Why Not Having Plans Is The Best Plan Of All

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As the clock hit midnight a few days ago and 2010 noisily gave way to 2011, several thoughts ran through my mind:

“Wow, I’m pretty drunk.”

“Aren’t those fireworks pretty?”

“Why is that guy wearing a pink flamingo costume?”

… and slightly more prosaically,

“This is absolutely going to be the best year of my life.”

I’m totally convinced of this.  It’s more than just a fleeting thought, more than just a drunken New Year’s resolution that was forgotten before the hangover even wore off.  It’s something that I truly feel, deep down inside.  I have absolutely no idea what form it is going to take, how or even exactly why it is going to be as incredible as I know it will be.  And you know what?  I’m absolutely fine with that.

Apparently as you get older, you’re supposed to do a number of things.  Society wants you to start making Big Important Adult Decisions about Big Important Adult Stuff.  Buying a nice big house, for instance, or having kids.  Planning for your retirement.  Getting a real job and starting to work your way up the ranks towards the rarefied heights of Assistant Manager In Charge Of TPS Reports or something equally important.

Several years ago I was doing all of that.  I had all sorts of plans and ideas about how I was going to achieve all of these very important things and was busily working towards them.  People used to tell me that I was really mature for my age, and I used to think that was a compliment.  It was probably meant as one, but I had an epiphany a while back that actually, I don’t want to be mature – at least not in the way that word is usually thrown around.  It seems to be used as a euphemism for boring or a justification for why people aren’t doing something fun and exciting with their lives, so since then I’ve been actively working on being immature instead.  I think that’s panning out pretty well so far – just ask my friends and family.

Being an idiot, Greek Islands

Until last year, though, I still felt that I had a pretty good idea of the general direction my life would take as I trundled towards my mid thirties.  Sure, I didn’t know exactly which twists and turns it would take along the way, but I figured that I’d keep working in technology for the next decade or two, probably ending up in some sort of senior management role.  I’d buy a house, or at least an apartment, in a Western city like my current home of Melbourne.  I’d make some investments and hopefully see them go up rather than down.  While I’d certainly keep travelling, it would probably eventually tail off to a few weeks a year as other priorities took over.

And then my life irreversibly changed.  I decided to start a travel blog.

Travellers – especially the long term ones – often tend to sit somewhat outside societal norms at the best of times, and I suspect that many travel bloggers lean even further in that direction.  Writing this blog entailed reading a lot of other ones, and joining Twitter (much to my initial reluctance) introduced me to a whole new crowd of people who were thinking so far outside the box that they couldn’t even see it from where they were standing.  And then I came across the lifestyle designers, those who were espousing ways to live the life you’d always dreamed of.  While many of them are full of shit, there are several that aren’t (Chris Guillebeau, I’m looking at you) and between them all they started to inspire the hell out of me.  When – in a blissful moment of serendipity – my job came to an end shortly afterwards, it was time to hit the road.

I’ve gone on (and on, and on) about all of the amazing experiences that I’ve had and people that I’ve met during the last six months, so I’ll spare you the detail again.  The one thing that really hit me time and again, though, was just how fantastic it was to be keeping my plans to a bare minimum.  I had a ticket into Vietnam at the start of June, a ticket out of Thailand at the end of August, and absolutely nothing booked in the middle.  I barely picked up a guidebook or read anything about the region until I was already there.  Other than La Tomatina and a week on a yacht in Greece, I did the same in Europe.  The feeling of absolute liberation was incredible and I found myself in some incredible places as a result.  I now can’t imagine travelling any other way.

Palawan desert island

Now that particular trip has finished and I’ve returned to what I used to think was normality for a while.  I’ve realised, however, that something has fundamentally changed.  I’ve bought that lack of interest in detailed plans back with me and in the process discovered a power that I never knew I had.  It’s the power to shape my life however the hell I want, even though I have no real idea exactly where things are going to go from here.

Don’t mistake a lack of plans for lack of goals.  Goals, you say?  Why, I’ve got a box full.  Online goals, language goals, fitness goals, travel goals, relationship goals – take your pick, I’ve got ’em all.  What I generally don’t know is the precise way that I’m going to achieve them.  The beauty is, though, that I now feel confident enough to give pretty much anything a go – from anywhere in the world – if I believe it’s going to get me closer to my dreams.

Could I end up getting a job and apartment in Melbourne and settling down here for a few years?  For the right job and the right reasons, absolutely!  Might I consider moving back and living in Thailand for a few months while I work on making my dreams of location independence come true?  Of course I would!  Would I follow a girl to New York, or run a marathon around Angkor Wat, or dump myself head-first into a Spanish speaking country just to immerse myself in the language and culture for a while?  Why on Earth wouldn’t I?

