Woman with a Plan

It could be said that I’m a woman who likes a plan. I pause here to describe the image that has entered my head: the face of my friend, Julie, eyes wide in disbelief, mouth twisted with scepticism. ‘Like a plan? Like? As in: would hardly get out of bed without one, let alone leave the house?’ In my defence I can get out of bed without a plan but I admit she may be right about leaving the house. This is where I married the right man – Neil likes a plan as much as I do. We never wing it.

It’s a recurring joke amongst our friends that our holidays take as much planning as a major military exercise, or the moon landings. I could go on, and they generally do. Good job we like them. So I confess that, yes, we’ve spent the greater part of the last few weeks planning a trip to our old home (England) to visit those we miss. We need a plan because it’s not as straightforward as it would appear. I like to make the most of having to be on a plane for over twenty-four hours (with attendant jetlag recovery time) at a cost close to that of a small country’s GDP, therefore we’re travelling via an island off the coast of Canada: Newfoundland.

From the official website I downloaded the Traveller’s Guide to Newfoundland & Labrador*, a marvellous tome, nearly 500 pages, that took almost sixty megabytes of my computer’s memory. It’s full of useful information and glorious colour photographs to tempt you to visit. And tempt it did, although I’d bitten the apple decades ago when I read The Shipping News. This is where the problems** began.

After a few days Neil asked: how long do you think we’ll need. I roused myself from images of open sweeping landscapes, icebergs floating by, whales coming up for air just off the coast. Six months? But we have five weeks so must choose judiciously where we want to go (everywhere) and what we want to see (everything). Problem number one (P1) – we don’t want to flit around like a butterfly, never landing long enough in one place to do more than sleep, but also don’t want to spend half the holiday in a car. Which leads to P2 – how do we know how long to stay somewhere? That would be the point of the research and planning.

I like books. Books have pages on which you can stick little bits of paper that poke out of those pages, which are also made of paper so you can write on them. P3: I can’t do either with a PDF document. Even using the newly discovered search function (I mean, who else presumed the magnifying glass icon was to zoom and didn’t bother clicking on it to find out?) doesn’t stop me from scrolling back and forth repeatedly until my finger cramps up and my mouse carks it, lying on its back with its legs – sorry, wheel – in the air. My head explodes, pieces of brain and skull splattering on the walls and curtains. That’ll take some cleaning.

I hand over to Neil who, moose-in-headlights stare in place, spends a few more days reviewing my findings and making more notes, then hands back a rough itinerary. All we need to do now is book accommodation. Hang on – how do we get there? Better get flights organised before anything else. P4 – your national airline’s website tells you your itinerary is too complicated to book online and please ring our call centre. Impossible. We’ve had a few weather problems here in New Zealand, and their friendly call-takers are, appropriately, a bit busy trying to re-schedule flights for around nine thousand people left stranded when Auckland airport flooded and was closed for two days. (And this was before the devastating cyclone.) Instead we call a Specialist Travel Advisor (what happened to Travel Agents?) It’s much more tortuous than it should be and takes three attempts before they manage to present an itinerary that doesn’t have us zigzagging across North America unnecessarily.

Finally, we have what looks like a plan. It comes with an empty bank account and a full credit card (which reminds me I must phone the bank to get a loan…) I know it will all be worth it: I can’t wait to see my family and we’ll have a fabulous holiday. And now I have a plan I can relax somewhat and look forward to it all. Although I still have to pack. And what if our luggage ends up somewhere we aren’t? I’m gonna need a plan. Oh, hi Julie!

*As I prepared to publish this Neil checked the mailbox and found the physical copy I’d ordered. I was like a kid at Christmas, ripping the wrapping off. It even comes with a bookmark! And a map. Seriously, a map. If there’s anything I like more than a guide book it’s a map. A paper map.

**I’m aware that these are not only first-world problems, they are privileged first-world problems. I know how fortunate I am to have the ability and financial security to plan any sort of trip. I know how lucky I am to be unaffected by our recent weather events when many around me have lost homes, livelihoods, even lives. Our friends laughed when we relayed this story to them – I hope it makes you at least smile.

4 thoughts on “Woman with a Plan

  1. I’m with you about the physical book and the physical map. When I came to New Zealand in the 90s (yes, I am this old, sigh), we had a guidebook which we tore out the entire North Island because we weren’t going there. Same thing was true of my other travels with Jim, who owned Prairie Lights Books. I think Jim loved planning even more than traveling. We had some glorious guidebooks, the one for Venice was a work of art, and it made you want to go everywhere and do and eat everything, which is not particularly helpful, but mighty attractive. I’m so happy you are going back to see your family and for a good long while. And I taught The Shipping News in Sweden back in 1998. The young Swedes loved that book because they could related to the quirky people and the existential landscape and weather. And the boats.


    1. We’re both that old, but great with it.
      I didn’t know you’d taught The Shipping News and I relate in much the same way as the Swedes – you know how I love the wildness of open landscape.


  2. Newfoundlander 🙋‍♀️ You’ll love it here, especially if you fell in love with NZ – I know I did when I first visited in ’96. Loved it so much, I’ve been back twice since and also dream of retiring here.

    I’m happy to advise you on which places require a longer stay but it’ll depend on the time of year & how much time you have overall. Like NZ, we’re small in population but large in the distance from one town to another.


    1. Thank you, that’s lovely. We have a plan now, and we’ve allowed plenty of time both to enjoy places without having to rush and to travel between them. Thanks for reading!


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