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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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!