The more and more my site grows, the more I find myself gravitating towards topics with substance. After all, there’s only so many London and Paris guides out there that one can read. While I love guides, sometimes I think it’s far more interesting to debate the areas we don’t really think about. Today I want to make the case for traveling with no agenda.

The Case For Traveling with No Agenda

In an era where Instagram rules our every decisions about fashion, makeup, and travel, is there still a place for just getting lost in a city, with no agenda?

I know what you’re thinking. It’s something like this: “Emily, you’re the one that taught us to use Instagram as a search engine, and you’re the one the that created ‘Instagrammable’ guides to popular cities.” Yes, I did. And I will always still love and use Instagram for finding the coolest, trendiest places.

But the other day, I was reminiscing about all my travels and the best days that accompanied them, when it hit me. Maybe I’ve been too millennial about the whole thing.

When you think back to the best trip you’ve ever taken, what was the highlight for you that made it so unforgettable? In fact, do this with every single trip you’ve taken. I can probably bet it was a day with nothing planned, or a day you stumbled upon the coolest hole in the wall restaurant that completed your trip.

When I actually started thinking about my favorite memories, it was always a day where I had nothing planned and got lost on some random adventure.

I am an intense planner, and I need planning to feel less anxious about things. But I always manage to plan one free day on my trips. Which is kind of ironic that I actually plan for a free day.

The Case For Traveling with No Agenda

London

I remember London 2004 with my family like it was yesterday. It was raining like crazy. Of course, it’s bloody London. I remember wearing flip flops because, at this age, my fashion was very questionable, and I was sliding everywhere on the stones we were walking on. I was the only one to bring an umbrella too, because I had read extensively about the unpredictable weather in London.

A million jokes must have been made about the 16-year-old packing an umbrella. We laughed so hard. We quickly found umbrellas for everyone, and then headed to Westminster Abbey. After, the sun finally broke through and the day quickly got better. We stopped for ice cream in a park by the Tower Bridge and laughed so incredibly hard at the day we had just had.

Though this day didn’t go as planned, it was definitely my favorite day of our trip. Of course, Instagram nowhere near existed back then, but the point is, the unpredictableness of the day filled us with many laughs and memories.

Lisbon

In 2013 I went to Lisbon, and I remember that my favorite day was when we had nothing planned. Nothing to look up on Instagram, nothing to take photos of, and we just walked. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this delicious little bakery, and we still talk about what we ate to this day. I remember we ordered a second ‘pizza pie’ (what we were calling it) after devouring the first one, and the lady didn’t understand that we actually wanted to order another. She thought we were mad!

The Case For Traveling with No Agenda

Greece

This year in Greece, I stumbled upon the cutest little alleyway. Most of the time, I find places like this on Instagram. However, I’ve yet to see this place anywhere, and that’s what makes it so magical.

Copenhagen

One day I walked about 8 miles through Copenhagen, and I saw so much of the city. I was a little sore the next day, but using my phone to order an Uber would have totally made me miss out on little sights and experiences along the way.

On my last day in Copenhagen, I had no agenda whatsoever. I headed to the nearest coffee shop (though I did originally find it because of Instagram, I hadn’t planned on going there at all because it wasn’t super ‘Insta-worthy’) and sat down to catch up on some work. I ended up having a 20-minute conversation with the Danish barista who spoke perfect English. It was so great to be able to talk to someone after traveling solo for a few weeks!

The Case For Traveling with No Agenda

San Francisco

The last time I was in San Francisco, I remember I stumbled upon a cute little coffee shop that I had never even seen come up on Instagram or on the internet anywhere. Having lived in the bay, I couldn’t believe I had found something so perfect and unknown.

These are just a few examples of really great days I’ve had, while not even looking at my phone once.

My favorite days have always been ones where I left my agenda open. It makes me 100% think twice about Instagram and how much we rely on it to find things.

