Travel Tip Tuesday: The Preliminaries

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If you are just joining us, BlinkPacking is the art of cramming as much adventure as possible into as tiny a schedule as possible, spending as little as possible while roaming as far as possible. The staff of the BlinkPacking blog (read me, myself, and I) fundamentally believe in two universal truths: everyone desires to live life to the fullest, and everyone has limitations holding them back from doing so.

I am a husband, a dad (of an almost-three-year-old), a small business owner, and the executive director of a non-profit bicycle co-op. Needless to mention, a brick-walled schedule is the molasses through which I must trudge to find a little adventure. Some folks have all the time in the world, but lack the monetary resources they would need to wander. Others have health limitations keeping them pinned to home base. And some are simply scared of anything that may go wrong along the way.

Whatever the bottleneck, BlinkPacking is about finding a way through jam. For today’s Tuesday Travel Tip, here is a sequence of five preliminary planning ideas that acknowledge my constraints while creating ideas for trips that will make me feel alive.

Put it on the schedule
Simple enough? Not really. For a long time, I tried to sift great travel deals from the far reaches of the web, and invariably, whenever I found a deal, the blocks on my calendar were already mucked up with all sorts of scribbles. So now I decide that I will have an adventure — maybe for a week, or maybe for an hour — and I ink it.

Name the limitation
I name, sometimes out loud, whatever is keeping me from having a great time away. Is it money? Is it health? Is it work demands? Is it family drama? Once I say these challenges out loud, I realize that my limitations are commonplace, and often they seem a little less daunting.

Make a Budget
I usually figure $200 will buy me 72 hours of BlinkPacking without breaking the bank. Cheaper is easily with reach, but trips are supposed to be fun after all, and I find $50 – $75 a day (including travel, lodging, food, and entertainment) strikes a nice balance. The amount will be different for everyone, but setting a budget sets a framework for travel choices, and once I have the amounts in my head, any guilt I once had about spending vanishes.

Map it up
Once I have identified how long I can be gone, the limitations I must face in order to go, and the amount of money I am able to spend with a clear conscience, the next step is to browse a favorite map (I prefer Google) for possible destinations or loops. Regardless of how short or long a journey will be, a goal (a city, a mountain peak, an ocean, a state fair…) adds to the anticipation leading up to departure and accomplishment upon arrival.

Flying solo or running in a pack
The final step involves a good bit of self-awareness. Before I plan anything else, I like to decide if I will be traveling by myself or others. Both have clear advantages and downsides. To travel alone is to be light on one’s toes — free to chase any whim that presents itself, and free to ditch it all for a snooze in a sunny park. Not so traveling with companions. A day of BlinkPacking is brimming with decisions, and each takes approximately nine times longer when made in tandem. Inevitably one traveler will miss out out on what they feel will be a goldmine of local experience because the other wants a salad from Wendy’s or some such nonsense.

But there are disadvantages to traveling alone, the sharpest of which for me is loneliness. Friendships are fueled by common experiences, and traveling alone means sharing the sunset, the tacos, the roller-coaster ride, the frigid tent, the final ascent, the class-five rapids, the perfect pizza, the golden autumn sun ripping through an amber forest… with nobody.

Don’t make this decision out of fear. If I need to be alone, I am better served to travel solo, even if inviting a companion would ease some anxiety about the unknowns. But if I am going to spend an entire trip thinking about how I will tell the trip’s stories to my wife and friends, I should consider bringing someone along. Understanding personal goals for travel is the key to making this decision — a choice that will fundamentally change all that is about to unfold.

Check back soon for strategies to shape these initial ideas into a concrete travel plan. And happy journey.

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