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Here I go again on my Own! The Psychology of Travel.

Going down the only road I've ever known...

The psychology of travel refers to the mental, emotional, and behavioral ways that people experience the act of traveling. It can include motivation, decisions during travel, managing stress when traveling, cultural influences and reactions, and the actions we take in planning and going on travels.

Which do you think is better, meticulously planned vacations or spontaneous travel? Do you prefer to have every aspect of your trip laid out before you or would you rather go as the wind takes you? What does the psychological research tell us about this? Let’s explore these questions and topics here, as we delve into the psychology of planning versus spontaneity in travel.

Both approaches have their merits. So, this isn’t a discussion about the “right” way or the “wrong” way to approach your travels. However, it can be extremely helpful to recognize your style as well as the style of anyone you’re traveling with! I tend to prefer traveling alone, I have my reasons and they have wrung true any time I deviated from this conclusion. You can read more of my recent post covid travel blogs HERE.

If you’re like me, you have an initial gut feeling about your travel preferences when it comes to questions of having a plan versus being spontaneous.

Let’s first explore the benefits and drawbacks of having fully defined travel plans for all aspects of your trip.

In terms of benefits, it can reduce stress to know ahead of time where you are going to stay, how you’re going to get around, and the activities that you’d like to engage in. In fact, planning might be necessary to secure reservations for a particular restaurant or tour experience. So, clearly planning is the best method, right?

Hold that thought. There are drawbacks to excessive travel planning as well. For one, it takes a significant amount of legwork to establish meticulous travel plans. If you have a travel agent or planner, wonderful! It still comes at a cost and effort on your part to make known your travel goals and to understand the proposed travel plan.

Also, it can be quite physically and emotionally draining to require yourself to adhere to your strict plans. Unexpected events are inevitable during travel, such as missing a flight or arriving late for a reservation. If you’re too stuck to your plan, you risk miles of frustration as you backtrack and re-develop a new plan.

Allow yourself to be spontaneous in your travels and you may find a world of excitement and unique experiences you never could have planned for.

How can you plan to visit that incredible local swim hole that only the locals know about unless you meet them and they share their recommendations with you? Sometimes online reviews are inaccurate (shocking, right!). Sometimes the best way to get to know a vacation destination is to set foot on the ground and explore for yourself.

For those who enjoy the unplanned, invigorate your senses through edge-of-your-seat novelty that comes with spontaneity. Avoiding tourist traps is much easier with this form of travel. Okay then, clearly spontaneity is the best approach, right?

Again, hold that thought. Drawbacks abound for the spontaneous travel approach as well. For example, certain logistical problems can be avoided with planning. Whether by land, air, or sea, you better have a ticket or else you risk sold-out flights or unhelpful routes.

What if the hotels in the area you are traveling to have sold out for the night? Plus, you may miss out on opportunities to find the ideal restaurant or tourist attraction without a little pre-travel research.

At the moment of this publication I am in Mexico City on a layover to South America, Ecuador specifically. I will arrive in Quito early Saturday morning, just in time for Christmas. Travel is very exciting and soul fulfilling. Stay tuned for my next few posts on food, culture and family, Ecuadorian style!

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