Managing Analysis Paralysis When Traveling

When I hit the road as a full-time RVer, I anticipated many of the challenges of traveling solo, from loneliness to fear of failure to safety concerns. One thing I didn’t anticipate? Analysis paralysis.

We’re fortunate to live in a first-world country, and have a lot more options on how to live our lives than many people are afforded. But those options still have limits. With a more traditional lifestyle, once we choose where to work, those 40 hours every week are spoken for. That job also limits where we can live, what we can drive, and what we can do in our free time. There are still options in all of these categories, but not endless ones.

But once you start traveling full-time? Where to work, where to travel, what to see in your free time… it’s no longer geographically limited. Suddenly, your options increase exponentially.

Ask anyone if they want more freedom of choice in their life and they’ll say yes. But we’re not well trained on what to do with all these extra choices. This leads to analysis paralysis, which was a real issue for me when I started working remotely and boondocking last year. Having a partner helps because then there are two people’s tastes to take into account which naturally narrows down choices, but being solo? I’d seriously have days where I did nothing because there were just too many options on where to go and what to do and how long to stay that my brain would shut down when trying to sort through them.

Here are some conclusions I’ve come to through trial and error:

  1. Having a lot of choices means you can choose to have a day in. This is especially important for new full-timers, who often feel a need to constantly be traveling in an effort to see it all. It’s okay, you don’t have rush anymore, this is no longer a vacation but your life.
  2. I’ll look up two or three things to do in an area before I arrive, but I don’t put a date on them. This gives me something to fall back on when I wake up with that itch to go somewhere and do something but don’t feel like spending three hours carefully weighing ALL the options (yes, that has happened!).
  3. Usually I’ll learn about other things to do in an area from locals once I’ve arrived. As a benefit of coming up with plans this way, the locals will be well informed about what’s really worth doing and not trying to sell a particular option just to make money the way some events and attractions promote themselves online.
  4. Sometimes not being able to decide where to go indicates some other problem for me entirely, like being worried about something related to work or some other logistical thing. When I’m truly stuck between several options and just can’t pick one, I’ll do none and take a walk around camp instead. This usually clears my head and lets me see what the real issue is.
  5. It’s hard to come up with a balance between planning and winging it sometimes. When you plan everything you avoid a lot of analysis paralysis, but then you get stressed about those plans falling through or not being as good as you’d hoped. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. Try both, and you’ll figure out which works better for you.

Related Links:

In reference to that line in the first paragraph about challenges of solo travel:

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11 Responses to Managing Analysis Paralysis When Traveling

  1. Annie Wynn July 28, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    So true, this post! It’s taken me a full year to learn to let myself have days off (maybe even two in a row!) from exploring new places. And I totally get the plan vs. improvise choices. I like hearing from locals where to go, but sometimes there’s too much information and then it’s choosing yet another thing 🙂

  2. Y Knowles July 29, 2017 at 2:59 am #

    I experience analysis paralysis when I try to plan what to do next to move me towards my goal of being on the road. There are SO many things that need to be done, but many can’t be done either in small amounts of time or before other things happen. I now try to not look at EVERYTHING that needs to be done, but try to see what I can do right now, today, with whatever amount of time I have available. In other words, if I have 30 minutes, what can I do in that amount of time? It narrows down the choices and I still can do something to move towards my goal, no matter how small the movement may be.

    • MB Dillard July 29, 2017 at 3:49 am #

      I am in the same spot, Y Knowles. I know where I’d like to be in the fall. I have already taken so many BIG steps toward being there. But, there are so many of those little decisions and actions that bunch up near the end of the leaving process that you simply can’t do till it’s almost time to go. And there are the things you thought would happen or that you could do by now….that haven’t happened the way you thought at all. So there is re-adjusting to do. I have a list of two important things that I can do next week and try and do several small things every day. But, wow!…if I look at the whole passel of things that need to be done before my wheels can roll west…..I freak! 😉

      Good luck to you!
      MB from VA

  3. Mike and Gerri July 29, 2017 at 7:16 pm #

    We have encountered this paralysis in deciding which direction to go in. We haven’t moved as much as many due to some medical restraints (that are easing up now). We haven’t planned as well so when a time comes when we can travel we don’t know which direction to take. Not long ago we couldn’t figure it out and ended up just staying put….not a good thing!!

  4. Jimmy July 29, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

    Well done, as usual….. (You spoil your readers….=)

    And applicable not only to current full-timers, and those POTENTIAL full-timers, with our noses pressed to the window glass (ahem….=)

    …..but universally.

  5. Becky July 31, 2017 at 9:28 pm #

    Glad you all found this helpful and thanks for commenting! Back from Isle Royale now and the first of those travelogues should be ready by Friday.

  6. Sandy Mayfield August 1, 2017 at 10:04 pm #

    There used to be a travel program. ..I’m vague on two guys or one. Traveled to different places around the US. They or He would ask six different locals what to see and do in the area. Sometimes they had time for more than one or two….sometimes it was good places to eat. Each was given a number 1-6…. They then rolled the dice. Only one of course.
    My husband and I could never pick a restaurant so we tried it several times. Took us to some really cool places. So let the dice decide lol
    Safe travels….I enjoy your adventures and your blog a great deal.

  7. Sandy Mayfield August 1, 2017 at 10:06 pm #

    P.sS. Will be going on the road solo as my husband passed away 5×10 teardtop. I think I might try this again only with destinations this time. Lol

    • Becky August 2, 2017 at 9:15 am #

      What a clever idea Sandy, I like it. 🙂

      Sorry about your husband, but I bet you’ll have a lot of fun with the teardrop! Best of luck to you.

  8. edward August 27, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    Wow ! This is the most important post you’ve ever made. As you say, most folks are not faced with the breadth of choices that come with full timing. They are caught by surprise. For compariso, university business programs offer multi-semester curricula and even graduate degrees in handling decision analysis under various names. The noted economist Thomas Sowell wrote a book on the “cost” of analyzing and making decisions. It is definitely something every aspiring full-timer needs to be orepared for. Good post !
    — edward

    • Becky August 29, 2017 at 8:56 am #

      Thanks Edward and I’m glad you enjoyed this.

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