Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

What I Learned In Oz (pt. 2)

Written 13 – 15 November

[This is an installment in a series on where I am in mind and personality compared to where I was at the start of my 13 months abroad.]

Relaxing on my need to plan everything

Aside from adapting to the life of an itinerant (or a hobo if you want to be jerk about it), I’ve learned a lot about finding my way and finding others.

My Type A personality has released its talons a little bit further. Just six years ago, for my first overseas trip, my planning was bordering on obsessive. Honestly, it probably wasn’t bordering so much as cohabitating with. I read the entirety of the Europe on a Shoestring guide, listing everything I wanted to do in every country. Then I set timelines to each city and to each country. Prague would take 3 days to do right. Spain 2 weeks. And I plotted everything out on a giant map of Europe. What was close to other things? What could be bundled? What required flights? And then combining proximity, travel times, transport options, and priority of preferences, I put together about 8 itineraries for the 5 week trip. Then I gave them all to my sister to select and weed out as she saw fit. And we did all of this around February and March for a trip that was to happen in June. Everything was planned to the day, and usually to the few hours.

Here in Oz? I bought a guide book once I got here. I read most of it by the time I had left, but usually a state at a time, and usually just the state I was about to visit (or the one I was already in). I asked suggestions. I used web searches for specifics. I used CouchSurfing. And for the most part I just winged it (wung it?). In the big cities I knew I would be there long enough to not need to be efficient. List a few of the highlights, see them, and while seeing them figure out what else there is to do around them. In the in-between areas I plotted a bit. I do still have the Type A planner in me. But it is the way I think. For each state I read through, I drew a likeness of the state and plotted out on the map where everything cool seemed to be. If something was 6 hours out of the way, it got cut. If something was on the way, I’d consider it. Nothing was necessary, but as I drove through a place I could quickly check why the town name sounded familiar and stop if the timing seemed right. Great pub with a cliff-top view over the ocean, passing at 5PM. Sure, let’s stop in. Oyster capital of Australia only 15 minutes out of my way and I’m hungry. Done and done. Beautiful sounding nature park we’d be passing in a rush on our way to get somewhere else. Meh, can’t win them all.

The only parts of the trip that really required planning and scheduling were the ones that were based around other people’s schedules. The first was my mom’s visit. She flew into Melbourne on a date. I would need to be back there for it. And she wanted to see Cairns and Sydney as well. We would have to book flights, so we set timelines. They weren’t planned to the minute. They were statements like “Five days in Melbourne seems sufficient. And about the same in Sydney.” And we worked with what the weather dealt us.

The second and only other section requiring much planning was the Outback loop and Sam’s timeline for joining me. I chose to be in Bathurst for the big race, which set a place and a time. Sam would have a two week vacation starting on a certain date. I figured out what I wanted to see, how long I expected it would take, how much driving time to factor in, and where airports were for her to fly in. Alice Springs to Bathurst would be about 2 weeks. And I wanted 3 weeks in the Northern Territory prior to that. And given that I was in Brisbane 9 weeks prior to Bathurst, the timeline for each state and leg seemed set. There were no days other than Sam’s arrival and Bathurst’s start. There were merely general directions and general windows. And that worked. My estimates of driving times turned out to be completely shot due to night driving and the fact that Sam is on her Learner’s Permit which holds her to only 80 km/hr, even on 130 km/hr roads. But we saw things, and we got places, and all without a psychotic level of planning. And I don’t think that being obsessive about it and stressing about it would have resulted in any better plan. I just would have lost a week of the trip to planning and nights of sleep to stress. So I’m calling it a success. And with each success I can feel the stress and the need to plan to the detail easing just a little bit. I’m still more of a planner than most of the other backpackers, but it comes easily and I think it is reaching a more reasonable level.

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This entry was posted on November 26, 2012 by in Australia, Self Analysis and tagged , .

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