The best laid un-plans


As we move ever closer to the start of our new life out on the open road, I am slowly adjusting to the reality of an open future as well.I say slowly because there is one small, ok – make that rather large, problem I am struggling to overcome. What’s an eternal planner to do when faced with a future of un-plans?

The notion of travel is like magic to me. All I have to do is think of some faraway location, and suddenly my heart is singing and my soul is on fire. I know that I have always been destined to become a traveller, and now the time for me to step into that role is nearly upon me.

So how can I not plan?

We are the chosen generation. Our grandparents, and even our parents, didn’t have the opportunities to travel as easily or as freely as we do. History has governed that we be the ones to go forth and experience this beautiful world to the fullest; to run our fingers over her surface as easily as that of our own palm. Surely it would be rude not to do a little prior investigation?

I lose myself for hours in the endless pleasure of a Google search; Indian adventures, train times, ashrams and festivals. I bookmark travel sites like and spend hours researching possible itineraries. It’s all food for my soul.

A search leads to a website, which links to another website, then another, revealing before me an abundance of new experiences and destinations to be sequestered away for future planning. I click and double click, bookmark and store to Evernote. It’s my version of crack.

Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.
― Mary Oliver

The first six months of our new life on the road will be spent in India and Sri Lanka, and have already succumbed to my planning obsession.

Welcome to the planned section of the un-plan.

We board our flight to Mumbai on Sunday 30th September and will visit friends in the city for a few days before flying down to Goa. This will be our home for the next three months, and we hope to rent a simple beach hut or villa in Palolem.

On 27th December I will be leaving Lee for a few weeks to indulge in a soon-to-be-revealed adventure with two fellow bloggers (stay tuned for my exciting announcement next month!).

Lee and I will reunite on 14th January in Kerala, where we also hope some friends might fly out to join us.  I have never visited this part of India before, so I am really excited to explore this beautiful state and indulge in some post-adventure relaxation.

After this we will be making our way down to Sri Lanka, before heading back to India to experience the Holi festival; the perfect ending to our time in India. From here we will fly to Thailand, and the next stage of our journey.

And here the un-plan resumes.

Where we go next and for how long will be entirely determined by two things: how we feel and how the weather feels. The plan will not be visiting South East Asia with us, and I think I’m ok with that. Bye bye Google.

Because at the end of the day, these planned variations of our grand un-plan are just that; variations. And as the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

There will be wrong turns, delayed flights, misadventures and tears. But there will also be new friendships, unexpected invitations and unmissable opportunities that will all serve to shape our journey in ways I never could have predicted or planned for.

I welcome the many twists and turns that life will carve into our open road.

Deep down inside, I know that the perfect plan isn’t one of my daily creations, it’s the plan that life itself will slowly reveal to us. And I have every faith that it is going to be a million times better than any plan I could ever make.


{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel May 22, 2012 at 22:32

Ugh…I know exactly how you feel. I’m such a planner! For me, it’s a mental escape. It helps me remember why I’m sitting at this desk, bored out of my mind…it helps me daydream. But I do get caught up in the planning and sometimes forget to experience. It’ll be strange at first, but then it’ll be great. My husband recently reminded me how much more relaxed and carefree I am when we’re traveling. We have never taken a real “vacation” together (like sitting on a tropical island doing nothing), but our little adventures have always been fun, relaxing, and exciting. I think it’ll all come together once you’re doing it. Just have to be willing to let go at some point.
Until then, enjoy the planning and daydreaming. I have a million places I want to go, but when someone asks me all the places we’re going, I usually say, “well, we’re starting in Mongolia and then working our way south. We hope to get to Europe, too.” Que sera, sera. 🙂


Hannah May 22, 2012 at 22:50

Yeah, I always say “We’re starting in India, then heading on through SEA…” It never gets more specific than that! Though I can happily dream ’till the cows come home, I worry that my obsessive planning will get in the way of simply letting the adventure unfold. The dreamer will be a part of me forever, but the planner needs to take a chill pill 😉


D.J. - The World of Deej May 22, 2012 at 23:46

Un-planning is very hard for me, but I’m getting better at it. For example, we are heading on a two week trip in July, yet all I’ve put together is hotels, a couple tours, and a few restaurants. Yes, this is still a lot, but definitely not much by my standards….


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:50

Every good un-planner has to start somewhere 🙂


Lindsey May 22, 2012 at 23:54

Here’s to unplanned plans! I always end up having very vague plans, though I did have a huge production running over a trip to the US … thank god it was cancelled! I know you’ll have a great time, plans or not, and I hope to meet you one day during those un-plans 😉


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:51

Thanks Lindsey – I would love that! Let’s un-plan something soon 🙂


Steph - May 23, 2012 at 00:05

Completely agree! The best plans are always the ones that are not planned, be that travel, or just a simple ‘unplanned’ night out with friends!
We were on our South American adventure, starting in Colombia a few weeks ago, about to travel to Ecuador when an opportunity in Mexico came up and here we are a few weeks later taking our time to explore this beautiful country before getting back to our South American adventure! The beauty of un-plans indeed! 🙂
Also I have always wanted to go to the Holi festival in India! How exciting for you! 🙂


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:53

Sounds like the perfect example of going where the wind takes you. I love it when life hands you these wonderfully unexpected opportunities 🙂


Sarahsomewhere May 23, 2012 at 03:10

A beautiful post about the nature of ‘unplanned’ travel! It seems everyone wants to know where you’re going before you leave, and I don’t know about you, but I felt pressured to give them an answer! I love the crack reference! Google searching and travel researching can be so addictive!!!
My plans are still in the hands of the gods too, all I know is I have to be in India by Christmas, but honestly, I have no idea where I’ll be coming from. I love that you have faith in the universe revealing a plan for you, I need to constantly be reminded to let go and enjoy the journey as it unfolds.
This is so exciting!!!!!!!!!! See you soon 😉


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:56

I felt pressured to give myself an answer more than anyone else, but I’m learning that life is better left unplanned, with just a few general suggestions thrown in for good measure!


