Tag Archives: decision making

Travel; The Balance Between Spontaneous and Planned

IMG_3251.jpgOn one end of the spectrum are the planners, the ones that assemble detailed itineraries, and, perhaps not so surprisingly, are typically able to stick to them.

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A well planned trip comes with several advantages. Flights, hotels, and many travel related big-ticket items are typically cheaper when booked several months ahead of time. Putting in the time and effort to plan ahead of time also reduces the chances that some unforeseen complication or circumstance will negatively impact the trip, causing travelers not to get the experience they were hoping for.

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On the other end of the spectrum are the spontaneous, the last minute, the drop everything and go type of experiences. This has its advantages too. Psychological studies have indicated that the satisfaction people have with their experiences is often dependent on how the experience compares with their expectations. The spontaneous trip, the one that comes together last minute can have a strong upside, as there were no expectations. Finding oneself unexpectedly in a new place, trying something new; experiences like these can make people truly feel alive!

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Missing out on this feeling is probably the main drawback to planning travel too intensely. When every activity is regimented, down to the hour (given the fact that there is traffic, weather, etc. regimenting to the minute is a fool’s errand), it is harder to make adjustments for what may occur, or take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. See an interesting billboard for a museum, theme park, or natural bridge? Sorry, there is no unplanned time. Run into an old friend, or make new friends? We can reconnect only if you’re going in this direction as me at this time.

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As is the case with most things in today’s world, there is an optimal “middle ground” that can be reached, and it is not necessarily a compromise between the two extremes. The best “middle ground” solutions often try to achieve the objectives of those on both sides of the issue. The planners want some kind of guarantee that the most important experiences, the original objective of the trip, are actually obtained. The spontaneous want flexibility and the element of surprise.

While I have taken part in experiences that were planned many months in advance and completely regimented.

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As well as ones that were super of the moment.

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My general tactic is in the middle.

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The trip I took to Death Valley six weeks ago was actually originally planned for Zion National Park. Unexpectedly cool and rainy weather prompted us to change the venue to Death Valley, where it would be more pleasant. In this case, it wasn’t necessarily the exact intended experience, but the overall experience of camping, hiking, and being outside in a group of people still came to pass.

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When visiting Copenhagen and Stockholm last fall, we set aside a few “must sees”…

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While leaving a lot of time open for other experiences

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There are a lot of other ways to achieve this optimal combination of guaranteeing experiences while also remaining spontaneous. They are not all as simple as the Southwest Airlines no change fee policy. Some things, like planning alternative activities if the weather is bad, having meals ready on fishing trips in case no fish are caught, or planning for a busted stove on a backpacking trip, take research.

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And, well, in our attention deprived world, doing research can often be a deterrent. It can be a deterrent to being well prepared, but also, perhaps most unfortunately, can be a deterrent to traveling at all. The phenomenon of “analysis paralysis”, where a combination of too many choices, too much information and too many factors to consider leads to no choice being made at all, has become quite the large scale issue this decade.

Luckily, in an age where the internet appears to do nothing but create “analysis paralysis” there are still resources designed to help people sort through the clutter of information available to them.

One option is to hire a travel agent, who knows the ins-and-outs of various destinations, and can help travelers find the best deals and the best experiences. There are some who believe that travel agents are no longer needed in the age of the internet. However, as the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown has pointed out in many occasions (including the 2017 Travel and Adventure show which I was at), travel agents do help people sift through all of this information.

The other is to find resources online that actually help people consume information rather than find more of it. A great example of this is the side by side comparison of travel insurance options on reviews.com. More generally, reviews.com is one of the few sites that actually aims to reduce the amount of time people spend on the internet (as opposed to many other sites whose goal is to suck you in). The site has reviews that help people make decisions regarding plenty of other products, including others important to travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, like water bottles, vitamins and booking sites.

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There is certainly a time to be completely regimented.

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There is also a time it feels great to do something completely spontaneous.

