In my early 20s I dated a guy who, at the start of our relationship, identified me as a planner. I denied it, but when I found myself calling him on a Wednesday to figure out what we were doing that weekend, I realized I, in fact, was/am a planner.
In nearly every aspect of my life, I plan. As I have gotten older I have eased up a bit, but still, there are certain activities that warrant planning. Activities like my 30th birthday celebration.
We were sitting at Park Tavern one night in April, my friend Karen and I, talking about my 30th birthday. Sure, it was nearly six months away, but I am not one to sit and wait for life to happen. Typically, I chase after things. I mean, it would be absolutely fantastic to just have things fall into my lap, but in my 29 years of life (up to that point), that phenomenon had yet to occur.
So, Karen and I were sitting outside overlooking Midtown Atlanta and my favorite place ever in the city — Piedmont Park – discussing what exceptionally awesome event I could plan for myself to celebrate my 30th birthday.
I had tossed around Italy and Israel and done some research on tours for people my age, but had not come up with anything I was very impressed with.
“Why not Croatia?” she had asked.
I had never considered traveling to Croatia for my birthday.
“Yeah, it is just like Italy, but cheaper since they aren’t on the Euro yet,” she explained.
Sounded good to me, and in typical impulsive D fashion, I called my parents the next day, reminded them of the airline ticket they had said I could have, and got their blessing to go ahead and book a ticket to Croatia.
It was that simple of a decision. Karen said “Croatia.” I booked the ticket. I did no research. I knew Karen traveled a lot, so I immediately trusted her suggestion.
The last time I went to Europe on a one-month solo backpacking adventure to celebrate graduating college, I had planned. Not much. But enough. I had purchased my one-month Eurail pass (a MUST if you plan on exploring Western Europe on a timeframe and not spending too much money on transport), booked my first few nights in the hostel (an International Youth Hostel in Venice my first night and another hostel in Athens for three more) and purchased a plane ticket from Venice to Athens. I knew I wanted to see the Acropolis. The Coliseum. The Vatican. The Louvre. The coffee shops. Basically, I had some highlights I knew I wanted to hit. The exact days were TBD, but it was nearly a sure thing I would see certain places.
This time, the only planning I did was buying Lonely Planet’s Croatia book. The book certainly wet my appetite. The gorgeous photos of the Adriatic coupled with the outdoor cafes and shots of locals immediately made me long for my vacation. I am an avid photographer so seeing those shots made me want badly to create my own book-worthy images.
I was two weeks out from my trip, sitting at my desk, when my COO came in to ask me about my trip.
“Where ya going?” she asked. “What have ya planned?”
I hung my head and shook it from side to side.
“Absolutely nothing. I know when I have to be at the airport and when I land in Zagreb, and I know when I have to be in Dubrovnik to fly home. That’s it.”
My COO is the left brain of the company. I think it is safe to say she is a planner. So, when I told her that, she smiled, shook her head and left.
In real life, I plan. But, for some reason, the thought of planning my trip in any more depth than I already had planned was overwhelming. Traveling solo leaves so much up in the air.
The last time I had traveled alone I ended up in Venice – twice. I had met two Aussies and clicked with them, and they were going there and invited me. It sounded like a good plan, so I tagged along with them there and to Verona. One split from us at that point and headed skiing in the Alps. The other and I ventured to a little chalet in Gryon, nestled in the majestic Swiss Alps, on the suggestion of another traveler. Had I been rigid and planned out, I would not have had that experience. So, being plan-free is the best way to be. Traveling is one of the few times I just let myself go with the flow and not stress about where I am or where I am going.
However, I did think about it a little and knowing myself as well as I do, decided it would be in my best interest to at least book a room for the first night so I would know where I was going when the plane dropped me in Zagreb.
I picked up my Lonely Planet book and looked up Zagreb. I am all about suggestions, and the one the book recommended sounded good to me.
Nearby the town square. The farmers market. The restaurants. The bars.
Sounded perfect to me.
So, I booked it, printed out the directions from the airport (should I have decided to take public transit, which we already know I wouldn’t take), and that was that.
When my first full day in Zagreb rolled around, I was awake early. And surprisingly not hungover, even after the copious amount of alcohol consumed the night before.
After the Aussies left to catch their train to Budapest, I slept for a little longer and then that “I should be doing something other than sleeping” thought started repeating in my head, urging my eyes to open and my body out of my little bunk bed.
I got up, put on my hiking boots (Dad had bought them for me because, according to him, they were a must have), wrapped my trendy scarf around my neck (because it’s oh-so European), popped my headphones on, threw my journal and my Lonely Planet book in my purse, and headed off.
Off to where, I did not know. But, I was off.