7 Killer Reasons to Slow Down when you Travel
The temptation to see every possible thing when you travel is prevalent. It is because you have traveled a long way to get to the destination and because your vacation time is limited. That is understandable, but …and, of course, there is a but coming … what have you embraced and taken away as memories of the country?
Slow Travel is not just for people who have months to spend somewhere; it is for all travelers, even if you only have a week or two.
It is all well and good to say that you have seen everything iconic about a place and impress other people. However have you taken the time to slow it down and see the people of the country, how they live and work, what their cultural beliefs are? What are the similarities and differences with your lifestyle? Have you learned something and compared it with your way of living and learned something from it?
“The degree of slowness is directionally proportional to the intensity of memory. The degree of speed is directionally proportional to the intensity of forgetting.”
– Milan Kundera,1995
So here are 7 Killer Reasons to Slow Down when you Travel
See Iconic things but not every single one.
It is all well and good to be able to tick off how many countries you have been to, how many continents you have stepped foot on, and how many iconic things that you have seen. Is this list ticker approach traveling?
A true story is coming up here. We met a man who had traveled far more extensively than we have and who very happily told us this. He took the cake when he told us that he had stopped in Athens for an hour and needed to see the Acropolis, before driving to see another must-see icon in Greece. He sprained his ankle on the way up, so he sent his wife to the top with the express instructions to take 100 photos. He then regaled us with the stories of Athens the Acropolis and the photos.
Did he stop and consider what it was like to have lived in this ancient citadel? What they might have eaten, what they might have done for fun. No, he just wanted to prove he had been there. It is not necessary to impress anyone with your, I have seen ‘x’ number of sites in a country. He would have been better to sit in a café, sip ouzo, admire the Acropolis and have a little think about it. A chat with the waiter might have given him a better experience.
Stop and reassess what you do want to see and see those. Don’t be a list ticker. Say that quickly.
If you can – stay in one place long enough to recognize your neighbors. It does not take months, in fact, it can take just days. Choosing an apartment is a better option than a hotel in a slow travel situation. That way you need to forage for your food, where the locals do and markets are the ideal environment and an amzing experience, to decide what to buy, what it is you are buying and communicating with the stall owner. Pick a favorite and local cafe. These coffee shops are the ideal place to talk with locals and to do some serious people watching. With this comes your way of interpreting what is going on around you. It is about watching people doing ordinary and extraordinary things; it is also a time of serendipity. You may meet people, see something totally unplanned and unexpected.
While there are times when slow travel is not possible, where it is, then the rewards for you as a traveler will be rich in experiences.
Live – Don’t Stay
Time is of the essence for many travelers. I get it. However, if you bunker down for even a week, you will find that you are suddenly becoming part of the landscape. Local shopkeepers will start to recognize you, the neighbors will nod, and you will begin to see what the local timetable looks like. It doesn’t take that long if you have a home base. Coming ‘home’ is what it will feel like. Even in such a short time, you may well find yourself saying thanks to people in the native language, and that is a real thing. You will feel like you are a part of the scenery, and that is a great feeling.
Save Money and Time
Slow travel is more economical as you are paying for just one home base and not always moving and needing to pay for the incumbent transport costs. It also gives you a base from where you can walk easily, saving on transportation costs. Choose wisely and choose central accommodation, preferably an apartment which will have lots of the facilities needed for a slow travel stay. You can hire a bike and pedal power your way to see those iconic things that you do want to see…not have to see. It means that for whatever time you have, you unpack only once and that is what we all want.
Become a local and it can happen quickly.
Talk to people. Ask for directions, ask for recommendations of what to eat and what the locals would like you to see of their home. It is often disparately different to guide books and can reveal something truly unique. Do a local and experiential class like paella cooking in Valencia, and find out how it is made locally and why paella came to be such an important dish for the Spanish. Spoiler alert– rabbits and chickens were common on the farms, and rice is an easily grown. The bottom line is, it was a cheap meal to feed a lot of the family from things found on the farm.
Have a bottle of beer with a local and talk to them. Communication is easy even when neither of you speaks the same language. Work your hands overtime. Buy your bread from the same bakery every morning and become acquainted with everyone else who goes at the same time. When your bread is being wrapped for you when you enter the shop, you know that it is happening, and you know what? It feels incredible.
