travel

'I'm highly organised, so I challenged myself to "go with the flow" on holiday. Here's how it went.'

I love lists. 

To-do lists, to-buy lists, monthly lists, daily lists, yearly lists. I love diaries, planners, and calendars. I love to know what I’m doing tomorrow and the next day. 

Basically, I'm obsessive about organisation.

Whilst it sounds like a blessing to be so on top of everything, a part of me has always hated it. Do you remember doing endless personalities quizzes in high school? I always wanted to get a result that told me I was adventurous, spontaneous, and carefree. 

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Maybe it was a byproduct of growing up with the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope – a character defined by her impulsiveness – but people who lived unstructured lives filled with spur-of-the-moment activities just seemed so cool. 

I imagined those people accepting invites at midnight and having moonlight adventures, while I’d be declining invites that give me a full 24-hour heads up because I actually need a week to mentally prepare, thanks.

Given all that, it should come as no surprise that when it comes to holidays, I’ve always approached them with extreme organisation. I meticulously research and plan out daily events. A part of this is borne out of that innate pressure to get the most of a holiday, and part of it is just, well, me being me.

However, on my most recent holiday to Tasmania, I decided it was time for a different approach. This holiday, I decided I was going to be the adventurous, spontaneous girl of my dreams and not plan a single thing in advance. 

I was going to go with the flow.

The lead-up to the holiday kick-started the stress.

Friends, family, and co-workers were naturally curious about my upcoming travels and asked the normal "what are you planning on seeing" questions. And whilst I feigned a chill-girl shrug and replied, "Oh, we haven’t planned anything too concrete yet", inside I was panicking. 

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Without the guidelines of my usual lists, I was already afraid that we would miss out on something while we were over there, some sort of must-see attraction that we would overlook in our laissez-faire approach. 

And, well, for a holiday where I was going to be the ultimate laid-back girl, I sure did spend the first few days thinking a whole lot about how little we had planned.

There was a constant sense of anxiety in starting one day without knowing what we would do the next. I’d ask my partner, "So what do you want to do tomorrow?" and he, aware of my experiment, would wag a finger, "Nope, we can’t decide until it’s actually tomorrow, remember?"

Damn him and his support. 

But the more I wanted to back out of it, the more I leaned in. I tried to look for opportunities to be spontaneous – though I’m sure actively looking for "spontaneous things to do" is completely against embodying spontaneity, but cut me some slack, I was new to this. 

And, I had to admit, there were moments that proved that not planning every detail of the day could lead to pretty cool experiences like:

  • A walk down Jackson’s Trail on Mount Wellington that, despite inspiring thoughts of getting lost or murdered, was gorgeous and rainforest-like in a way that I didn’t think the Australian landscape could be.
  • A lunch at Willie Smith’s Cidery, with food so good my partner finished one meal and ordered another main meal afterwards because "I just don’t know when I’ll ever eat this good again".
  • A day spent in our cottage, relaxing, because we started listening to our bodies and doing what we actually felt like each day (which on that day was absolutely nothing) 

There were hiccups, of course. Having not planned somewhere to eat for dinner, most places were booked up. We also drove all the way to Port Arthur for a ghost tour only to find out they only ran on certain nights, meaning we had to return three nights later.

'There was a constant sense of anxiety in starting one day without knowing what we would do the next.' Image: Supplied.

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But I learnt a few things from the experiment. 

I learnt that there is a freedom in waking up and taking a moment to think about what you want to do, rather than what you think you should do, or what you’ve told yourself you must do.

When I go on holiday – and maybe even in real life – I’m often consumed with the "should be's". I should be doing this, I should be doing that. 

I think this is what drives me to plan everything so meticulously; I feel like I must meet some imagined benchmark of productivity each day. But "going with the flow" saw me following the whims of my mental and physical state and this made for a more relaxing holiday.

Pssst. Have kids? Then you might want to listen to this episode on This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.

I still don’t think a holiday should be entirely unplanned. Our hiccups proved that to me. But I learnt that there needs to be wriggle room to allow for unprompted moments to happen. 

To sound completely cheesy – because why not embarrass myself publicly on a website – the unplanned moments are where the magic is, where you let yourself be fully present, instead of worrying about the past or the future.

If you’re reading this, I feel like you’ll fall into two camps – either you will completely understand my experience or you’ll be confounded by how such simple things could have stressed me out (those are the people who got the "adventurous, spontaneous" quiz results in high school, I’m sure). 

That’s totally fine, but for those of you who relate a little too much to my story, I hope you now know that we can relinquish a bit of control and still have fun. 

A lot of my over planning is linked to my anxiety. I use organisation as a coping mechanism to calm my overactive mind and, for this reason; I know I’ll never truly be that carefree Manic-Pixie-Dream-type person. But I’ve now learnt I can be just a smidgeon more relaxed and, yes, still thrive. 

And you know what? I’ll take that. 

For more from Shaeden Berry, you can follow her on Instagram @berrywellthanks.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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