semi-sleeper bus from Sapa to Halong Bay
On the semi-sleeper bus from Sapa to Halong Bay, in the North of Vietnam

Some people tell me it takes guts to have no plan, some people tell me it’s plain crazy.  Well, I’m not saying that when a bus from Sapa to Halong Bay in the North of Vietnam, arrived to destination at 2am instead of 6am, I didn’t think, Oh crap, now where do we sleep?

Everything was closed at that time and my friend from back home was visiting, and she blindly trusted my travelling skills, so I felt a little responsible too.  I turned to the Spanish group who had left Sapa with us.  We had talked a little before and I knew their 3-week stay in Vietnam had been carefully scheduled with a move every two or three days.  So I was sure they knew exactly where they were sleeping tonight.

We stopped where they stopped and asked the hostel receptionist if he had a room.  We ended up in the dorm.

Does that sound like a horror story to you, and I reinforced your theory of planning?  Well, remember – we did get a bed in the end.  Just trust that everything will work out fine, cause it does.

Let me give you a few reasons why you shouldn’t plan, or at least leave it to a bare minimum.

Accommodation

My trick is this.  Book the first night somewhere, that will give you enough security of knowing you have a specific place to go to and shower after possibly a long journey.

Once your heavy bag is off your shoulders, you’ve taken a refreshing shower and probably had a proper bite too – stroll around.  Get a feel of the area, see which streets you prefer, ask a couple of guest houses, hostels to see a room and how much it’d cost.  The cheapest accommodations, and most likely to be locally authentic are home-stays which are rarely traceable on Internet.

Golden tip #1

Check out the menus outside the restaurants, their prices usually reflect the prices of the rooms around.  

I met an American woman while trekking in the mountains of Sa Pa in Vietnam.  She was going to India for the first time on her own a few weeks later.

“One thing when you’re in India,” I said.  “Never pay more than 400-500 rupee a night.”

“What’s that in dollars?” she asked.

“Around 7 I guess.”

I could see Oops all over her face.  “I booked a room for $30 a day,” she said.

Trust me.  check out reviews, book the first night and then you’ll have options – either stay on or move somewhere you prefer.

baghsu, treasure, homestay
When I arrived in Baghsu, Dharamshala, India, I arrived in the early morning hours without having booked anywhere.  I knew I wanted a place just outside the centre with a view. I kept walking towards the valley, instead of towards the centre and I found a family-run gem. They lived downstairs, we lived upstairs, by the mountainside, overlooking the valley down to Dharamshala. This water stream was just a 10 min walk down from the house.

Transport

Refrain from pre-booking all of your moves.  Buses, trains, planes – most transport tickets can be bought just a day ahead.

Golden tip #2

If you have the option to go to a bus/train station instead of booking through an agency, the price will probably be a good notch cheaper.  If you can’t find the station, go to two or three agents before settling for a price.

Arrive to your next destination.  Walk around, get the feel of the place, check out some spots which came recommended.  Then decide.  Some places you’re happy to stay in for a couple of days, then it feels like a complete waste of time to stay.  Others will need 5 or 6 days.

Don’t limit yourself – allow yourself the freedom to do things at your own pace, regardless if it’s faster or slower than anyone else’s.

Listen up

You meet many people on the road.  You meet fellow solo-travellers, you meet local people at restaurants or at the hostel.  Ask local people what they recommend in the area.  Ask other travellers where they’ve been last, if they liked it, how they got there.  Some of the best untouched spots, are surely so because no one has publicized them on the Internet.

Listen up, do your research and let yourself be open to detours that might simply make your trip.

Enjoy wanderer!

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