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In most experiences, it is wonderful to try to find a way to make our travel plans both guarantee the experiences that prompted us to make the trip, while also being flexible enough to adjust for the conditions and take advantage of opportunities. This is, in my humble opinion, the proper balance between being planned and being spontaneous.

An Overlook of the City

Starting sometime between the ages of 3 and 7, we are all asked the same question;  What do you want to be when you grow up?  Sometime between the day we are first asked this question and the first time we purchase an alcoholic beverage legally, we all answer this question.  Some of us, inspired by an event, a hero, or something we are really interested in, figure this out at a young age.  Meanwhile, others answer this question later on, after a year or two in college with an “undeclared” major.

Whether we answer this question at the age of 5 or 20, we all determine “what we want to be” believing that we have some kind of final answer to this question.  One of the biggest surprises that we all encounter in the adult world is that “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a question that we never stop answering.  Sure, some of us may spend up to a few years at a time in a sort of steady-state, remaining in one place.  But, eventually, inevitably, some form of change, or opportunity for a change, will come our way, requiring us to revisit the question.

I actually learned this fact years ago, when I was actually given two different options for where to take my career by a former boss.  So, the fact that I am currently approaching a crossroads that may take me down a different career path, to a different location, or both, does not come as a complete shocker to me.  While not surprised, there is still plenty to think about, and sometimes the best thinking is done in another setting.

A common scene in the movies (and on TV) is for one of the main characters to absorb recent events and ponder what they are to do next while overlooking their city’s skyline.  This is a scene I reenacted somewhat accidentally today when I discovered the best view of the Denver skyline I have seen to date from a place called Mount Galbraith.

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Mount Galbraith is located just to the west of the town of Golden, Colorado.  With a peak at only 7,260 feet, hiking to the top is not challenging.  The vertical climb from the parking lot probably does not even reach 1,000 feet.  For someone looking to hike in Colorado with no prior hiking experience, this may be a good choice.  Unlike other trails near Golden, there is no mountain biking permitted on these trails, and the trails are significantly less crowded than any of the trails near Boulder.

I do not know why I came to this park today.  I had a lot on my mind today, and needed to get away from the distractions that often disrupt my thought process; in particular YouTube, the internet, and the Olympics.  So, I pretty much just got in the car and started to drive with no plan whatsoever.  Before I knew it, I was approaching Golden, and I had remembered seeing a sign for some kind of hiking trail on the way to Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  Knowing that in the month of February it is always safer to stay at lower elevations (this is due to both wind and snow pack), I decided at the last minute to stop.

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I also made my Siberian Husky come along for the ride, but she seemed to enjoy it.  This is probably the closest I will ever come to getting a picture of my dog overlooking a city skyline, something that I think makes for a neat picture.  In fact, I think Dogs Overlooking Skylines would make for an awesome calender.  12 different cities, 12 different dog breeds.  If someone made it, I would buy one for sure!

Today I followed my instinct, and I did what countless movie and TV characters have done; find a good view of the city skyline and ponder what is going on in my life.  I’m guessing most people feel that when they come to a place like this they are taking a step back from life, and looking at what is going on from above.  It almost feels as if we are taking a big-picture omnipresent view of day-to-day life when we observe from a place like this.  While on a typical day, we are looking at one particular block, one building, or even one desk.  Coming to a place like this, the entire city, as well as many places around it, all come into view.  It is natural for this view to prompt anyone to look at the big picture.

And, it is time to apply this big picture view to that age old question.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  Or, for those of us that are already grown up, we can more simply say, what do you want to be?  Whenever anyone asks or answers this question, it seems like the discussion always revolves 100% around jobs and careers.  But, there is more to who someone is than their career.  Maybe you want to be the person your friends can depend on?  Maybe you want to travel and have some interesting experiences?  Or maybe you just want to have a balanced life?  When it comes to “what you want to be”, ambitions like these are a valid part of the discussion and should not be ignored.