Rhonda May 23, 2012 at 16:16

So jealous you’ll be spending a few months in Goa. We were only there for a couple of weeks but could easily have called it home for much longer. Enjoy that lovely slice of India for us until we can get back there!


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:57

Will do Rhonda!


Becki | @BackpackerBecki May 23, 2012 at 21:55

I used to be a huge planner but ever since knowing that I am on indefinate time, like you will be, I have become much more chilled about my approach to travel. I will still plan to some extent and have had to map out my first few months according to tours and volunteer placements etc, but knowing that I can wake up and go “Yea, I quite like it here – I’ll stay for a couple more days” has totally changed my perspective. Good luck. I think you will be surprised at how much an open road ahead changes you 🙂


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 20:58

I think it was my initial excitement that had me planning every which way, but now I think I will definitely be more inclined to just see where life takes me 🙂


izzy May 25, 2012 at 06:00

Hi Hannah,
I, like you, am a total planner. I love Excel, organization systems, and structured methods of attack on a to do list 🙂
That being said there is a fine line between planning which leads to enjoyment and planning that is just flat out rigid and limiting.
I like the way you are approaching it. It seems like you have a faily solid idea of what you want to do but have left lots of room for total awesomeness to unexpectedly sweep you away.
I know that for me, planning opens more doors than it closes. When I plan for something it allows me to step back and address the question: “What do I want from this?”
Then once I know the answer then I can go full steam ahead!


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 21:02

Thanks Izzy – I am definitely leaving room for total awesomeness 🙂


Ian [EagerExistence] May 25, 2012 at 13:14

I’m just the opposite. Sometimes I’ll be travelling onto somewhere that I know will be very busy (a big carnival or festival like Rio Mardi Gras, or Oktoberfest)… but I’m an un-planner… so I can’t be bothered doing the research, reading the books, and organising things. I prefer just to get off the bus/train/plane and see what happens… often to my detriment.


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 21:05

Yeah, I guess at times like that I will definitely indulge my planner side! I like your style though – just rocking up unplanned like that must be very liberating in some ways 🙂


Patricia GW May 25, 2012 at 15:49

It’s always such a pleasure to read your writing, like a refreshing breath of fresh air. What’s more meaningful than planning is that you have a purpose. To create the Further Bound foundation, fulfill your travel dreams, and be with the one you love colors every day. You can wake up one morning in Goa and not have any idea what the day will be like, but it’s yours to enjoy and cherish in how it unfolds on its own xxx


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 21:06

Thanks Tricia, your encouragement and support is such a gift xxx


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) May 27, 2012 at 17:43

I feel like I could have written this post, because I too am a major planner. Tony has frequently accused me of enjoying the planning phase of life just as much, if not more, than the actual living of life! I love researching just about everything and getting swept away in other people’s travel stories and photos, that sometimes it’s hard for me to pull the trigger and just commit to my own adventure. Harder yet is dealing with long-term travel where every day cannot be scheduled! Tony and I have had a rough itinerary for our RTW trip for about a year now, one that I felt made so much sense. And of course, now that we are set to depart in just over 2 months, we’re realizing that we’re going to have to rejigger the whole thing, pretty much from the get-go… Of course I’m looking into all the options for Plan B, but I’m starting to realize that part of the fun is going to be the element of the unknown!


Hannah May 29, 2012 at 21:10

I think I would have driven myself more than a little crazy if I had been allowed to plan beyond our first six months! I’m sure we will both find that our inner planners learn to relax once our travels begin, and the beauty of the unexpected takes hold. Happy un-planning 🙂


Kim May 30, 2012 at 03:52

You know what? I just plan for the love of planning, knowing full well that I might not follow those plans at all. But I love to think that I have some sort of notion how things might go, nevermind if they go that way at all. Such an exciting adventure ahead of you Hannah!


Hannah June 2, 2012 at 14:25

Yeah, I’m sure there will be a lot of that type of planning going on with me too! But as we both get used to life out on the road, I’m pretty certain life will get in the way of our Google time, and our plans won’t stretch much further than where to go for dinner 🙂


Rica June 5, 2012 at 11:25

Another inspiring post Hannah! I’m leaving for a month in October and I’m also in my planning stage right now…I don’t even know where to go! I do have return tickets (as it is required by our government / airport authorities) but I haven’t even booked a single room in a city 🙂 I do worry about it sometimes but you’re absolutely right about this: “…it’s the plan that life itself will slowly reveal to us.” – I’m starting to feel more confident now 🙂


Hannah June 5, 2012 at 23:39

Thank you Rica! I hope you have a great trip and look forward to reading all about it 🙂


Clare June 15, 2012 at 19:45

I really love the quotes mixed into your writing, Hannah. They’re not lines I’ve seen a million other places, and they really capture your meaning. Love it. Keep it up. Clare


Cancel reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge