Traveling Without Plans

Emma Ropski
December 1, 2015

I love plans.

As some who can experience a lot of anxiety, plans give order to an unpredictable world and help to organize, even if in a flawed and untrue way, an unknown future. Filling out months worth of calendars and writing to do lists are extremely satisfying to me. I love creating workout plans or making pretty spreadsheets that have specific daily, weekly, and monthly goals. I’ve even already designed my weekly schedule for this coming spring semester with planned in lunch and homework slots. Even if I don’t follow them to the tee, just having them and making them brings me comfort because it draws out a plausible future.

This past weekend when traveling to Paris I had no plans. My friend and I did arrange our flights and our sleeping arrangements, but the four days between the flights were completely empty. Now, from first glance I would’ve said that this was a bad story just waiting to happen. There were too many unanswered questions: How will we get to the hostel from the airport? What will the hostel be like? Do I need a towel? Or a lock? How will we get to our host’s home after that? How does their public transportation work? What sites should we plan to see? Do any of these cost money? How much? What are we going to do??? Luckily, I wasn’t able to ruminate on these questions as much and research them ahead of time because I was busy with other things like school assignments and making stuffing for Thanksgiving. Since I was occupied, I was forced accept that I needed to trust that things would just workout.

This trust helped me to have one of the best weekends of my life. What happens when you don’t have plans? Well, you figure things out and you live by the seat of your pants. You ask for help at information desks and you get a map that you end up writing all over and folding and refolding so many times it tears at the creases. You’re up for anything and willing to take detours because you have time to spend and no other plans to worry about except eating somewhere and eventually heading back to homebase to sleep. With little expectations for what the day holds, everyday has the potential to be fantastic because it wasn’t an absolute failure and some fun was had. Without plans, you follow where your senses take you, whether it’s into the Musée de l'Armée by its golden crown dome seen from blocks away, into the Labyrinthe du Jardin des Plantes because seeing the word “labyrinthe” on a sign in a garden got you excited, or into a supermarket for a sleeve of biscuits because you were craving them.

Getting turned around wasn’t scary but only required that we pull over, sit on a bench, and take a look at the map. If we got on the wrong metro, we got off and got on the right one. If we made a mistake somewhere, we just used another ticket. If we weren’t having fun somewhere, we left. When my head was cold I bought a hat and when I lost a glove along the way I bought a new pair. I’m sure, to many of you, these solutions sound so simple and obvious, but before they seemed too easy and too hard to believe for me. I guess I never could have imagined how incredibly freeing it could be to simply explore, not have to worry about what comes next, and genuinely trust myself to troubleshoot the hurdles of life effectively if need be.

I love having no plans.

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Emma Ropski

<p>Hi all! My name is Emma Ropski and I&#39;m a senior sociology and psychology major at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. I am a middle distance runner on the track and field team there and love it to bits. My interests include the sociological imagination, thrifting, lifting, daytime judge shows, and gorditas. I am so excited to share my study abroad experience in Barcelona with you!</p>

2015 Fall
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