Novelty, Agency, Humility

Or why I love traveling without planning

Mike Raab
The Raabit Hole
Published in
3 min readDec 11, 2022


I’m off on another month-long traveling experience, this time to New Zealand and Australia. I’ve wanted to visit both for a number of years (Australia since I was in grade school), but haven’t had the time, money, or excuse to spend a month down under until just now.

Last December, I travelled to Colombia, Peru, and Brazil — barely planning most of the trip (or actually committing to it) until a couple of weeks before my flight. Similarly, I had only booked a return flight from Sydney and one night at a hostel before I actually arrived in New Zealand for the start of a month long trip. People would ask what my plans were, and I somewhat sheepishly admitted, “Idk, I’m going to show up and figure it out.” Even my friend who lives in New Zealand who was a gracious host for my first night in Auckland seemed perplexed that I didn’t have a detailed itinerary for my day by day escapades.

Yet — this is the traveling style that makes me feel alive! I realized on the second day that there are three qualities of this travel that I’m addicted to: Novelty, Agency, and Humility.

I absolutely love & crave new experiences. It is probably the biggest culprit of my travel bug. I want to experience life all around the world and see what it looks like for different people in different cultures — identifying both uniqueness but also the similarities. In addition to appreciating novelty, I love nothing more than a good story, and am (almost) always happy to trade a Bad Experience for a Good Story. Getting mugged of my phone on Copacabana Beach during NYE fireworks last year? LOVED it. Similarly, getting pulled over for speeding in the middle of nowhere New Zealand on my second day in the country? Yes. A good story and a new experience. Well worth the ~$30 USD.

They Agency part is what keeps me from planning these trips too much ahead of time. I want to invite serendipity and have flexibility to do something different. For instance, meeting some strangers in a cave and deciding to meet up further down the road days later. I’m not beholden to any schedule chosen while on another continent without the context I have of being on the ground and understanding more about my options. In my daily life, there is a typical routine that I’m committed to. The opportunity to escape any sort of routine and make rash decisions about how to spend my time (in an admittedly selfish manner) is intoxicating. I don’t have any commitments. No one is expecting anything from me. I just get to do what I want to, without anyone else’s input, opinion, or objection.

Humility is probably the most important benefit of traveling solo to a new country. I’m at a stage of life where all of my needs are met and there’s no reason for me to be uncomfortable if I don’t want to be. Everything could be easy and routine. I know the system, and I benefit greatly from it. And then, I’m in a small town in New Zealand, trying to figure out how much fuel to order to put into “the pitcher” at a petrol station. It sounds like a small task, but when you have to prepay in NZ dollars for a tank measured in liters… it’s not quite obvious. And figuring out that puzzle brings you down to the basic task that everyone else in this country (and around the world) already knows how to do. And that’s humbling. As I progress in my life and career, I’m intimately aware that “arrogance creep,” is a real danger — thinking I have it all figured out because of my success can lead down a dangerous and unappealing path, and I need “struggles” (admittedly low stakes) to be reminded that I’m no better or smarter than anybody else, and in fact I know a lot less than others.

So, I find myself revelling in a mostly unplanned month-long trip down under, searching for novelty, agency, humility — and most importantly — good stories.