Rather than taking society’s nice neat little mould and trying to shoehorn my hopes and dreams into it, I’m grabbing all of those aspirations and throwing them to the wind.  Where will they land?  I’ve got absolutely no idea, but I know I’ll be following them there no matter where they end up.

It’s one hell of an incredible feeling, and it’ll be an even more incredible journey getting there in 2011 and beyond.

Want to come along for the ride?


[Fireworks image courtesy of aigarius]


27 Responses to “Why Not Having Plans Is The Best Plan Of All

  • Good for you! It is liberating to do what you want to do. I’m still trying to break free of the “plan” mentality but when I have, it’s awesome. Keep it up.

  • You summed up my feelings for 2011 perfectly. I have an ticket to Thailand after India at the end of January, and thats all I have as far as ‘plans’ go!

    2011 is going to be brilliant!

  • Helllls yeah! Great post! I know EXACTLY what you mean…for some reason I have that deep, “knowing” feeling that something great will happen this year. Here’s to 2011!

    • Damn straight! *raising an ice-cold Canadian beverage to 2011 and all its awesomeness*

  • Love it! I totally feel you on adult decisions and society norms- I also feel like this year is my year- like, 2011, hear me roar!

    • Adult decisions and society’s norms can take a leap – I’ve got a life to live!!

  • I don’t know you, but I want to come along for this ride so bad. I am so… I’m so where you are right now, mentally, that it’s absolutely astonishing. Except that right now I’m stuck in school for at least another 2 years. 2 years seems like AGES. But after it all I’ll have a BA and a tiny little certificate declaring myself a good enough english teacher to go out and learnify the rest of the world. And I know I will be. And I know I’ll be learning wherever I am (and it won’t be HERE).

    It’s just always exciting to read something that correlates so strongly with your own dreams and plans. So very thrilling.

    • Awesome comment, Arina – thanks!

      Love the bit about knowing that you’ll be learning somewhere that’s NOT where you are! I so recognise that feeling from the last city I lived in … I didn’t know where I wanted to be, but I sure as hell knew where I didn’t want to be!

      Hang in there – two years must seem like forever but it’ll make your departure day all the more fantastic! 😉

  • I’m usually the first to be carefree and ‘go with the flow’ kinda gal… but being home has made me extremely anxious about what to do now. I’m glad your chilling out with your ‘no plans’ lucky!

    • Being around people living so-called normal lives does tend to kill the travel buzz pretty quickly I reckon … and they start questioning you (and then you start questioning yourself) about your future plans.

      Back to the airport, I guess?

  • Cristine Tabing
    12 years ago

    That’s your best pic ever Dave! It trumps the bucket picture with Cole!

    I super like this article, I don’t have plans set in stone as well. And I definitely don’t want to follow society’s idea of how I should be living my life.

    Having no concrete plans is not the best feeling for me all the time (especially when my parents keep nagging me about it), but I love that I am more excited about life now than before.

    Cheers! 🙂

    • Hehehe … not sure about that, the baby bucket shot will go down in history I reckon!

      • ….Insert photographer credit here…….

        • Absolutely!

          [Drunken Dave being an idiot image courtesy of Kiera. Who was no less drunk, I hasten to add.]

          How’s that? 😉

  • I can’t wait to hear about what’s next!! 2010 will be hard to top for me and since I need to go back to the employment world I’m not sure 2011 will beat it but I have high hopes!

    • Ahh I’m sure the employment world won’t hold your attention for too long … Africa is calling! 😉

  • Anna Luiza
    12 years ago

    You are definately not alone! It’s very inspiring and reassuring to see that more people act on life, it makes me feel like I fit in (I came back home to sort stuff left from the life I used to lead and it all seems so far away…. I get the feeling that people generally think I’ve lost it when I tell them about what I’m really expecting for 2011)!

    Thanks for the great post!

    • And thanks for the great comment!

      Don’t worry, people think I’ve lost it most of the time too. 😉

      If a life of quiet desperation is the other alternative (as it often seems to be), I think I’ll stick with my particular version of crazy!

  • Yay to living life how you want and not what everyone elese wants – 2011 will be AWESOME! (but only if you come and visit us sometime) 🙂

    • I’ll do my best! After last night’s convo, I might come and hang out in Laos again with you! 😉

  • Envious you can choose to follow your dream and just travel. I’m starting with baby steps by not planning an itinerary when I travel, to just arrive and figure out what to do only when I am there. So far, has turned out surprisingly well.

    Keep up your tweets and blogs!

    • That’s a great approach – gives you so much more flexibility and freedom. You’ll never look back!

      I’m so happy that I can follow my dream as much as I have done so far. Now all I need to do is work a bit harder on the income stream to sustain it! 🙂

  • Hey — Just got here via WDS. Love connecting with other travelers/dreamers! Glad to find your blog, and looking forward to meeting you at the summit!

    • Absolutely Alexis … I can’t wait til next year’s summit! Were you at this year’s one?

Trackbacks & Pings

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