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The Tyranny Of Planning

You remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books? They sucked after a while. I kept getting eaten by giant ants or falling into a black hole. Choosing your own adventure in travel can be the same. Take this cartoon, for instance. The image is of a couple at a travel agency looking through brochures. One says to the other “It all looks so great. I can’t wait to be disappointed.”

And it’s true – the more we plan and the more we put into some of the things we do, the less we get out of them. But if we simply go with what we are given, we have a great time. With few pre-conceived notions, we have a smaller chance of being disappointed. The surprise is a part of the enjoyment of the trip.

But ironically, I really enjoy planning trips. Oh, could I catch any good concerts or sporting events while I’m in town? What are the best places around for sightseeing? These types of things keep me up at night searching online excitedly. But it doesn’t make the actual trip any better.

So that led me to undertake the travel experiment that I am currently undergoing: I will plan as little for my next trip as possible, knowing nothing in advance but the dates of departure and return. The planning is essentially in what to pack – and I plan on packing very light.

This is probably part of a larger issue we have in our society with choice. According to Barry Schwartz, we have too much of it and it is ruining our lives. Any time we feel we could have made a better choice, we feel we should have. The more choices we have, the more potential we have to make a sub-optimal one. But if we have few choices, we focus on making the best of what we get.
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