Growing up, no one in my family would call me a planner. In fact, I kept losing the adorable notebook planners my mother gave me as gifts. I still think about the plaid Hello Kitty planner I had in the fourth grade–adorable and yet virtually untouched. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to write anything down in the tiny allotted squares–preferring instead to rely on my memory for homework assignments. A slippery slope, mind you.
Since moving abroad, I realize that somewhere in my 20’s the pendulum swung heavily in the other direction. I have evolved into a super planner.
I make lists every time I leave the house. I plan out dinner menus for the whole week. I research events months in advance. When it comes to traveling, I write out itineraries for nearly every hour of the day–including possible outfit ideas and what the predicted weather will be that day. I don’t stick to these obsessive lists (I think that would earn me an OCD diagnosis), but I truly enjoy the process of planning. I daydream about all the possibilities…
I owe some of this evolution to technological advancements–I couldn’t live without my Gmail calendar–and some to a change in life perspective. My general theory is: As opposed to childhood when my parents planned everything from what I ate for dinner to vacations, I now have the freedom to choose the direction of each day. And I value each day so dearly–especially while traveling–that I try to plan the heck out of it.
Carpe diem? Or a little crazy?
Thankfully, I’ve got some research to back me up. According to a 2010 study out of the Netherlands, the most happiness one garners from a vacation is not during the trip itself but in the planning stages. The “vacation anticipation” boosts one’s levels of happiness for eight weeks, whereas after the vacation “there is hardly an effect.” Another 1997 study found “vacationers were happier in the period leading up to their time off than during the vacation itself.”
Instead of feeling like I don’t allow any room for spontaneity, I’m going to continue to relish planning–my easy, inexpensive, calorie-free happiness booster.