Saturday, 19 February 2011

Planning Pains

We need to back up. In the excitement of planning, we dove into the deep end without knowing how to swim. So back to the starting block, where we will actually create a plan of action before taking action.

This realization came last night, as we spent several hours looking at round the world (RTW) plane tickets only to come to the realization that we don't even know where we want to go yet. We thought we did. Or at least, I thought we did. But a huge project like this that involves two people takes communication, compromise and patience- three things that were sorely lacking as we attempted to plan our itinerary.

We started the planning by creating a spreadsheet with each country we wanted to visit and how long we wanted to stay there. It started off pretty straightforward, but then quickly went South as Vincent randomly started wanting to add countries and take time away from the countries that interested me most. Such is trying to plan a trip with two people. Between the constantly changing itinerary and the online RTW ticketing program, which alternated between tedious and maddeningly frustrating, dear reader, I lost my sh-t.

The ensuing tantrum led to an extremely necessary coming to Jesus talk, during which we stopped all discussion of planning and went back to why we want to do this trip in the first place. When we first talked about the trip and made the decision to do it, we had certain goals in mind. But as we started reading books and blogs, looking at maps and itinararies, watching travel shows and rising ticket prices, our excitement took precedence over our goals. We just wanted to see and do and taste and experience without asking why.

So now was are backing up and asking why. Why do we want to do this? What is our goal? Part of asking those questions is recognizing and accepting that each of our answers might be different. We asked each other the questions, "What is your goal for this trip? What do you want to get out of it?" My answer was, "I want to gain knowledge of both the world and myself, as well as experience and skills, to have clarity on how I want to live my life and what I want to do going forward." Vincent's answer was, "I want to have a completely new experience in order to see life and myself from a different perspective, which will help me see things more clearly."

Those two answers sound similar, but we acknowledged that they meant different things. While Vincent was looking for new experiences, I was looking for knowledge and skills. We could easily see this difference when we started planning, as V wanted to see as much as possible, while I wanted to take more time to volunteer and stay in places longer. To work through this difference, we then made two lists: one list of things we wanted during the trip and one of things we wanted to avoid during the trip. These lists looked like this:

• Feel like in each place we go, we are there for a reason
• Enjoy ourselves
• Take time to relax, live at a slower pace
• Experience/do things that are completely unique to the places we visit
• Learn another language

• Feel like we are always on the move and missing the experience
• Spending too much time in transit, especially on planes
• Spend too much money, not spend money wisely

After looking at these sub-goals, we both had much more clarity as to what kind of trip we want and therefore, how we need to plan it. Vincent realized that he actually valued quality over quantity, while I realized that I can't see this trip as a compass for a resulting career. Most of all, we cannot put too much pressure on ourselves to see and do, and lose sight of our goals to enjoy ourselves and relax.

We are going to try to restart the planning tonight with these goals in mind. As we go forward, every decision we make will be held up against our goals. We can always be flexible, but now we understand that as we plan, we need to continuously ask ourselves the most fundamental question:"Why?"