About a year and a half ago, I saw a cruise around Asia for a very reasonable price. Asia has never been on my bucket list, but this caught my attention. In my mind, it’s a bit of a scary place; they use symbols instead of letters! Although I understood that English was spoken in some places, it was not spoken as freely as in many European countries. Jim had been to Japan but none of the other countries on the cruise itinerary. He agreed it would be a grand adventure, so I placed the deposit and forgot about it. Now and then, when I had time, I would research bits and pieces about traveling to this area of the world, make a few notes, and then move on to other things.

Planning is a big part of how we travel, but I am in awe of those who can pack up and head to a new destination with no plans. Initially, I thought this might be a good place to do that. My goal was to stay away from familiar hotel chains, check out some local lodging options so I knew what was available, and wing it as they say. This was just a cruise, after all; perhaps we would stay a few days before and after to explore, but I really wasn’t concerned. A good friend of ours decided it might be an interesting trip, so she signed up to come along. We also discussed a side trip to Europe after the cruise, a place we are very familiar with.

Change of Plans

After months of having the trip penciled into our calendar, our dear friend had a hiccup in her plans that forced her to withdraw from the trip. We’ve traveled with her before, and she’s a great addition to any trip, but we understood her dilemma. Her change of plans made me realize how little I had actually planned. This was my wing-it trip, but we did need the basics, like visas and airline tickets. Although I knew this would be a long flight, I didn’t grasp how long it would take to get there until I started looking for tickets. We discussed some options and decided if we were going to spend that much time on a plane, we would look at other interesting areas in the region.

A New Itinerary

We made a list and started researching places to go and see. We added three countries, one cruise and three months to our original plan when all was said and done. Taking our time and staying in one place longer than we had in the past was added to our new itinerary. When I dove into lodging options, I found that many of the “wing it” folks were way more adventurous than we were. Some of the cute little motels they recommended were definitely not places we would be comfortable staying in (either area-wise or amenity-wise). Holiday Inn was looking better and better. A few of the more remote locations on the list did not offer a big brand alternative, so we researched as much as possible and picked places that fit our travel comfort zone.

About eight months before departure, I began earnestly researching and planning with the wing-it style and the basic local motel ideas out the window. Although we were no longer winging it, I did want to leave a few days of no plans and flexible options for last-minute suggestions or finds. I made a list of things to do and see in all of the destinations we selected but actually planned just a few tours before we left. It was a huge undertaking, worked on as time permitted, and files and notes outnumbering anything we had ever done before.

The closer we got to departure day, the more time that was spent preparing to go. Did we have all of the travel documents necessary? Could we make this trip with just a carry-on? All the fine details were addressed, we hoped. Departure day arrived, and off we went.