Leaving Joshua Tree on Route 62, approaching the Interstate 10, we hestitate, unsure which way to turn. Right, and we camp in the cooler air of San Bernardino National Forest, or left, and we visit Palm Springs. In short, more nature or some sophistication.
On a whim, we turn left. It just seems more fun.
Now driving along Palm Canyon Drive, we read in the Lonely Planet guide about a motel where Elvis hung out in the 60s. 10 minutes later we are checking in.
For us, this is a good illustration of why gap-year travellers shouldn’t firm-up too much in advance. After all, you can’t microplan everything for a year’s trip. You need to have the flexibility to be spontaneous and go with the flow and your feelings.
We have the discipline of our round-the-world flight bookings, but apart from that pretty much everything else has been firmed-up just a few days in advance.
There have been a few exceptions. Yes, we did need to book our days at Torres del Paine well in advance. And just today, fearing we might get stranded and miss our upcoming flight to Sydney, we have booked an inter-island flight in Hawaii.
So, our tips for middle-aged gap year travellers are:
- Give yourself a framework for the year
Given that so much is best unplanned, we think its best to have the big picture agreed upfront. So that means sorting out where you want to go at the country/region level and then doing some research to check the allocation of days makes sense. We did this pretty diligently at the time we booked our round-the-world flights.
- Within each country/region just go with the flow
Our approach has literally been to start travelling and see how it goes. So, if we like somewhere we can stay longer. If we need a change of pace we can react accordingly. If we hear about somewhere special we can make a diversion. For us this approach is liberating, but you’ll need to check you have the personality to thrive making arrangements on the fly.
- Constantly look for the new
Having been on the road for nearly eight months we’re appreciating that you can have too much of a good thing. We really have seen enough Cathedrals. We’ve seen enough volcanic lakes. We’ve seen enough forest trails. So now we are actively searching out new treats. That’s why, albeit at the last moment, Palms Springs appealed so much to us. We wanted to swim under palm trees at midnight, to visit the home of tennis’ fifth most important tournament and to go in our first-ever rotating cable car (see the next post for pictures)
- Be alert for those things that need booking in advance
Although highly recommending the laissez-faire approach, we do recognise there will be certain things that need to be booked in advance. The secret here is to recognise them in the first place. For instance, we have just booked our hostel accommodation in Honolulu for seven days time as we read there is only one hostel there and it’s likely to be full.
This is one of our occasional tips for middle aged gap year travellers. To see the others, click below on the link – Travel Tips