Don’t get me wrong, I have found really really amazing things on Instagram. And I would never dream of taking a trip without planning things to do. Never. But I think there will be less Uber rides in my future, and more ‘free days’ with no agenda.

The Case For Traveling with No Agenda

I find this topic to be quite fascinating because it’s something I never really thought about before. “Traveling is always better with technology,” was my main motto. I’m already thinking of my next post as I type this: How to Properly Get Lost in a Foreign City.

What are your thoughts on the role Instagram plays in your travels? When you recall your days traveling, were your favorites those where you had no agenda? 

Part 2 coming soon!

40 Comments

  1. I am an intense planner myself but you’re right, it’s good to have a free day to just do whatever when you’re out traveling because you really get to enjoy more – as opposed to rushing through sites to get to another place. I was in SF last summer and I’ll admit to being disappointed during some parts of the trip because some things I had planned didn’t quite happen. Oh well, until the next trip!

    cabin twenty-four

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  2. How interesting! I don’t think I could ever travel somewhere comfortably without being prepared or doing some research beforehand. I am a big worrier and my biggest fear while traveling is not taking advantage of the extensive information we have on the internet and thus missing something that could’ve been amazing. Like, I can roam around streets forever and not find anything charming or picturesque, which is why I would much rather have an agenda of “proven” nice places to visit. Maybe my experiences have been bad? For instance, a few years ago, I visited Miami with no agenda and no knowledge of the Wynwood murals (think of all the photo opportunities, not to mention, I love art!) Only after my trip, I started noticing people’s photos at Wynwood on Instagram. I feel a huge pang of regret now, because I probably won’t bother to visit Miami ever again and experience it for myself. So I mean, Instagram can be super helpful – I wouldn’t knock it down completely!

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    1. I totally get what you are saying Kim! I am sort of the same way. I totally plan everything out. I just think some of my favorite moments have happened when I wasn’t so focused on the day being perfectly planned out. Like I’ve run in to really amazing coffee shops, that never once came up when I was in the searching/planning phase. Could I go an entire trip without a plan? No way! Which actually, now that I’m thinking about it, might be a nice challenge someday haha. But I think I’ll continue to leave a few days open for spontaneity!

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      1. It’s great that you have this balance of spontaneity and planned trips! That’s super smart. Now my mind has turned all the way around, wondering if I have prevented myself from stumbling upon amazing coffee shops due to my planned out itineraries haha. I will have to test this in the city this or next weekend 😉 Thanks Emily!

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        1. That’s a good point! There are probably many times I’ve missed out on something cool because the day was already planned. And then it’s the worst when what you had planned turned out to be a flop.

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  3. My husband is like you, he’s an intense planner so when we met for the first time for a two weeks holiday in Malaysia, he wanted to know the schedule for everything. It drove me nuts. LOL! He’s not like that anymore and we’re good with just going with the flow and do what and when we want.

    Shireen⎜Reflection of Sanity

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  4. I totally agree with you! This summer, I took a day trip to Llandudno,Wales with a friend. It wasn’t planned, we had no agenda. We just decided to visit because we learned that it was a seaside town and it was going to be a hot day. It ended up being one of the best trips ever, we simply went with the flow and had so much fun.

    I’m a planner too and I don’t think I could travel abroad without making some sort of plan but I believe that we should always leave a day or two in which we just explore and have no agenda. Great post 🙂

    Coco Bella Blog

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    1. That’s awesome! I love that story! I totally think you need a balance. I like leaving a few days unplanned for spontaneity.

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  5. I love Instagram. I love sharing some travel photos there. But when I travel with my husband, I would sometimes forget that I have to keep this routine of posting daily in my Instagram (as a blogger and a social media professional, it’s kind of like our duty to update stuff online). And true enough, it’s when I’m lost and exploring with my husband have I experienced the best moments in my travels. The time we got lost in Angkor Thom (Cambodia) , the day we spotted the most interesting food places in Davao City (Philippines) just because we walked around without any agenda in mind, and the moment we got to watch our first sunset by the beach together by accident in Ilocos (Philippines).

