“A good traveller has no fixed plans, he is not intent on arriving.” For me, travelling with as little planned as possible is the most fulfilling and exciting way to travel. Living for a weekend, a few weeks or a year and never knowing what’s around the next corner is an adventure that can’t be replicated. Serendipitous pit stops span the potentially endless journey, with unlimited opportunities to meet the nicest, wackiest and most interesting people, lifetime friends are guaranteed, fleeting romances are likely. And despite preconceptions, it’s easy! So when Booking.com and Time Out challenged us to wing it this weekend, I jumped at their offer. The story so far and travel tips after the cut.
I woke up Friday morning with a day in the office ahead and nothing but a small suitcase prepared, still no idea of where I would be going, it wasn’t until about 10am that I would find out. It’s a good job I’d put my passport in my bag, my train to Paris was booked for 16:22. I’d need to leave work early and make it to King’s Cross International well before then, accommodation would have to be booked on the sly sometime between putting together a report and lunch.
Fortunately Booking.com has a really simple app that I used while travelling around Asia, regularly on the hunt for a room in a city I’d just arrived in, and it was still on my phone. If anything, with an app like this, finding somewhere to stay is the easiest part of spontaneous travel. There’s always a bed available somewhere, even hours before arrival, and you save loads of time not having to actually go to each hotel and check if they have availability. Filter to find a place that suits your needs, guarantee quality with reviews written only be people who’ve actually stayed there and book your room with ease. But of course, there’s more to this than a bed and four walls.
Be willing to go anywhere. That’s right, anywhere. If you’re to find unexpected joy and be truly spontaneous, don’t go somewhere you’ve been every year for the last five years, spin a globe and book a flight to wherever your finger stops it (I’m sorry if that’s in the middle of the ocean). If you’re going to book last minute, it’s possible you won’t have much choice, embrace the opportunity for discovery, you’ll probably find somewhere beautiful.
Come prepare but not over prepared, a passport, some money and a bag of essential items will take you further than you could imagine. You don’t really need that hairdryer, watering can and miniature barbecue. Having less to worry about losing and carrying takes away a potentially big source of stress while you navigate somewhere new.
Get advice from people who’ve done it before, people like me. No, really, drop me a message on Twitter if you want. Before I left for Asia by myself, with little planned after the first week, most people thought I was crazy. All they did was warn me of dangers, dangers that they’d never actually seen or experienced because they’d never been to where I was going. Someone with experience is unsurprisingly far better to go to for a pep talk.
Take a friend or go it alone, either way, you’ll have a great time. The option to go alone is all a part of being spontaneous, maybe your friends aren’t as adventurous as you and they aren’t willing to come along for the ride. Maybe they’re the one trying to persuade you of the pleasures of spontaneity. Just do it.
Don’t panic, the world is far safer and less scary than you think, people are more often than not willing to help you should you find yourself in a pickle of some kind. Beside, there’s little to actually panic about, just take the same care that you would walking around your own city and you’ll be fine, it’s all about common sense.
Embrace everything! The warm sand, beautiful architecture, unfamiliar food, ordering a coffee in another language, sunrises, sunsets, waking up early, going to bed late, scorching sun, ravenous rain, achy legs from walking for hours, not knowing what adventure you’ll partake in next. Embrace everything.
With my room booked at the Grand Pigalle Hotel and my mind overflowing with excitement at the the chance to explore, I’ve got two days to find adventure and embrace spontaneity. Watch the blog, Instagram and Twitter for more.