By contrast, in the past couple of years we’ve found ourselves increasingly drifting into the habit of looking up facts and figures on our first ever smartphone using local sim cards and data bundles. For much of last summer, for example, every time we got on our bikes we knew pretty much exactly how far and how steep the route ahead of us was, often kilometre-by-kilometre. We’d know if there would be a “steep bit, a flat bit and then steep again” for instance. Also, if we looked at a route and we judged it too long and steep, or even short and easy, we’d pass it by. And it isn’t just cycling where we’ve gotten into the habit of looking ahead.
However, in hindsight, for general planning and pondering what we might do it can also be very time-consuming and stressful as we try and make sure we make the ‘best choice’ from the near infinite options we can explore online. Then, if things don’t work out it can feel frustrating as part of your brain starts to wonder if we could have gathered more information and so planned better somehow.
Likewise, with places to stay. There was a wonderful simplicity in having a single book with a limited number of red dots on the map. Now we can load up CamperContact or Park4night and often see dozens (or more) possibilities all within driving distance. There then follows a “we could go here” or “we could go there” planning session. Then if we do get somewhere and find it doesn’t feel so good, it feels like we could have known better in advance somehow.
Of course, user reviews narrow some of the uncertainty but it can’t be overlooked that everyone has different preferences. Take movie reviews. We tried to watch a movie the other day because it had over 500 ratings and an average of 4.5/5, but we didn’t make it more than ten minutes before looked at each other and said “I’m just not enjoying this.” So it is with overnight stops. What might be a 1-star, dirty and un-serviced parking to one person is a peaceful, rural idyll to another.
Where am I going with this? Firstly, and possibly most importantly, when it comes to planning there isn’t a right and wrong amount to do. Take that bike ride/steep hill I started this post with. It worked out that time but it could equally have been a 20% average gradient and left us knackered for days because we get fixated on reaching the top so easily. Planning keeps us safe, most of the time. That said, now that we do have the internet 95% of the time, for us we’re increasingly realising that when it comes to planning we have to find a balance in how far we take things. Plans are very important to us and we’ll probably talk more about our planning processes and what works for us in another post. We couldn’t get anything like as many things done as we do without a plan of some kind. With so few formal constraints on our time we can, and sometimes have, wasted hours (days) pondering even the simplest decisions.
However, what that ride and our chat on the beach reminded us is that the internet is a tool to help us, not something to then enhance the indecision we already have by adding even more options to the table. We need to set limits on ourselves and not get fixated on believing there is a ‘best’ or ‘perfect’ plan that we can find if we have enough information.
Also, when we do make plans we still need to then release any expectations. Like when we expect good weather and get bad. Or expect a nice parking and find one that feels unsafe. There’s no point then wasting energy wishing it was different, being angry at the people who said it was nice or at ourselves for not making another choice. That resistance just wastes more energy which at the same time could be used creatively to get ourselves out of the situation by making a new plan quickly.
Finally, sometimes there is a real value in just not knowing and allowing ourselves to be surprised. To be able to set out and say “I’ve got no idea what this is going to be like and that’s okay with me today” and then see what arises. It can be frightening but it can also be exciting. And what we’ve experienced and learnt over our years of travel, and even before that, is that life has an incredible way of working out well, and sometimes even better than we could have ever imagined or planned for. And on the off chance something does go wrong, well that’s when mobile internet is a truly useful tool.