“And so onwards…along a path of wisdom, with a hearty tread, a hearty confidence…however you may be, be your own source of experience.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits

Two years ago, Herb and I put a deposit on a cruise in 2023 that would take us round-trip from Tokyo to cities on several islands in Japan. Many months later, we made our 2024 plans – a cruise from Hong Kong to Bangkok and before heading home, a flight to Siem Reap to explore a long-time top-of-the-travel-wish-list destination, Angkor Wat. These were the days of post-pandemic travel planning, when Asian countries had not yet opened their doors. We were hopeful – after all, this was two years out – and happy to have our future travel plans in place.

Except that I never seem to be able to book something and then set it aside in an imaginary folder called “don’t think about this until (fill-in-the-blank) date.” Truth be told, I’m always thinking about it.

Fast-forward to earlier this year. January 11th, to be exact. I was perusing cruise destinations and ran across an itinerary I’d never seen before: Tokyo to Bangkok, November 2023, visiting many of the same places as the two cruises we had booked. Apparently, the original itinerary had been modified from its starting point in Hong Kong because of post-pandemic delayed opening concerns there.

The revised route was incredibly appealing and gave me an idea. What if we merged the trips we had booked into the new cruise? We’d purchased refundable airline tickets for Japan – the days of low-cost refundable tickets now seem to be a thing of the post-pandemic past – which we could modify to include the new Tokyo start date as well as the return trip from Bangkok. Our cruise deposits also could be transferred to the new itinerary. Not only would it be a tremendous cost savings, but with the exception of a few nice-but-not-high-priority ports, we’d be visiting every place we’d hoped to see, including the post-cruise land trip to Angkor Wat.

What If?

Herb was as intrigued as I was with the new itinerary, and we set plans in motion. We let go of where we thought we would be traveling this fall, changing our mindset from Japan to Japan and Southeast Asia. Once we made the decision, the trip began to take shape. Changes with airline tickets, the cruise, tours and excursions fell into place fairly easily, confirming our belief that this just might be the right thing to do.

There is something about reevaluating our options that has created a renewed excitement about where we are headed. It almost feels as if we’ve crafted a custom itinerary – something special just for us. Every place we visit will be somewhere we’ve never traveled, a new destination to discover and explore and maybe even fall in love with.

It’s often easier to keep plans the way they are. To avoid the inconveniences of change and uprooting things that are already in place. To play it safe, in a way. But this experience has confirmed my belief that it’s more than okay to keep dreaming and scheming even when initial plans have been penciled in. You never know what you might find when you keep looking. You never know where another path may take you.

And now more than ever, I’m keenly aware of the importance of those simple, but powerful, words.

What If?

Angkor Wat. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, taken by Jakub Halun, License CC BY-SA 4.0.

10 Comments

  • Enjoy this incredible journey. If there is anything that I can help with while in Bangkok or anywhere around Asia, do let me know. I am happy to assist.

    • Many thanks, Bhada. That’s very kind of you and very much appreciated. We are really looking forward to this “incredible journey,” as you so perfectly describe!

  • You will love visiting these places! We will enjoy revisiting them in your photos.
    We do keep those What If places in our mental and sometimes paper files. This became useful this week as we sadly cancelled our Israel, Egypt and Jordan land/cruise tour and replaced it with an Amazon cruise. From the longest to the largest river is what we told ourselves.

  • Joan, thank you! I have a feeling we will love these places, too.
    I’m sorry to hear that you understandably had to cancel your Middle East plans. It’s all so incredibly heartbreaking. Having joyously traveled to those countries a few years ago adds a perspective that only deepens our sadness. I’m happy you have found another travel option – the Amazon should be fascinating! – and have such a wonderful attitude with your “longest to largest” mantra. Here’s to treasuring those What If files!

    • Thanks so much, Susan! We are quite excited about this itinerary. My camera and notebook are dusted off and ready to explore this part of the world, and I look forward to sharing our experiences!

  • Isn’t it wonderful to be able to make adjustments and improvements to our plans as opportunities arise? I’m looking forward to sharing your adventures and seeing some of our favourite places through your eyes, Mary. Thank you for taking us with you!

    • Turning an opportunity into a reality is definitely a great feeling! Thanks for the kind words, Gill. I plan to carry with me some of the wisdom and tips you’ve written about in your wonderful Japan posts. It’s shaping up to be a great adventure, and I can’t wait to see this new-to-us part of the world! 😊

  • What if? Yup … that’s it. I, too, cannot just put travel plans in the “don’t think of it until THIS DATE” folder in my brain, so changes seem to be part of our travel plans … especially since the pandemic. Most recent example … a one month cruise around Australia + one month on land has grown to three months on land! Well, it is a continent after all. I’m glad we had airfare that was easily changed with no penalties, but those post-pandemic ease-of-change days may be coming to an end.

    Looking forward to reading all about your trip … following the best I can as we will be leaving home ourselves on 12 December.

    • Great minds travel alike! There’s just something about future travel plans that will not sit quietly waiting for the date to arrive. Your Australia adventure sounds absolutely fabulous, Erin! I’m glad you were able to take advantage of post-pandemic no-penalty charges – the one bright spot from travel lockdown days. I will be most impressed if you manage to read blogs during your travels. I seem to get terribly behind and do all my catching up when we’re home! Wishing you happy, happy travels 😊

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