When it comes to traveling, I plan. I’m a planner. Book the flights, find the hostel, research restaurants, read countless blogs in search of local “hidden gems”, the list goes on. I sometimes obsess over every variable to the point that each day of my trip is predetermined.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to plan to some extent. Booking flights in advance is usually cheaper, and reading a review or two before booking a hostel can save you from a nightmare experience. But sometimes, I feel like planning every little detail can lead to a synthesized travel experience. When you over plan, everything you do fits into your preconceived notion of how things should look and feel. In turn, you miss out on the potential for truly authentic experiences that could’ve happened if you left room for spontaneous events to materialize.
A great example of this was on my trip to Bali over Spring Festival. I had planned everything to a T. Weeks spent pouring over Airbnb listings, countless blogs, hours of research invested into this trip. I had mapped out the parts of the island to stay on, which temples and beaches to see, where we could learn to surf, etc. And while all this planning wasn’t inherently bad or wrong, one of the most memorable nights of the trip happened completely by chance. One evening, our dinner plans fell through and instead we stumbled across a hole-in-the-wall local bar with free delicious BBQ, cheap arak (Balinese rice liquor), and adorable puppies. That night was the most authentic experience of our entire trip and it happened spontaneously. No amount of planning could have generated that experience; it was completely spur of the moment.
To shake my habit of hyper-planning, I decided that on my next trip I would go against my usual inclinations and plan as little as possible. I wanted to try to go with the flow and see where the trip went. The perfect opportunity to apply my freeform travel philosophy came in the way of terraced rice fields nestled in the Fujian countryside. My trip to Bali had really sparked my interest in rice terraces, and when I got back to Fuzhou I began combing through Google for terraces in China. Sure enough, I found some webpages with small blurbs about terraced fields in Youxi, Fujian. The few pictures I was able to find looked beautiful and to my delight, Youxi was only a 15RMB train ride away from Fuzhou.
From talking to the Chinese staff at my school, I found out that my teaching assistant Rita was from Youxi. Though she had never been to the terraces herself, she was familiar with the area and had relatives who had visited them. She was kind enough to send her cousin a message, who told her that the terraces were located outside of the small village of Lianhe, and could be reached via bus from Youxi.
So there it was, my rough plan for the weekend. Take a train to Youxi, bus to Lianhe, figure it out from there. Ashley had also loved the rice terraces in Bali and was excitedly on board with my vision of unfettered adventure in search of rice terraces in rural China.