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From Canada To The PNW: How A Change In Plans Doesn’t Mean Settling For Less

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

By: Matthew Thomson + Save to a List

One word: Stoked.

That’s the feeling that described how I felt when I made the decision to travel to Canada for my annual summer adventure. It was the perfect time to go. Parks Canada is celebrating their 150th anniversary and that meant free admissions to all the parks. Being a relatively cheap traveler, this had me hooked, especially since I have wanted to go to Banff and Jasper National Park for a while now. So, you could imagine my excitement when I received the pass in the mail in February. I feverishly started the planning process, listing all the things my friend and I wanted to see and do in our limited time. It was going to be awesome. Places such as Moraine Lake, Maligne Lake, Lake Louise, and Mount Assiniboine were all on the table. We were planning on this adventure being another road trip, totaling somewhere around 15-16 days starting from South Carolina. A lot of driving, but completely doable.

Then, the unexpected happened. To keep a long story short, there was a mix-up with my job that had taken away all of my leave, which was roughly 80 hours total. I was furious, and if it were possible to have my head turn into a raging fire then that’s what it would have looked like. But simply put, there was nothing I could do. And don’t worry, I was compensated appropriately. But for me, I’ll take time-off over money any day. So, cue the figurative waterworks and disappointment as my dream adventure was officially toast/over/done-ski. Now that Canada wasn’t possible, I felt like there were no suitable back-up options. It was essentially Canada or bust.

And I feel like that’s a fairly common mindset to revert to. If we have a plan all squared away, we become comfortable, and our fears subside. But what happens when you are forced to change your plans? Well, for the most part, people tend to get bent out of shape just because things didn’t go their way. And I totally understand that. I was pretty upset that Canada was no longer an option. All the research and planning had turned into wasted time. So, what did I do next? Well, to be honest, I basically moped around for a couple days feeling bummed and depressed.

But rather than continuing to feel that way, I knew that I had to make the most of what I had. After taking a couple minutes to think, another adventure was completely possible. My friend and I threw out some ideas, and eventually settled on going to the PNW to explore Washington and Oregon. There were definitely some tough questions. Would it require me to work extra hours to build up time-off that I didn’t have? Yeah. But if you want something badly enough you’ll do what it takes to make it a reality. Would we still be able to do a road trip? Nope. Our new time frame was 10 days, and driving from South Carolina and back would make for a crazy 10 days, not to mention that it would be hard to do certain activities on a time crunch. Would this new plan be more expensive? Definitely. But such is life. Better to spend money and have a great experience than to not have that experience at all.

So that was that. My friend and I booked our flights for Seattle and the adventure was on!

Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. But there are several key takeaways when dealing with a change in plans:

1. Accept It and Move On

Easier said than done, right? It’s understandable to get caught up in the moment and feel down about the whole situation. You had big plans and put so much time and effort into this trip, but in the blink of an eye it all changes. What do you do? Accept the fact that it’s not going to work out and move on to plan B. Sure, you can take the time to be upset about it all, but sitting there dreaming about what could have been won’t do you any good, except waste your time. Regroup your thoughts and get back to the drawing board on your next adventure.

2. Don’t Limit Yourself

This was the challenging part for me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others felt the same way. How do you come up with a plan B, or C, or D, etc? I guess there is no blueprint answer for this, but try to think of places that would offer similar activities or be relatively close by geographically. But one thing that I will say for certain is that you shouldn’t limit yourself. I’m talking about money, time, and things to do. Just because your plans change it doesn’t mean that you must sacrifice everything that you want to do. As I mentioned above, my trip took quite the shift when it came to location, time, and money. Overall, the PNW was relatively close to our original destination and there were National Parks that we could go hiking and camping in, so we still considered that a win. Costs, on the other hand, were far greater than what we had originally planned, specifically buying plane tickets and renting a car. But, as mentioned before, I didn’t worry about this, because having a memorable experience was better than not having one at all. Although, money can be an issue for some. If you have a budget, try to find a place that will provide everything you’re looking for, even though it wasn’t your first choice.

3. Don’t Remain In A Negative Mindset

Take it from me, don’t get stuck in the mindset that everything is ruined just because something didn’t work out. Obviously, we always want everything to work out the way we planned it, but that’s just not how life works most of the time. We have this natural tendency to get stuck in our negative thoughts and it’s hard to get ourselves out of it. And it really becomes a domino effect. In my case, I could have easily decided to give-in to those negative thoughts and that would have had a negative impact on my trip. Those thoughts, such as “nothing will compare to Canada”, would have only made me a grumpy person the entire trip, always comparing to what could have been rather than enjoying where I was in that moment. Trust me, a positive attitude will take you so much farther than you can possibly imagine. Was I concerned at first about the new plan? Certainly. But now I can easily say that I wouldn’t have traded my new trip for anything.

4. Don’t Worry About The Things You Can’t Control

This one is always tricky, and something that most of us probably struggle with. I think why most of us enjoy the planning process (or this could just be myself) is that we are able to control the schedule and what we do. We can narrow things down to the smallest detail and feel comfortable with our plans. Sure, we can do our best to plan for everything that might happen on a trip, but what happens when something unexpected comes from outside your trip plans? For me, I had no idea that my job would have played a major role in my trip. And of all things, it involved my vacation time. Talk about a curveball. But, you know what? There was nothing I could do about it. At this point, I had to accept the cards that were dealt to me and move on. And even though I couldn’t control what happened before, I was able to work my tail off to build up enough leave. And guess what? Everything worked out for the best. You’ll make everything easier on yourself if you put aside the things you can’t control and focus on the things that you can. 

5. Don't Think That You're Settling For Less

This one is key, as it has the potential to dictate your attitude for the duration of your trip. You obviously had big plans and aspirations for your first destination. But now that those plans have fallen through, you've had to choose another option. While you're going through the planning process again, you can't help but think "man, I just don't know if these things will be as awesome as plan A." This is the last thing you want to do. As mentioned before, comparing your new plan to the old one could put you in a passive mood, which can have a negative impact on your overall experience. Rather than continually trying to compare, view the new plan as an opportunity to have new aspirations and expectations. It's essential to view your new plan independently from your old one. When switching from Canada to the PNW, my mindset needed to change. I needed to alter my expectations in order to have the best experience possible. And it worked. The PNW completely blew me away with what it had to offer. Even though it wasn't Canada, it was everything that I needed and wanted.

At the end of the day, plans always have the potential to change. We just need to be adaptable and have a positive mindset for that change if/when it comes. And if life throws you a curveball and you are required to change your plans, don’t think that all other options are going to be less superior. They can turn out to be exactly what you were looking for in the first place, which is the chance to escape for a while, enjoy the outdoors, have some quality time with friends, and make new ones along the way.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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