Notes On Being A Good Traveler, With No Intent On Arriving

lao tzu

I love this quote by Lao Tzu. To me, it’s not referring so much to the actual hotel and your bookings, but to a mindset of taking things as they come and being open to any outcome. It’s going on a trip and not knowing what exactly will happen, but appreciating the journey either way.

When backpacking solo through South America for three months I only booked my flight there and home, as well as my hostel for the first three nights. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t want to know. My goal was to get swept away in the unexpected, to meet other travelers and join in on their adventures, to hike otherworldly landscapes, to learn about places I didn’t even know existed.

Having no trip expectations also ensured I wouldn’t be disappointed with the outcome. And to this day, that trip is my absolute favorite, not only because of what a wonderful place South America was to visit, but because no plans went awry. Because there were no plans, every adventure turned out exactly as it should.

Even trips that are hard to enjoy can be appreciated if you have an open mind. When spending a month in Thailand, I ended up living with a family that had a real bug problem (tarantulas and cockroaches, oh my!). Not only that, but bucket showering and squat toilets were a bit hard for me to get used to.

While initially I’ll admit I felt overwhelmed, I decided to change my mindset. I was having an experience not many others would ever get to, immersing myself in a foreign culture and growing in the process. I became a “yes” woman, lapping up every opportunity to try new things — from playing Majong to cooking Tom Yum — and became open to whatever was thrown at me. While it wasn’t my most comfortable trip, it is one of my most treasured.

Lao Tzu

Tayrona National Park, exploring the beaches. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa.

On a recent trip to Colombia my friend and I planned to camp on Cabo San Juan in Colombia’s Tayrona National Park for two nights. This made me nervous, as I’m not very good at relaxing. I pictured two days of lounging around in beach hammocks, which typically for me is more of a nightmare than a paradise. But still, I decided to see what this Colombian adventure would be like, having no expectations but being open to the possibilities.

Upon arriving I was pleasantly surprised to find the beach getaway began with a 3-hour challenging mixed landscape hike, weaving up and down mountain hills, through jungle and across white sand beaches. Once we arrived, the warm Caribbean waters provided a place to wash off the sweat. And at sunset, a bottle of red wine with new friends turned into a game of Man Hunt on the beach and building a “rocket” to blast off into space.

tayrona national park

A sunset view of the aerial hammocks. Photo courtesy of Jessica Festa.

I was also shocked at how easily I fell into the chill vibe of the beach. I opted for hammock accommodation, and found myself glued into the cloth swing like it was a cocoon. Swaying in the ocean breeze, listening to the waves lapping up on the shore, I was finally able to do something I typically had such a hard time with: relaxing.

Going into the trip with no expectations allowed me to experience the destination organically. Having no set plans allowed the destination to surprise me, while having no intent on arriving enabled Tayrona to continue influencing me even after I’d left.

Tweet: Having no #trip plans leaves you open to unexpected #adventure and #organic experiences http://ctt.ec/UmbxO+ #travel

Lao Tzu

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How do you feel about having no set plans and no intent on arriving?

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