Assume you will return


I’ve been helping to plan some travels for someone else recently, a nice change for me given how often people talk about how they aren’t able to travel. We’re going through all the usual decisions, but knowing that there is limited time (as always), planning can be quite overwhelming, especially when one wants to see everything.

And planning trips when looking through a guidebook is not too different from ordering food from a restaurant: in one case our eyes can be bigger than our stomach, in the other, our desire to see everything can be bigger than our physical (and mental) ability to take it all in.

Nevertheless, there is real pressure. The thought process goes like: “I’m going to this exotic place! I need to see it all!” We wouldn’t dare attempt to see the area where we live in a few days, so why would we think we have the ability to do this when we go somewhere new, full of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and tastes? And yet we do.

But as I was thumbing through this particular guidebook, one phrase stuck out to me. When discussing when and how to do certain activities, there was a suggestion to make sure to include down time in your itinerary. And then the wisdom:

“Assume you will return.”

I think those four words encapsulate all possible good advice I have ever heard about travel.

If not now, later

If you are returning, you don’t need to see everything. Instead of going emotionally bankrupt trying to find yourself at every spot, every sight, every restaurant, etc., you can stop, take a breath, and go through your travels at a pace that matches the rest of your life. In your “regular” life you have down time, partially because you enjoy it, but also to allow you to rest up and enjoy when you go out again. An afternoon spent sitting in a park, or even sitting inside watching the passing scene is not “time wasted.”

If you are returning, you don’t need to spend tons of money. Much like how people “blow the diet” when it’s their birthday, there’s often a sense during travel that one should just do it all and hang the expense of it. But if you’re returning, there isn’t that same urgent need to “do it all,” so there isn’t that need to blow your budget out of the water. Besides, souvenirs can be great to bring home, but credit card debt is not. And travel doesn’t have to be expensive to be done well.

So when you’re planning your next travel adventure, whether it’s a weekend to a nearby city or a large-scale expedition to another continent, remember this: assume you will return. If you can take that feeling to heart, you’ll find that you’re more able to enjoy what time you do have, without feeling overwhelmed by the pressure that accompanies a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because it won’t be, if you don’t let it.

Do you approach your travels as if it’ll only happen once? Or do you assume you’ll return?

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