I am, and have always been—a planner.
An avid to-do-lister. A plan your days, weeks, months, and even years planner. And a previous weddings and events planner. You can say that organization and time-management hold high priorities in my life.
These things that allow me to feel a sense of control over my life give me comfort in the direction that I am heading; but there’s a fine line between expectation and reality.
Often, if not always, life does not go according to plan. As much as you try and control your circumstances, the ever-changing world will always have its own plan. The only thing you can control is your response at any given moment. You can choose resistance when plans go astray, or you can choose to surrender to the new conditions. You can get frazzled and worked up when something goes wrong, or you can adapt to the new situation with an open mind and flexibility.
Traveling has made these realizations ever so clear, and has slowly but surely transformed me from a planner to an adventurer.
I used to totally freak out when things did not go as planned.
I would get annoyed when I would make plans with friends and they bailed—especially when I got all ready and had a new (probably Forever 21) outfit on.
I would get frustrated when my transportation was late, derailed by traffic, or wrongly scheduled—causing me to miss or be tardy to some pre-scheduled event.
I would get disappointed when I checked into a hotel room that was nothing like it looked online.
I would get pissed off when I planned a trip to the beach and mother nature decided to rain cats and dogs the entire day. Or when the shirt I ordered from some random website was too small. Or when the food I ordered did not taste half as good as it looked in the picture. Or when I couldn’t scratch off all the things on my to-do list…
Sounds pretty pessimistic, right? Possibly. But at the root of all my mood-swings was one thing—expectations. We all have them, and we all experience them being unmet. But we don’t all deal with them the same.
See, planning is not a bad thing. I believe it’s necessary to have some structure in your life, some foundation for your future, and some goals to chase after that enhance your personal and professional growth.
The problem lies when the expectations that consciously or unconsciously reside within these plans don’t match your reality.
The issue arises when something does not go as you expected/predicted/planned—and that throws you off course. And that unexpected situation causes you to move quickly and react; instead of thinking it through and respond.
For anyone that’s traveled, you know first-hand how often plans go astray. From plane flights to weather, travel can be as unpredictable as the lottery.
For a first-time traveler/obsessive planner like myself, I had a huge reality check.
When I first began to travel, I would book accommodation for my entire trip and research the best “touristy” things to do, then schedule an itinerary for every day. As the universe would have it, I experienced many situations where things did not go according to my plan, and it took everything in me to surrender to the outcome.
Let me tell you friends, this made my travels—and my life—so much better.
I began to let go of my need for control.
I accepted when things went wrong, I challenged myself to become more spontaneous, and I found pleasure in “going with the flow”.
Those who have been traveling longer than me would probably agree that this change in attitude is something that is only learned through experience—as many things in life are. Finding a balance between planning and adventuring is the key to making the most out of your current life situation, whether you’re at home or abroad.
Before I moved abroad, I had this “five-year-plan” that I was going to teach English in a new continent each year. I was eager to travel the world, but wanted to give myself enough time to immerse myself in a culture by living in a country for one year’s time.
Now actually having lived abroad, I’ve come to learn that planning time is tricky. A year can seem so long when you’re looking ahead, but so short when looking back. And being abroad, for me, has created a sense of urgency to see as much of the world as possible (I think I’ve been bitten by this “travel bug”).
Phrases like “life is short”, and “tomorrow isn’t guaranteed”, and Garth Brooks “Live Like You Were Dying” play in my head as I justify this desire to change my course.
Traveling around to new places reignites the passion inside of me to follow my dreams.
It reminds me of the joy I get from being in new places and learning about new cultures and meeting new people. It tells me that I am uncomfortable with being comfortable. It reiterates that although none of these things were part of my “plan”, I feel as compelled as ever to embrace adventure and act as if I cannot fail.
I am not sure of what the future has in store for me—none of us can be—but I do know that I will let my intuition guide me.
With a lot of flexibility, and a little planning, we can find the perfect balance between surrender and control as we move through our lives.
Free of expectations and full of hope,