To Plan or Not to Plan…that is the question

The view from our hut at Simrose in Agonda, Goa

As we relax on the gorgeous beach here in Agonda my mind is filled with nothing but sounds of the sea crashing against the sand. A lazy bark of the dog curled up by my feet causes me to open my eyes to the warm, bright afternoon sun in time to see the speckled cows making their way down the sand. Before returning to kaleidoscope show playing on the inside of my eyelids I follow their path down the beach and take a moment to watch the adorable local children playing soccer on the sand using nothing but an empty water bottle and etched out goals. It’s hard to believe that we’ve only been here a week, since the noise and dirt of Mumbai seem 1,000 miles away from the cabana at Simrose. As my eyes glance at my watch and notice that we have already hit 5pm a single question enters my mind…what should we do for dinner?

Man, wouldnt that be nice if it were true? Dont get me wrong, for the most part that entire scene is accurate. We have been spending our days lazily listening to the ocean, reading our books and taking in the glorious views. We have even ventured outside of the comfort of our sea facing balcony or cabana to enjoy a walk along the beach or a dip in the ocean a couple times a day. Agonda truly is an escape from the craziness that is India and is as peaceful as you can imagine. What has not become peaceful yet is my mind. Sure, compared to my former ‘normal’ day to day, my mind has slowed down considerably. Despite the occasional work dream (which is impressive since I no longer have a job…Hi ABC2!), I have, for the most part, been able to turn my brain off. However, there is one part that I just cant keep quiet…the planner.

As many of you know I am a natural born planner. Some lovingly refer to my desire to think through every scenario as being a ‘control freak’ but I like to think of it as being extremely prepared to take full advantage of every situation. So you can imagine my struggles as we began planning this 12 month trip. Sure, we had a loose itinerary of countries to visit and within those a short list of ‘must sees’, but nothing was overly researched or set in stone. We were going to make it up as we went along in an effort to keep ourselves open to opportunities and experiences as they presented themselves. In theory that is all well and good, especially if you are already the ‘go with the flow’ kind of person…but I’m not. So in practice, this plan to keep things easy and stress-free has actually been causing me a great deal of worry. While I think it could have actually worked fine in easier destinations like the US or Europe where, while being unknown, places are somewhat familiar and local customs/rules are for the most part the same as home, in an place like India, where things feel backwards and upside down, the simple act of wandering around town deciding where to eat lunch can be overwhelming (especially for those of us who cant eat onion/garlic…yeah).

So now that we have been in India for 2.5 weeks and have been able to right ourselves and feel stable I am left with my eternal question…to plan or not to plan?  With just 9 weeks left in our tour of India I am filled with the desire to milk it for everything it’s got. I want to explore the ruin village of Hampi, spend the night on a houseboat in Kerala, visit an Ashram to learn yoga, venture into the foothills of the Himalayas to try out white water rafting, experience the insanity that is Varanassi, be pelted with colored powder during Holi, see for myself what all the hype is about Udaipur and, of course, visit the Taj Mahal. And while we definitely have time to make all of that happen it will take some planning. Trains need to be reserved, ashram slots need to be requested, motion sickness pills need to be purchased. One of the biggest challenges when making these plans is guessing how much time we want to spend in each place. One of the (supposed) freedoms of a trip like this is our ability to plan as we go. To arrive in a city and decide after a day or two if we need more time or if we’re ready to move on. And while, for some people, that is a possible way to go, for people like us (aka – no bus rides longer than 5hrs, prefer 3AC or higher on trains, etc), reservations are pretty much required a week or two out (more for popular routes).

So I have to decide, am I going to try and completely fight my urge to have plans in place and just ‘go with the flow’ or should I just accept who I really am and try to enjoy the most spontaneous ‘Danielle’ trip we can? (I have a feeling nature will win since I currently have 15+ tabs open, scouting out tours, hotels and train schedules…oy)

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