Like Hannibal Smith of "The A-Team" fame, I love it when a plan comes together ... maybe too much so. Before I go anywhere, even on vacation, I like to have some sort of itinerary plotting out each daily activity.
Weeks will be spent researching dining options (including stops along the way), making hotel accommodations and deciding what all to do once my final destination is reached. Not so much the case on my last excursion, and I have to admit something — I loved every unplanned second of it.
Having a week and a half off, I spent a big chunk of that time in the Lake of the Ozarks for a family reunion. While I planned a mini-trip to St. Louis our first night in Missouri, all of the festivities in store were holdovers from a previous stop earlier this year (which, admittedly, did include a heavy dose of planning).
Beyond that, though, there was not a forethought put into what my vacation would have in store for me. This time, I left it all up to my relatives. Even without my own plan, they managed to keep my pretty busy playing basketball and bocce, golfing, bowling, spending time at the lake and taking part in multiple game nights.
Despite managing to nevertheless fill my vacation time with numerous activities, it somehow felt entirely different. I wasn't the one in charge of putting all these activities together. Therefore, I think, I was able to simply enjoy the experiences rather than feeling the weight of responsibility that comes with being the organizer.
It is hard to admit, but my family likes to overdo when it comes to vacations. We usually had one big trip each summer, so growing up it felt like we had to squeeze as much in as possible during that timeframe. It's a mentality I've carried over into adulthood going on trips with friends.
A few summers back, I headed to Chicago with a high school buddy for the Lollapalooza music festival. That right there would have been more than enough to fill one trip, but I had plenty of other items to add to our to-do list (because seeing a living music legend like Paul McCartney is just a drop in the bucket, right?).
There were the restaurants we had to stop at, run by some of the top chefs in the country (one of which featured the best chicken and waffles I've ever had); then there was the brewery tour — and how could you stop in Chicago without going to see a show at a comedy institution like Second City? We crammed it all in, and I don't regret a thing — even if I did come back from that vacation immediately needing another vacation.
Needing a vacation once you get back from vacation is not an isolated feeling, at least not in The Kansan newsroom, as my editor has been in that some boat as well. Luckily, when I came back from the Lake of the Ozarks I had that exact opportunity — and I made the most of it.
Granted, I managed to pick up a summer cold (which forced me to slow down the first couple of days back), but once the Fourth of July rolled around I managed to take things a little easier — as kayaking down Sand Creek, a holiday tradition I started last year, seems to have a naturally calming effect given how still that body of water can be.
After some time in the pool following my trip down the creek, it's safe to say slow was my default speed for the next few days. The Saturday that was to be the penultimate day of my vacation was the crystallizing moment, though, that illustrated how relaxing it can be to just "go with the flow."
Once again, I left the planning to someone else and things went swimmingly — both literally and figuratively, as I had been invited to a pool party at a friend's house. All I had to do was show up, eat, drink (not the pool water) and be merry.
Come to find out, this whole idea of not planning every second of every day on vacation could be pretty fun. So, if you're like me, the next time you're thinking about drafting a travel itinerary do yourself a favor. Don't. Minimize your time on the laptop to the basics (reserving a hotel, airfare, etc.) and just take it easy — like a vacation should be.
-Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at email@example.com.