I am almost incapable of leaving things unplanned. It is not in my DNA. I am genetically programmed for making lists and wall boards, preparing for worst-case scenarios and creating beautiful gantt charts. My favourite apps are all calendars. It’s my art, I guess. Some people make art with a camera, some with paint or clay or yarn. I work with tasks. I’m a task artist.
The problem with over-planning is that it erases serendipity. It plots out every move and every date and thereby eliminates chance and the miraculous things that happen in the unplanned spaces of our life.
Our first trip was planned heavily down to the day. When we got to our final destination, we realized we weren’t ready to come home, we had to start making it up as we went along. That’s how we ended up living in India for a few months, an experience that changed us forever.
On our next sabbatical, we had more money and more time. So I planned everything out, including our return to Canada and re-entry to work life here. To ensure a hard end date, I even booked us into volunteer commitments here in Canada so we wouldn’t be tempted to stay in Asia longer. Parts of our itinerary were planned and paid for months in advance. Our schedule was tight. It wasn’t until we ended up in Kathmandu during a long political strike that suspended transportation throughout the country that we had to abandon our plans and do something else instead. Working in Asia had never crossed our planning minds, but the monkey wrench propelled us in a radical new direction and we ended up doing paid consultant work in Kathmandu.
This time, knowing that some of our most memorable experiences occurred in the blank spaces of our calendar, we have decided to refrain from planning too far ahead. A direction yes, but every day and location a year in advance? No. Obviously, there’s a balance to be struck. We’re not stupid. And we don’t relish the idea of sleeping in a train station or in Yuri* on the side of the road. However, we are trying to be open. By that we mean to not get attached to a specific thing, say being in Japan in January 2018, and instead be open to what might simply show up in the moment. I don’t mean that to come off as flaky as it sounds. Mindfulness is the buzz nowadays. And everyone seems to be preaching “Be in the moment, live in the Now.” But this isn’t that deep. We just want to see what happens when we let things… er, happen.
My born-again laissez-faire approach may explain some funny questions we’ve had in the last few weeks. Some people thought we’re moving to Ukraine to start a meditation centre, others believed we were leaving the city to live outside in nature. Permanently. At lunch the other day, a friend asked me how I was going to deal with the cold in the winter. “Wait. You’re not going to live outside permanently, are you?” I said, “what do you mean?” Turned out she was under the impression that I would be living outside next December. Um, no. I plan to be somewhere cozy, warm and dry, maybe snacking on street food in Bangkok. Obviously, we need to provide some clarity on what – exactly – is happening.
We know what we’re planning to do, but we forget sometimes that we’ve only explained different parts of our plans to different people. It isn’t that we’re hiding anything, it’s just that the first thing we have planned is to abstain from planning too much.
So with a balanced approach in mind, here’s what we know.
On July 1st we will drive East until we hit the North Atlantic. We’ll explore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, places neither of us have been to. Scott will get to learn more about taking photos and I will get to practice camping outside. I don’t want to live in nature, but I do want to visit. We’ll drive around, eat tasty things, hike, and take photos. Then we’ll turn around and drive West until we get to Vancouver. We don’t have a route planned out or a timeline other than July 29th. We have to be in Vancouver before then. I have a hair appointment. Yes. I know what you’re thinking but I don’t care. I love Saori, she gets me. And is the only person who ever cuts my crazy hair properly. She is also a friend of ours. And we can’t wait to see her again.
So between July 1 and July 29, we will be somewhere in Canada, on or somewhere between one coast or the other. On July 29, I will be at Suki’s getting my hair cut.
The next thing we know is we are flying to the UK August 6. Then, we will walk through the Lake District north to south, from Carlisle to Ulverston. We’ll rest for a few days. Then we’ll walk some more from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. We hope this will all take about six or seven weeks. Our exact plan? Hike and camp, eat tasty food, and take more photos.
In mid-September we are traveling to Ukraine. We will be picked up and driven a few hours outside of Kyiv where we will conduct two 10-day meditation courses. Then we hope to visit Scott’s cousin in Berlin.
We return to England October 30 to sit a 45-day retreat in Hereford. At this point, we plan to leave the UK around December 19.
Now you know what we know. We have a direction and some places on the calendar, but we’re staying open to opportunities that may come up along the way. One thing I know for sure, I won’t be sleeping in a tent in Canada this winter. But if we change our plans, I’ll let you know.
* Yuri is our Honda.