    Thanks for sharing your experiences, Emily. 😀

    xoxo,
    Gelleesh.com

    Reply
    1. Yes! That’s awesome you have real experience like I do as well. I actually enjoy posting to Instagram when I travel. I usually post like three times a day! Though it does annoy me that I have to sit down somewhere with wifi, edit photos, and decide which to post. It does get daunting.

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  6. I love going places and not having anything in particular planned for at least a few of the days! It’s nice to allow yourself a breather and just explore if you want to – and to just go with the flow. One problem I have with traveling on planned trips is that I feel like you don’t get to experience what the places are really like (especially if you spend a whole day on one excursion!)

    Great post 🙂

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    1. That’s so true! I agree with the excursion taking away for that as well. My favorite thing to do is rent my own car and figure things out as I go! Slightly dangerous and reckless, but so so fun. 😉

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  7. This is so absolutely true! The best memories Ben and I have made on our adventures have always been the unplanned ones. Last year in Hawaii, our kayaking trip went completely haywire and while it was terrifying, it was also something that we still look back on today! We let ourselves do a lot of wandering in Italy, and I’m glad we did, because if we’d been on the hunt for specific locations the whole time, we would’ve missed out on some of the best memories we made.

    Susie | http://milehighdreamers.com

    Reply
    1. Haha I had a similar experience with a kayaking trip! Literally one of the worst days of my life, but now I can totally laugh about it and I’m so glad I had the experience! I would love to get go to Italy and get lost. It sounds magical!

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  8. What a great post, this is definitely one of substance! I find that my most memorable moments from trips are just the memories made with the friends or family I’m spending time with. Often, if we end up somewhere I found on Instagram or just got lost on a random adventure- it’s all the same when those moments are shared with those closest to me. You’re so right about setting off without a plan and having a wonderful experience out of it- those are often the best memories! Your photography is beautiful by the way, I miss the vibrant city of London xx

    http://mylovelierdays.com

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    1. Thank you Diana! London is definitely a favorite. I agree that it does seem all the same when moments are shared. For me, I am usually traveling alone, so NO moments are shared haha! Definitely a part I miss out on…

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  9. When it comes to travelling growing up as a kid, literally all of my travel plans were spontaneous, my dad used to drive us to the North to the South of France camping, I LOVED it, when were were there we used to wonder about and see places along the way, and take evenings as they came. I had the best times.

    Now being older of course I do like to plan ahead if I want to do anything special etc, however I do like the element of surprise too that’s for sure and seeing what happens when we are at the destination of choice 🙂

    Laura xo
    http://www.shehearts.net

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  10. This is a great topic Emily! As much as I love using Instagram to discover cool places to visit, I feel like it’s beginning to dictate my travel plans, where we’re going to places because it’s “instagrammable”. And as much as I love taking a nice picture, I miss going to places purely because I want to, not because it looks good on IG. While I don’t think I can travel without an agenda, I miss the days when I planned things according to our personal preferences, not because Instagram told us so.

    Jenny | Geeky Posh

    Reply
    1. Yes, I totally agree. Especially your last line. Sometimes I have the coolest experiences in a shitty dim-lit bar, but instead, I’ll choose the cute little coffee shop in order to be able to share with everyone else. Which is sort of interesting now that I’m thinking about it. I literally trade my experiences, so other people can have them.

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  11. I can totally agree with you here Emily. Sometimes I feel like technology can do more harm than good because it provides us with almost too many options. Like why can’t we travel like our parents did back in the day and just stumble upon cute places to eat and sight-see without our phone telling us where to go with every step. It definitely has it’s pros and cons.
    http://www.lacasabloga.com

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    1. Yes I agree! In fact, I think the best way to describe it is that it does have its pros and cons. Often time I am super conflicted!

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