The best laid plans of mice and men

often go awry…

When this line popped into my head for the title of this post I thought I had better check out the poem it came from to make sure I was using the right quote, and in the right context. I was using an English translation as the real line is

‘The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley’

and it is from the poem To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough by Robert Burns.  

Given the dreadful weather, and how the storms in the UK and other parts of the world are forcing people out of their homes had also made me think more about how different people cope with disaster. And it seems that I chose the right poem to quote from as the poor mouse has lost its house in wet and windy December.

Again, in the early hours of the morning I was mulling this over and again decided just to capture my thoughts, to return to at a more civilised hour and see if they could be rearranged to make any sense.

After my post about dreaming and making plans I think I was still working out why some people choose a safe harbour and others want to cast off.


Of course the people in Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cornwall who have had to leave their flooded homes, whose Christmas plans have all been changed, would do anything for stability right now. I know that. Yet all the plans made by The Environment Agency, the flood warnings, no one could have planned for a month of rainfall in one day. That Storm Frank would be hot on the heels of Storm Eva. Maybe their plans were not the best laid?

However, in life generally, I think we need to recognise that plans sometimes need changing. It is how you react and adapt to the change which is important and can affect the outcome.

Plan for the unexpected

It made me think of the few holiday ‘disasters‘ my family and I have encountered. They are nothing compared to what others have been through, and we lived to tell the tale. Our attitude now is to expect the unexpected. No one had plans for a volcano erupting in Iceland that would ground every plane across the world.

I have heard of customers complaining to travel agents about having holidays cancelled to Tunisia after the terrible shooting incident recently. My local agents, who know of our track record, told me that they had re booked people to Egypt and now have had to cancel that holiday. Their attitude was dreadful. Shouting at the agent isn’t going to change this, it is FCO advice and is for your safety.

Here’s the thing, you booked a year ago to go to Sharm and now you can’t go. Choose somewhere else. Do what I did when our Nile Cruise was cancelled in February 2011. A tour of Wales in top notch B & B’s. Had a great time. There is absolutely no use and nothing to be gained by whining about it because Egypt isn’t going to happen.

We have a choice. We can see it as a disappointment or we can just get on with it and make new plans. Yet the rigidity of some people and the feeling that the world is against them, makes it almost impossible for change to happen.

And that brings me back to why I  am a dreamer who plans. A dreamer who notices, who can let go. See what happens.

World Travel Family were due to fly to Nepal the day after the devastating earthquake. Their visas were about to expire so they had to leave India, so got the first cheap flight out of India.  They eventually ended up in Romania due to an opportunity via @WorkTraveller.  It changed their lives in a way they could not have imagined. There was never a plan to buy a house there, but they did.

Because they notice, they are adaptable, they are open, take chances, and yes Nepal is still part of their plans, it got parked. Being offered work was as Alyson, chief blogger at World Travel Family, said :

It was one of those chance happenings that changes the course of everything.

They could have said no, moped around and whinged about not being in India or Nepal. They didn’t, they said yes. And look what happened.

Their thoughts when the earthquake hit were of course of disappointment but much more than that, deep concern for the people injured, killed and displaced.

A change of plans

They changed their plans and it worked out. Sometimes we have to because something that we couldn’t plan for happens. This can be earthquakes, terrorism or illness. Or it doesn’t feel right. Your gut instinct is usually right.

My plans to drive through Europe changed when an opportunity to house sit in Melbourne arose.

My plans to sell the house and live in Crete changed when I put my sensible head on and realised that property in the UK was a good investment and we really needed a base in the UK. The fact that my house sold in 24 hours and there was no way I could get rid of all my stuff in a couple of months had some influence on this. Oh and I didn’t want to make my son homeless either.

My Life Coach quite rightly challenged me to justify this change of plans. It was with her I had identified what I wanted my life to look like,and I was veering right off track. All the reasons for the changes were rock solid. Phil and I love Melbourne. The house move and downsizing was the right thing to do.

We are going back to Australia in 2016  and then plan to rent somewhere in Crete for the autumn. And maybe buy a house.

As it happens, taking off to some sunny place a thousand miles away just right now wouldn’t have been practicable as a family matter that needs urgent attention, in person, has arisen. We need to be on hand, to make decisions, tough ones. And support others through those choices.

A safe harbour isn’t a bad thing

I’ve realised that it’s ok to have a safe harbour. As have many other much more experienced travellers than I have discovered.

I read many blogs about couples and families who have sold all their stuff, travelled non stop for a couple of years, then became slow travellers and then got a base. Plans can change, people change, circumstances change. But in most cases although they have bases, they have not settled, not in the conventional way. Living in a basic house with a wood fired stove in a Romanian village is not the same as living in a big house on The Gold Coast. Living in a small village in Spain writing romance novels and running decluttering workshops is not the same as living in an American suburb and working 40 hours a week in a cubicle.

Both these families still travel. They still cast off and leave their safe harbour.The houses they have bought represent the people they are now, not who they were. They have few possessions and live a simpler life. And are healthier and happier.

For others, it is the right place for them to be – they are are at a different stage of their lives right now. They still cast off occasionally, or are on another journey. and that is just fine too.

Unconventional? Dropping out, modern day hippies?

Yes, that is what the non dreamers say. Not not conforming somehow translates to not facing responsibilities, not contributing to society.It scares the shit out of those living normal lives. I don’t do normal or The Right Thing. What is the Right Thing apart from what someone else thinks you should do? I do take responsibility for my actions, for my decisions and still pay taxes. And I pretty much conform too.

Yet there are people who know that there is a different way of living. They took the path less travelled by. The one I have taken.

And that has made all the difference.

There is a choice


Meanwhile the commuting workers will return to the office next week, full of dread getting back on the Work, Watch, Spend Treadmill. People worried about the bills because they went overboard with food drink and gifts this Christmas. People who believe that it’s not possible to change their lives, this is how it is, we work, eat, sleep and pay the bills. That’s life.




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