I grew up around restaurants, as my dad was a chef then eventually a manager. I've spent the better part of 15 years working that industry, for all its pros and cons. One thing that was drilled into me from my first job cashiering in Wildwood, NJ for Dad, was the concept of the 5 P's: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Production. The plus one is when that is amended to "Piss Poor Production". In that business, these absolutely apply. I've seen what happens when the 5 P's are ignored, and it isn't pretty.
What on earth does this have to do with travel or photography? It's very romantic and freeing to jaunt about with not a plan in sight, and works beautifully for many people, particularly those with no fixed return date. But what to do if that doesn't suit you? It may be a case of time, budget, or just personality. Partly since I don't hop the pond nearly as often as I'd like just yet, I plan pretty meticulously before heading off. Spreadsheets of known expenses, anticipated expenses, and emergency expenses are tweaked regularly until not long before leaving. Sights, museums, and entertainment are thoroughly researched, maps pored over, and favorites added to my TripAdvisor lists.
Yes, I really dork out this hard with my city tiles on my trip calendar. To many this would likely seem little short of horrifying. Even I, who shudders at the thought of organized tours with huge buses and tidy hourly itineraries, feel an odd sense of shame at this little obsession. However, once all the charts and lists are sufficiently fleshed out, I'm quite relaxed. Since photography plays such a significant role in my yearning for travel, it must be duly accommodated. Hence the additional obsessions with Google Earth, The Photographer's Ephemeris, and various weather and sunrise-sunset apps.
For indoor visits, I cluster them in the midday hours, generally avoiding the unflattering midday sun. Alternatively, I'll return to my abode for a midday nap while my host town rests as well, re-energizing myself after having risen before the sun that morning. Armed with the information from my pre-trip planning, I find I'm actually more relaxed once arrived in my destination. With a quick glance, I can loosely arrange my day into an ideal combination without wasting time.
Does this mean that everything always falls into place? Of course not! The very nature of travel is shifting, and any number of factors can torpedo the best arranged plans. But when a downpour douses an excursion, I won't end up scrambling to figure out what to do with the day. If a strike means no public transport, I'll have the lay of the land and can stroll to options closer by. Planning does not have to mean inflexibility or removal of spontaneity. If I spend a day mostly lost, I simply move my puzzle pieces around. In an unexpected way, I feel freed to be more spontaneous without worrying over missing out or my least favorite - wasting time.
I actually view it as a sort of challenge, and much like a busy night on the restaurant floor, the basics remain the same but each shift is unique and will never be an identical repeat of one before. These unique experiences are added to a sort of mental bank, resulting in an ability to adapt successfully to almost any eventuality. With this, I am inclined to amend the 5 P's thusly: Proper Information & Experience Ameliorates [Piss] Poor Production; PIEAPP. Inelegant, but accurate for the way I currently travel.
Are you a chart maker or do you throw caution right into the wind? Please share how you like to travel in the comments below!