Casual travel fits my style. Like the writing pantser* I am, I enjoy seeing what turns up. For me, travel can mean exploring the other side of the world, somewhere in Australia or a suburb just kilometres from home.
In my world, travel and spreadsheets don’t fit in the same sentence. That’s a personal preference, but for accountant Narelle Davis Wilson the fit is natural. In a recent post, Narelle talks about her ‘love of spreadsheets and how they are the perfect tool for planning a holiday’.
I admire Narelle’s thoroughness and dedication to organising the perfect holiday. At the same time, I confess to laziness that prevents me from putting in more planning effort than absolutely required.
As in writing, there are no rules for how people should travel. Well-planned and casual travel have their advantages and disadvantages. They depend on the travellers for their success and enjoyment .
Holidays before ‘travel’
Life before I turned fifty precluded travel outside a small orbit of Western Australia. Holidays meant a tent or two by a river in the bush or at the beach, almost always with an assortment of children and later, grandchildren.
The camping gear sat on a shelf in the shed. It took a few minutes to load it, some food, clothes and kids into the car. We could go for a night or three weeks. Expectations ran high. No plan needed. We’d done it all before and knew it would work out.
When my opportunity came to travel seriously, I had the most amazing coach and teacher, my sister, Elizabeth Worts. She knows how to travel. As well as that, she encouraged those who visited her in Bangkok (where she lived for nearly a decade) to see the world with an open mind, a sense of adventure and clear eyes.
Casual travel in Bangkok
Days on holidays with Elizabeth in Thailand flew by in a flurry of new sights, sounds and smells. In a few weeks I enjoyed
- Golden Wats (temples) and palaces;
- markets where stalls selling fresh fish sat beside those selling live monkeys;
- street stalls with magical offerings where good natured Thais taught me to barter;
- trips up the Choa Phraya River on boats heavily laden with old women carrying babies and old men clutching roosters, all rubbing shoulders with saffron-robed monks;
- seeing the royal barges and the coffin-maker at work beside the river where kids cooled off and housewives tended rabbits in cages suspended over the water;
- going early one morning with Douen, Elizabeth’s maid, to give food to the monks and later to the meat markets where she shopped;
- walking on the beach where smelly fish dried on nets in the sun, and engaging with a chubby baby propped up in the seaweed while his mother worked nearby;
- being drenched to the skin by laughing youngsters who threw buckets of water over us at Songkran, the water festival.
- rafting on white water in the jungle;
- riding downhill on an elephant (not for a minute considering how cruel that was);
- eating amazing food;
- shopping far too much – that was fun, although I rarely buy anything these days;
- meeting other ex-pats.
The list could go on, with random unplanned delights added at every turn. Then, over breakfast one morning, Elizabeth said,
‘Let’s go to Hong Kong for a couple of days.’
And so we did. Just like that! With a mind reeling from excitement and pleasure, my delight in casual travel grew.
I worked out that I would only ever experience a microscopic slice of a world full of amazing people and cultures, scenery, built structures, adventures, sounds and scents. Rather than try to do it all, my approach would be to explore gently, for the time I had and wherever I found myself, with curiosity and awe.
That’s why I choose to do what I call casual travel with few plans and little luggage*. It’s about saying ‘yes’ to whatever presents itself and enjoying the consequences. That’s the way I learned and it still works for me.
*Pantser – writing without a plan (by the seat of your pants)