Over planning is a menace to you. Take the time to let things happen as they do. If you have scheduled every second of your day then where are any surprise encounters? If you go the wrong way, it doesn’t matter. If you order a meal that you have no idea what it is, try it and make an informed decision. If you hate it – so what. If you like it, find out what it is and order it again.Serendipity is finding something that you weren’t expecting and mostly this is an excellent thing. If it isn’t, then you will have a great story to tell after you recover from the trauma.
I don’t care what anyone says but unless you have some downtime, you don’t have time to think about what you have seen and experienced. Travel burnout can happen very quickly, particularly if you get over excited with list ticking. I have heard people say that there is plenty of time to sleep when you get home, but I disagree.
If you do not have time to have a break, read a local book, take a nap or just sit and relax you are not taking advantage of slow travel. New cultures should challenge your senses in every possible way, and synthesizing this takes some time, and this is down time. When you take this break, it is beneficial for you physically and certainly mentally.
This is the “I wonder why ..” period when you do wonder why certain things are done in the place you are visiting. Then you are regrouped to go and discover these answers. It is physically and mentally better to take some downtime.
There are undoubtedly more than these 7 Killer Reasons to Slow Down when you Travel, but it is worth thinking about slow travel rather than being a list ticker.
Exactly what we are doing right now 🙂 we decided to rent an apartment for 2 months in gorgeous Hoi An in South Vietnam and we are loving it. We had time to catch up on our blog post, have some rest and explore the area and it’s cheaper than staying in hotels/hostels.
Slow travelling is the way to go for everyone who is trying to travel and blog at the same time.
We even blogged about it to let the readers know that travelling and blogging doesn’t really work unless you stop for a while. Even if it’s a week. Every little helps 🙂
I need some slow travel now. Time to regroup and jus settle for a while.
This is a great post! I also try to slow down when I travel – especially because it is vacation! I particularly enjoy renting an apartment so that I can visit local markets and shops to purchase ingredients for home cooked meals. It really does make a difference with the trip.
Totally agree, slowing down makes you feel more like a local
Brilliant article. Great advice. I couldn’t agree more. I too have learnt to not try to fit too much in. You have a much better experience all round if you just slow down and enjoy the moment. I wrote a similar type article a few months ago about how travelling around Europe without a set plan was so much better and more fun and allows room for spontaneity.
I always have a much better time when I’m not on a time limit and set schedule and actually have time to get a real ‘feel’ for a place. Here’s to slowing down and more relaxed trips for everyone 🙂
I agree, slowing it down makes it that more enjoyable and then you get that time to feel comfortable in the environment
I like this a lot. It’s that stop and smell the roses thing…I really like the quote too. I’d not heard that before. Really nice post (thoughtful)
Thanks it is a much better way to travel rather than ticking everything off a list.
Good points! People seem to sometimes forget that travel is a vacation. You don’t need to attack it at the same pace as everyday life. Sometimes I just like to find a nice spot when we are away and read a book with a coffee in hand. It is nice to look up and see some new place but it is also good to indulge myself on vacation with some escape time. I like to think that if I really like a place, we can always go back. And if all I remember about a place is rushing from place to place, it is less likely to be on the “do it again list”. Always leave wanting more!
I think it is such a pleasure to sit and watch people going about their day to day lives and to wander what their lives are like compared to yours.
Paula, I totally agree with your 7 points. I have tried to use most of these philosophies for our upcoming 2 week family trip to Japan. After putting some itinerary ideas together i realised that we needed to compromise and cut things out, and we now have soething which i hope will work well, including some rest days…
I think that you are very realistic. Much as we all want to see everything, you really do need some down time, to regroup and to think about what you have seen and done. You will love Japan, it is an amazing country with really lovely people.
I agree, when it comes to traveling, I’ve always been a “less is more”kind of traveler. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to “see” everything and checking off the list items, but by doing so, you really don’t see it if you know what I mean. I’ve found my experiences to be so much more meaningful when I devote the time towards really getting to know the place and absorbing the new pace of life.
Totally agree, it is better sometimes to let the experiences come to you. Enjoy your travels
Wonderful post! I couldn’t agree more with all of them. Especially no.6 Serendipity. Some of the most wonderful memories I have from my travels have been from when I’ve stopped for a while.
I would never have ended up travelling around New Zealand with a sparrow, or seen Kanchenjunga peak over the clouds from a week of mist in Darjeeling. I’d never have met some of the greatest friends I’ve met travelling if I hadn’t spent more time on Olkhon Island in Russia or swam with a turtle after staying put on the Ningaloo reef in Australia.
Like Ferris Bueller says, If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it!
I totally agree, it is the experiences that you have when you don’t plan for them that have the lasting memories.