"Traveling without a plan? Ha! That will never be me!"
My travel plans were set:
I would fly into Granada, out of Seville, and in between hit up Córdoba, Ronda, and Gibraltar. It was going to be perfect since the weather in Southern Spain can't be beat and February isn't exactly tourist season. As my departure date neared I dove into my typical city research and realized that the weather might not be as ideal as I had hoped.
It looked like it might rain or possibly even snow in Granada, Córdoba, and Ronda. No worries, I thought, I'll just adjust my itinerary based on how the weather plays out. So I headed to Andalusia with two nights of accommodations booked in Granada and no idea where I was headed next.
Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a planner. I love the spontaneity of switching plans at the last minute, but traveling without a plan in the first place? Blasphemous.
Here's an example: when I backpacked through Europe for 3-weeks after college I had all of my flights and trains booked, but only my first hostel. The night before I flew from Los Angeles to Madrid I frantically booked a place to sleep for every night of my trip. Who was I kidding!? I needed to know that I had a place to sleep each night ;).
As I boarded the plane to Granada, I was pleased with myself that not knowing where I would be in 48 hours didn't totally freak me out. In fact, I was pretty alright with basically having no travel plans. And now, reflecting back on the week, I'm still glad I did it.
The trip wasn’t perfect, I missed some things I really wanted to do, and I spent more time on my computer than usual, but every day was still filled with awesome adventures - just maybe not the ones I had imagined.
Here's what was great about traveling without a plan:
I ended up traveling from Granada to Malaga to Seville since it was raining in Córdoba, snowing in Ronda, and only possible to get to Gibraltar via Blabla car (ride sharing), which didn't make sense for a half-day excursion. This means that instead of sitting inside drinking coffees and staring out the window at miserable weather, I relaxed in a Hammam in Granada, looked out over the beach from Malaga's Alcazaba, and drank cañas in Seville's oldest market and at the city's oldest rooftop bar.
I had to work harder to find places to stay since “the best” places were already booked, but this extra work paid off. I found an Airbnb in Seville that was cheaper than the cheapest hostel and provided me a private room. Score!
I also had to ask locals a lot more questions, which definitely enhanced my experience (did you know that people are typically pretty friendly to strangers?!). I started by going to a tourist office in every city and asked them what they would do for the amount of time I had.
Also, as I drank my daily morning coffee, I asked my baristas what they would do (or here's a good one, “If your best friend was in town for as much time as I am, what would you tell them to do!?”). In Malaga I got very lucky because my barista had lived in Malaga for a few years, but grew up in Seville. Double the travel recommendations! Yes!
Here's what was not so great about traveling without an itinerary:
My lack of planning meant I missed one of the activities I was looking forward to most:
Biking the Via Verde
This is a bike path along abandoned railroad tracks north of Seville in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Because I didn't realize that there's only one train there in the morning (9AM) and bike rental shops in Seville don't open until 10AM, I was stuck having to miss it. I'm disappointed, but because I know I'll be back, it's not the end of the world.
I also didn't climb the rock of Gibraltar where monkeys would have surrounded me and I would have been able to see Spain, Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic in one panoramic view. I missed Córdoba's Mesquita and the photos ops of Ronda, but frankly, with the expected weather, if I'd been there, I doubt I would have captured what I wanted anyway. But I did get this sweet shot of Malaga's Alcazaba:
So, is traveling without a plan perfect? Nope. It's messy, and you may miss out on some experiences, but you’ll also discover things you didn’t know existed and you will absolutely still have a great trip. I know that for me, planning is in my blood and while it was a fun experience to travel on a whim, I'll probably revert back to my planning ways in no time.
P.S. Have you ever traveled without a plan? I want to hear about it in the comments below!