If my friends would sum up my travels in one word that would be Spontaneous…aka Unprepared. One time I decided I’d push through travelling the day before and did my preparations just then. They would invite me someplace and I’d just say yes without batting an eyelash. But do not be fooled when I say ‘unprepared’. It simply means no detailed itinerary whatsoever and all decisions (other than booking the flight) have been made at least three days before.
You may choose the spontaneity for the adrenaline rush or maybe you just didn’t have any choice and things changed the last minute so you have no time for an itinerary by the hour like you’re used to. Here is how I’ve managed to pull off my ‘spontaneous’ trips so far:
1. Have an offline map with GPS. We do not always have internet. Devastating as it is, you can still survive on the street as long as you have an offline map with GPS enabled. You can download offline maps using the Google Map app on your device but note that the maximum area you can save is 50 x 50 kilometers and you can only have the standard view. This is where Apple’s Maps come in. I actually prefer this because it lets me save the map in the satellite view which is more useful since I get to see the buildings and it has no limit as long as you’re able to load the areas beforehand. Saving the map is so easy, you just simply go to the area and it is automatically cached. Make sure you zoom in (do this especially if you’ll be walking around, that way you’ll have a more detailed view) while you load the map making sure it completes loading (you’ll know when the area is crisp and clear already) and keep on dragging around the area you want saved offline. The catch here is since you’re just caching the area and not actually downloading it, once you clear the cache in your internet settings the loaded area will also be deleted (Google Maps have a 30-day expiry for saved maps). I was able to track our train ride from Gibraltar to Granada by loading a wider area, here you don’t have to load the zoomed-in portions. Then let the GPS do its magic: you’ll be the blue dot moving around. WARNING: watching the blue dot move can be addicting. Of course there are paid offline GPS apps which work better, but if you don’t usually drive a car then these two will do.
2. Always bring a power bank. If you travel and you do not have one I strongly suggest you get one now. I cannot stress how useful this is with all the offline mapping and GPS-ing. Go. You can just come back and read this later. Why are you still here? Buy now! This way you won’t have to worry about forgetting to charge your phone with all the hollabaloo of last-minute traveling.
3. Try Tripomatic. With this app you can furnish a brief itinerary in a snap! It’ll show you a list of the most famous spots (so I don’t suggest this for off-beat paths) in a map form so you can easily see their proximity to each other making it easier to plan the most efficient route. You can also use the map offline by caching but it isn’t GPS enabled yet.
4. Ask for recommendations. So you’re already sitting pretty inside the first restaurant you saw because you were so hungry and didn’t know where to eat then you realise you didn’t know what to eat either. The golden phrase would be: “What do you recommend?” and just hope for the best 😛.
5. Follow the crowd. Just like asking for recommendations, sans asking. I remember just following people in Seville and I ended up seeing one of my favourite places in the world so far.
6. Know the many uses of a scarf. Let me educate you of the magic possessed by this scrap of clothing we call a scarf. I have used it as a warmer in winter, as a cover-up in the beach, as protection under the sun while queueing, as a mat while laying in the grass, as wrap for my water bottle so the insides of my bag won’t get soaked, as a cushion for my camera when inside my bag, as a fashionable belt, as a towel when my hair is still a bit wet, as a blanket on the plane, as a mask as to not inhale smoke and stench, it’s so useful that even when I’m not using it it can still function as a tassle for my handbag. It is like the coconut tree of traveling.
7. Pray. Even if we like the feeling of adrenaline and adventure, we also want to be safe as well. Praying for safety and guidance will make you feel at ease even though you’re ‘unprepared’.
Whether you’re traveling with everything arranged to a tee or you opt to challenge your exploring-the-unknown skills, remember to just enjoy come what may!