Why having a Plan can Mess Us Up

I arrived in at my destination in Hong Kong over a month ago now, and I thought it’s time to start sharing some of the insights I got when crossing the world on a saddle. So I thought i’d make one a blog post about it, but then I realized I have so many things to say that this would end up in a book. So instead, I will post some articles one by one, and keep writing more if you guys like it. My first post is about “Why having a Plan can F*ck Us Up” – or What Pulls us Out of The Moment?

You probably think that in this trip, I had no commitments, I lived day by day, and I learned what it means to be free and live in the moment. However, I will disappoint you, because that was not the case. Even though I did not have a job, I actually had just as many items on my ToDo list than during my previous two jobs in a startup. For example, I always felt the pressure to write some article for my blog, edit pictures or upload videos for my YouTube channel. While I had no boss to answer to, the pressure came from myself. I experienced the irony of having so much time and freedom to cross the world on a bicycle, yet always feeling the need to finish some kind of work.

So let’s get back to my previous question: What pulls us out of the moment? It’s that small voice telling us “you should be doing this” or “I have to finish this before that time”. This manifests in subtle ways that we often forget. When we travel, we often have a plan of what we should visit in a given day, because we have limited time and there’s so much to see. But in my bicycle trip, the most incredible things happened to me only when I had absolutely no plan for the rest of the day, let alone the night. When I had no intention of biking to the next city 50km further. Rather, it was when I was listening. My eyes and ears would open to my surrounding just like a fox looking out of the burrow after having slept through a heavy rain. I would be seeing the small items that residents use to decorate their window sills, and which nobody else notices. I would be looking at people’s faces as they walk by, and notice the energy that they carry with them. Are they preoccupied? Absent-minded? Light-hearted? Suddenly, I start feeling the entire place around me at once. The exoticism of the place with is foreign people merges with my senses, and I become a part of it. Everything happens instantaneously, without me trying to understand or anticipate it. A bird lands here. A child laughs there. The unfolding of every moment. Then there’s the crossing of a gaze. A smile comes to my lips. I don’t think. I just am. That’s when the magic of my trip happened. That’s when the crossing of a gaze would unfold into a meeting and an invitation to someone’s home. Such spontaneous invitations happened in Albania. In Thailand. In Iran. And Pakistan among others. No matter where I was, that mindspace was the key to unlock the most authentic experiences. You can only plan what you can expect, and the most genuine experiences of your life cannot be expected.

But let’s take a step back. Planning to achieve is equally important as living in the moment, because at the end of the day, we all have to pay rent. That’s why to me, the true Walk of life is a harmony between both presence and planning. It’s the schedule of an itinerary through different countries with a certain amount kilometers per week, but with certains days of slack to follow unexpected discoveries. It’s the knowledge that I will plan to edit pictures and videos in the evening after 8pm, but being completely free of any task before that. It’s the visit of a historic monument one afternoon, but with certain moments of complete detachment from any schedule. That’s when i’d become a listener, a fox after the rain, a leaf in the wind. That’s when I open up to the world, and it opens up to me.

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