Last year, a friend of mine from the States came to visit me. She was staying four days in Taiwan and had planned to spend them exploring Taiwan.

“Let’s hang out!” she says.

Of course, I was excited to see her. Nothing beats catching up with old friends when you’re a full-time traveler living halfway across the world.

So the day comes and we meet up. She shows me our itinerary for the day:

[12:00–2:00] Eat lunch
[14:00–16:00] Visit Taipei Fine Art Museum
[16:00–17:00] Visit the Yangmingshan National Park
[17:00–18:00] Go shopping At Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Mall
[18:00–19:30] Visit the Shilin Night Market
[20:00] Must be back at Taipei Main Station (last train at 20:08)

I feel a bit overwhelmed with the rigidity schedule, but I decide not to say anything since she, as the guest, rarely gets to visit Taiwan.

The day starts off smooth initially, but after a missed bus or two and getting lost with directions, we already start running far behind schedule by the time we finished with the museum. She urges me to rush to make up for lost time.

The rest of our day is spent, in a hurricane-like fashion, running from one destination to another. Tourist attractions meant to be slowly explored were instead glanced at and rushed through. Food meant to be savored was instead wolfed down and left unfinished. Conversations meant to be deep and engaging instead felt short and superficial. Because of the rigidity of the schedule, we didn’t even have time to truly enjoy each other’s company.

As I ride the train home, a thought crosses my mind:

Is vacation supposed to be like this and feel like work?

When you set a rigid schedule for your vacation and don’t allow any freedom to change it, the trip often becomes more stressful than fun because you focus more on how much time you have left instead of actually enjoying it.