As much fun as it is to study a map and come up with a plan, I find that travel requires much flexibility in order to realize the opportunities that await me on a journey.
It is great to have a general direction when you set out, but sometimes one destination offers more than you expected. Maybe you learn of something that requires a slight tangent from your course. Perhaps you make a friend and decide to create a new joint adventure together for a few days.
I intended to spend several days in Barcelona when I went there in 2010, but ended up ditching it for a week in Andorra. I was planning a trip along the typical tourist circuit in Morocco, before I met a Moroccan and spent a week visiting some smaller towns and places I would have never known about with the help of a guide and friend.
I was bound for Panama and the Darian gap back in 2007 before a hurricane derailed my plans and left me veering off into the jungles of Chiapas, Guatemala, and Belize. Even then, I was planning to visit the Yucatan after Belize, but ended up doubling back through Guatemala due to new friends there and information about additional things to see and do there.
We travel because we do not know. Our planning is through books and maps, yet we go knowing that we cannot experience a destination purely through reading a guidebook or studying Google Maps. The experience may be what we expect, but it will likely be different. So set out with some flexibility, not being so attached to a plan or a check list that you miss out on greater opportunities for personal growth and meaningful experiences.
Let go of the list. Let go of the expectations of those at home. Let go and experience what the world can teach you!