Yes, I know it’s been a while since I last posted….but there’s a good reason. Well, sort of.
We’ve been travelling again!
Yup – all that good old British rain finally took its toll. Staycations are grand for a lot of people but they don’t really work for us. An outside lifestyle is tough here.
And so once the UK travel ban was finally lifted we figured out our next adventure.
It’s an odd time in the travel world for sure. So how did we plan an adventure in an ever-changing world of new rules and regulations – often at the drop of the proverbial hat?
Flexibility Is King
Any regular reader will know I love my travel research. Nuts about it. Happily spending hours upon hours reading through places to go, stuff to eat. Endless browsing of places to stay. I love it.
So it will be no surprise to most that our adventures to date have been well-planned out affairs. I’ve written before about slow travel and how I enjoy knowing where my (well-chosen..) bed for the night will be.
But that approach wasn’t going to fly (ha, ha….) this time round. The UK’s rainbow of travel rules are bad enough. Then mix in the rest of the world and try and plan out a long trip. Nah, it’s just pointless.
So for the first time ever, we headed off with only a couple weeks sorted out. And no return flight booked. Our first ever adventure in not planning..
No End In Sight
This kind of stuff might be old hat to the hardened travellers out there but it was a first for us for sure.
I was a little concerned I’d be spending all my time sorting out the next part of the trip. But I figured I’d have enough time whilst S was you know, actually working.
What was fascinating – and unexpected – though was how much we both actually loved not knowing the end date of our trip.
Most times, you get to that half-way point of a holiday and it’s hard to avoid that awareness. That feeling you are closer to the end than the beginning. A bit like life…
But this time – we didn’t get that. Because we didn’t know how much longer we’d roam around for before heading back to the UK.
It was actually pretty cool to leave Granada in the knowledge that we may be back in a few weeks time, instead of knowing it wouldn’t be until the following year. At the earliest. Hopefully.
So that was a pretty big unexpected upside. Especially when we did indeed return to Granada a few weeks later. It’s an amazing city and deserves it’s own post at some point for sure. But not right now.
Instead, let’s move on to how I fared with planning on the go…
One of the reasons I like to plan out a trip is because I’m a big believer in that’s how you get the best value for money.
Not the cheapest. That’s rarely actually good value. Nor the most expensive. It’s usually largely marketing or glitzy extras I really don’t need or want.
No, the reason I will happily spend hours on travel research is because that’s how I find those real hidden gems buried in-between. The places that suit us best.
Fortunately, having done this for a while now, I have it down to a fine art. A sixth sense for detecting what’s likely to actually be good and worth the money.
Reading between the lines on reviews. Telling the difference between genuine problems and people whinging about things that really don’t matter. To me anyway.
I love it. But even though I’m much faster now than when I started, it still takes me some time. I don’t mind at all. Like I said, I enjoy it.
But I was curious how I would find it when actually on the road and travelling. Would I start to begrudge the time spent? Plus how would I find those gems since in normal times all the best places are booked well ahead?
Turns out it really wasn’t a problem. Seems that perching on a sunny balcony, chilled beverage in hand actually goes very well with travel research. Love it.
On the availability front though? Well – I think the jury is out on that one. Clearly these are still far from normal travelling days. We were one of very few non-domestic tourists. So I never struggled to find something that fit my ‘magic’ formula.
Would I do the same again in normal times – assuming that does actually happen one day? Yes – but not in peak travel time. It was unusual for us to travel in school holiday time anyway – shoulder seasons are our best friends for a reason. Less people, more choice.
I suspect if we’d gone with this strategy pre-Covid, I’d have ended up spending more on each place we stayed to get somewhere we wanted. So whilst it worked absolutely fine this time round, I wouldn’t personally be rushing to try it if we ever travel in a peak period again.
So – was anything actually a problem whilst we roamed our way safely around Spain? Well, yes – of course….
Rolling With The Punches
I think my first rule of travel – if I was a fan of rules – would be this
It’s fine to plan – but expect something to change
True of life, true of finances and true for travel.
Even before Covid threw the world’s biggest spanner into the works, we’ve had problems whilst travelling. Planning well reduces the chances for sure. But they still happen.
So like with life and finances, don’t expect to plan the hell out of a trip and for it all to be smooth sailing. Especially if you are going for any length of time or to multiple countries.
I can remember our tenth anniversary trip to Lithuania with much fondness for example. The Iceland ash cloud practically followed our flight out. Five days later and needing to return for a critical part of our self-build, RyanAir unceremoniously left us stranded. No communication, no clue.
This was before the days we had laptops or mobile phones with us. So it was a ‘fun’ afternoon huddled around the hotel’s one ancient computer with an internet connection. Train here, bus there…stay here. It’s a whole story in itself.
But we coped.
Likewise when Covid hit and we were in Vietnam. Watching the world shut down rapidly. Figuring out a viable route back that wouldn’t involve us getting quarantined as soon as we stepped off the first plane. Not easy – although we did at least have laptops that time.
But we coped.
So when our flight from Spain to Madeira refused to let us board, yes, it was a problem. An issue with their translation of the rules and regulations versus what the official advice said.
Perched outside the airport with that slightly stunned air of “we should be on a plane but here we are”. Finding the right phone number and sorting out rebooking our flight for later that week. (Amazing job, BA – thanks Avios!)
Finding a bed for the night and turning up a few hours later to find the place spotless and ready for us. At £40/night in a great location – an awesome last minute find!
Re-sorting out travel docs for the next attempt. Etc etc. It was a pain and it was stressful.
But we coped.
I think my point is there’s a lot of nervousness about travelling right now. But these kinds of things happened before Covid. And they’ll happen after it. You just learn how to deal with them.
Roll with it….do what needs to be done. And do it as gracefully as you can. Trust me, arguing against it doesn’t work…tried that… 😉
Do What You Can
Which leads me neatly onto the last thing about our latest travel adventure I want to share.
Given everyone knows we love to travel, we often get asked, “so, where next”
Usually we’d have a rough idea of the next year or so. Some familiar places, old friends. Some new ones as we work our way slowly through our long list.
But right now if you ask me – I’ll say I don’t know. For the foreseeable future our approach is going to very much be one of going with what’s possible – not sticking rigidly to a wish or a dream.
For example, we’re both really keen to get back to South Africa. It’s one of our absolute favourite places with so much we love about it, despite its issues. But as much as I’d love to book it all up for our winter escape – there’s little point.
Instead, as winter approaches and we start hankering for escape, we’ll just see what is possible instead.
I’ve yet to find anywhere you can’t find something to enjoy about it. I never really realised what a helpful approach to travel and life this can be!
Instead of pining for a dream lost – we’ve already had seven great weeks exploring. Making the most of what’s possible in a responsible manner. Doing what we can.
And loving it.
So all in all, I’d call our first adventure in travelling without a plan pretty successful. But it’s defn something you need the right attitude for.
We had our moments but as ever, the more you do it – the easier it all gets. And it was so so worth it.
You never know, I might even get around to writing about the actual trip one day… In the meantime, curious about your own plans and approach on this one? Thoughts?