Planning is overrated


A painting in the Tate.  It was my one favorite there.
A painting in the Tate. It was my one favorite there.

Random Observation/Comment #149: I am a compulsive planner.  I like to know what I’m doing for the day and how I reach specific destinations with a large array of possibilities and expectations.  You would be surprised/disgusted at how much I’ve exhausted my technological resources (Google Street View, Google Maps with Images, and Google Earth have been the slide-rule of traveling).  However, given this compulsiveness for planning, I also maintain a level of compulsiveness towards spontaneity.  Everything needs a balance, and small levels of discomfort are required for greater rewards.  “Going with the flow” introduces a forecast of expectations with a very slight chance of disaster.  Besides, it’s quite difficult to plan “fun.”  I can’t write into my itinerary “7PM, dinner; 8PM, have fun” – fun just isn’t one of those concrete things.  I know what I consider fun (such as ping pong and more ping pong), but there are so many unknown places I’d like to visit to broaden my personal definition.  It’s time to explore.

Although planning does relieve the stress shared between me and my parents (mostly my parents), it is rarely followed to the letter.  Even when I’ve accounted for outside factors, such as weather, meeting new people, getting too drunk and waking up late, “detox days,” and attacks from British zombies, I often resort to a combination of suggestions, instincts, and mood, which is rarely predictable.  Anti-social fleeting moments are an eventuality, so maybe planning days with compressed tourist attractions isn’t always the optimized way of vacationing.  I would rather spend a week in one city with a relaxed itinerary than rush my travels at an unnatural pace.

The efficiency aspect of my planning mixed with my flexibility on such uncomfortable situations results in a very crowded schedule.  It’s anally organized and filled with exceptions, but after staring at this masterpiece, I began dreading its existence.  I looked at such perfection with disdain instead of, my expected, relief.  To intentionally spite myself, I placed the plans on my laptop, iPhone, notebook, print-outs, and the ones digitally typed across my robotic interface aside.  Everything was scrapped and I simply asked questions.  Whomever I met, I wanted to know where they went, how they went about it, and what they would do differently.  My questions were geared towards understanding their interests as to see if I would possibly enjoy the same tourist locations.  This technique worked surprisingly well, and I felt much less restricted.  This experience of planning and ignoring these plans parallels to carrying a heavy boulder from miles away, just to reach here and wonder: Why the hell do I need a large boulder?  Well, I didn’t, but carrying it built character.  Anything that builds character has to be positive.  When in doubt, just say it builds character and the excuse is automatically valid.  Physically reprimanding a child for foolish acts?  Builds character.

The first day I arrived, I dropped off my luggage with my couchsurfing buddy and checked into St Christopher’s Village (near the London Bridge stop) on Borough Street.  Not only was the atmosphere very cheerful, but the information was also plentiful.  Free tours, paid tours, and pub crawls were offered in a small brochure filled with the city and underground maps.  This map was much better than the Google Maps I printed out.  This one had pretty colors and pictures, which highlighted the major attractions and made me want to color them with a crayon.  Although I did not want the typical tourist experience of London, I needed to visit many of the typical tourist locations to at least taste the favorites – they are favorites for a reason.

Taking suggestions can be extremely rewarding.  I asked a random store owner where to get the best fish and chips around where I was staying (near Regents Park) and he pointed me in the direction of literally the best fish and chips I’ve ever had (including metaphysically).  The restaurant “Seashell of Lisson Grove” does not have seating, but always has a long line of customers.  Their cod fish is double the size of the plate and everything is freshly made.  Although the tar-tar sauce and ketchup costs 25 pence extra, everything is fresh and magnificent.  The walk, however, was horrendous from the International Student House (near Great Portland Street station).  I think I walked close to 15 miles that day so the long stretch was wearing me out.  The point is: I would never have found this place if I didn’t follow a stranger’s randomly pointing finger on a map.  I trusted and was pleasantly surprised.  Please don’t take advantage of this gullible nature of mine.

~See Lemons Wing It

Awesome Fish and Chips at "Seashell on Lisson Grove" by Regents Park
Awesome Fish and Chips at "Seashell on Lisson Grove" by Regents Park

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