When planning a trip, I inevitably fall under the spell of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. Before I know it, I’m frantically researching on the web, then making a list of ALL the places I need to visit and ALL the activities I need to experience. For instance, here’s what my recent Japan itinerary looked like:

2 days in Tokyo; 1 day in Aomori; 1 day in Hirosaki (for apple picking); 1 day at a nearby hot spring; 1 day at Lake Towada (to hike the Oirase Gorge); 1 day in Sendai; 1 day in Magome (to hike the Nakasendo). You get the idea. A different hotel every night, constantly on the go, go, go.

On my December trip to New Zealand, it wasn’t quite so bad – we had a car, so at least we weren’t rushing madly to make bus and train connections. But still, it was 2 days in Auckland; 1 day in Cambridge (to see the glowworm caves and Hobbiton); 3 days in Whitianga (to see Cathedral Rock and the Hot Water Beach); 2 days in Tauranga (to hike Mt Manganui), and so on.

And here’s the irony: my best days of travel are inevitably the least rushed, the least structured. Take, for example, our last day in Japan. After 3 weeks of hustling from sight to site, Donica and I decided to do a self-guided, vegan-friendly bakery tour.

With the help of Google Maps, we discovered 1 vegetarian restaurant and three vegan-friendly bakeries, all within a walk-able distance in downtown Osaka. Our extremely NON-ambitious goal was to leisurely walk from eatery to eatery, stuffing our faces with chocolates and cake, making discoveries. What a glorious day!

Our first stop is Genmai Café, where we have a perfectly serviceable vegan breakfast. Next up is Vegan Café Sister, where we down some delicious, flaky croissants. After that it’s Neu –part cat café, part cat shelter, part vegan bakery. Eating a brownie while sitting on tatami mats, playing with adorable kitties is quite a unique experience!

On our way to our final stop, Mercy Vegan Factory, we stumble upon a tiny shop with a window selling hot, baked sweet potatoes – one of my favorite things in the whole world! By the time we reach Mercy, I only have a tiny corner of room left in my tummy, but I fill it, by golly, with tasty fruit sandwiches!

No bookings. No firm itineraries. No rushing around. Just a light culinary “quest” and a whole lot of aimless wandering. Just a beautiful, chill day – with a lot of calories. 😊

(Are you a “planner”? How’s that working for you? On the one hand, there’s something satisfying about executing a plan, about achieving everything you set out to do in a highly-efficient manner. I get that, truly I do. But for your next trip or even your next Saturday or Sunday, I invite you to schedule a non-scheduled day. Pick a neighborhood and take your time poking about, letting the experience come to you. No place to go, no timelines to follow. Treat that day like a meditation. See how it feels – what opens up for you, and write me with your experience!)