The curse of the bloody spreadsheet

Now I know this is an odd title; bare with me.

I’m a planner. I’ve always been a planner, and will probably always be a planner. It’s got to the point now where I AM THE PLANNER for any large gathering with my best buddies, so sort out what we do and how it all works (well, 90% of the time anyway)  So when it came to planning a year away, covering 12 countries and spending thousands of pounds, I was gonna PLAN. Fortunately my partner Kelly is exactly the same (except she is a completer/finisher in BELBIN terminology, and I’m definitely not!).

We starting planning (literally) years ago. I’ve posted another blog about what we used to plan, and this evolved over time, but the one thing that’s been consistent has been the spreadsheet.

As yes, a classic Excel I hear you say. Not exactly….

I might have got a little excited on this spreadsheet (from now on referred to as THE spreadsheet). The spreadsheet contains our route, the main countries with dates (obviously), the regions within the route that we want to visit (of course), the approximate duration we will spend in said region, the kind of things going on we need to see or make time for (with links, of course), and also a column for people we know in said area, or who gave us advice on doing said activities or seeing said places. This has enabled us to get an approximate outline of what to do when, and how long we’re in places for so we can book hotels when entering countries or regions.

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 16.30.23.jpg
An example of the spreadsheet (older version). Colours indicate regions only (i’m not anal enough to have a colour matrix planned).

Unfortunately, that’s only the first sheet in the spreadsheet. As our plans grew, so did the spreadsheet. I now have sheets for the following:-

  • Forecast costs
  • Actual costs
  • Budget Tracker (including a section to consider exchange rate variance)
    • Break down by country with exceptional items included as a budget deficit)
  • Savings tracker (with a section for variables)
  • Flight costs and itinerary
  • Hotels booked (with Google Maps URL, obviously you have to have that)
  • VISA requirements (and a check list for when we’ve sorted them)
  • Ad-Hoc calculations (for things like fuel consumption in NZ when we hire a camper)
  • Things to get checklist
  • Forecast internal travel costs (for things like train costs in India etc.)
Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 16.34.47
Yeah. I went there..

And that’s not the worst of it! I’ve actually RETIRED a number of sheets over time! AND i’ve starting faffing with sheet to sheet data feeds, which just ended up being one massive headache (not recommended when you have this many sheets).

Now I can hear the planners out there thinking this is awesome, but i’m really starting to find it’s not. The problem we have now is that we’ve become slaves to this bloody spreadsheet. Every time we read/watch something about a country or region and think ‘ooh that looks awesome’ we have to go back to the spreadsheet, navigate to the relevant area, find where it would fit in, have a discussion (debate) about where should be increased or shortened in time or what actually needs to be excluded; you get the idea. BUT NO! Then I think about the budget. THINK OF THE BUDGET DAMMIT!

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 16.41.52

The problem is, this never stops. Both Kelly and I have got to the stage of planning fatigue now, and so have calmed this down a bit, but there’s always ONE MORE thing that we find, or decide we must do. A good example is the Ankor Wat Half Marathon. I’m a keen runner and would absolutely love to do the AW Half. However this requires some dedicated spreadsheet mastery. And you know what, I know that actually as soon as we land in India, the dates and times we’ve meticulously planned out are all gonna go to shit; and you know what, THAT’S FINE! This is actually part of the trip i’m almost looking forward to as much as the places we visit, literally not giving a shit what happens the next day.

01_1ge-travel-002-_1105751k

Writing this post has made me reflect on my working/social/daily life, a life that is governed by 5 calendars (3 of which are shared with other people), regimented to the 30mins at work due to the constant demand for meetings and support. When all that goes will it be bliss, or will I panic without the planned agenda? Who knows!

Either way, i’m assuming there will be people out there reading this who are just like me, and probably in the midst of planning. So for that, here’s a few bits of advice upon reflection…

  • Planning is okay, and useful but don’t go overkill
  • Do not (repeat DO NOT) plan down to the day. Things will go wrong, you will meet people who make you change your mind or plan (heaven forbid) and you WILL drift. Get over it, it’s gonna happen
  • You’ll probably keep researching stuff until the day you leave, but don’t panic. Just keep a list of stuff that’s cool, and where about’s on your route it is. What will be will be
  • EVERYONE has a different opinion of things on their visits. Consider how many variables can affect your opinion of something you’ve done, then times that by 10 about a travelling adventure. Don’t get bogged down in personal opinions or bias.
  • DO have an idea of your budget and how far that’ll actually go in each country. We’ve had about 4 iterations of our country level budgets because we got so bogged down in all these ‘you can live in Thailand for a dollar’ kinda blogs. Again, think about the lifestyle you want to live and how you’re travelling (i.e. with other people).
  • Be aware of planning fatigue. It’ll get ya!

Right, there’s one rant over and out. If any of you planners would actually like to see a copy of my spreadsheet get in touch. I’m afraid i’m not posting as it has full route and actual financial plans on, but happy to do an edit if someone is remotely interested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The curse of the bloody spreadsheet

  1. Liam Challnenger

    Me and Kate are very impressed by the spreadsheet. It looks like a beast and we can feel your pain over planning.

    I was so happy when we finished our last plan and we could just sit back and enjoy it all.

    You would actually be surprised by how things runs to schedule in India, we only had one late train in 2 months.

    Safe travels and I can’t wait to read more

    Like

  2. Emilie Brady

    Hi,

    Me and my boyfriend are planning a year travelling and your blog is very useful! We leave on the 4th January to India and would love to have a look at your spreadsheet if you are willing to share.

    Cheers,
    Emilie

    Like

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