If you have only limited time to travel, and that is probably the case for most of us out there, we have to decide if we want to travel fast or if we want to travel slowly. Especially if you have your annual leave coming up, spending the majority of your precious paid vacation days, the temptation to cram your itinerary and see as much possible is great. I can relate to this concept as I have been there myself. But I argue that less is more and that travelling slowly will actually make for a much more intense trip, longer lasting and profound memories and an overall better travel experience.
I have been receiving a lot of requests from people asking for help with their travel plans, especially for exploring Southeast Asia. The common problem I see is that their itineraries are way too packed. But what is the benefit of crossing off places and attractions of your to-do list while all you will be taking home is just a picture like so many before you?
Travel is no competition like so many other things in our lives these days.
I sometimes have the impression that traveling has become some sort of competition. “I was here, I was there…. Have you been there? Why not? “, are common things you get to hear when talking to travelers. Features like interactive travel maps and the inflationary use of the term “bucket list” enhanced this phenomenon even more. But travel is no competition like so many other things in our lives these days. It is a quest for long lasting memories, for inspiration, for growing as a person and extending ones horizon.
Seeing nice things is great, but such memories are usually more of superficial nature. In order to create deep and long lasting memories, it will need more than just hop from one place to the next and snap a few pictures in between. The things that will stick, that will get anchored deep in our souls, will take more than just seeing. They will take true experiencing with all of our senses. It takes an open mind and heart to absorb all the valuable things a destination wants to show you. And it takes time.
A deeper type of experience
A ten day trip to Asia could have you in three different countries or 4 major cities in Europe. But would you really be able to experience these places? I doubt it as I have spent at least a month in every Southeast Asian country and still feel like having only scratched the surface. If you slow it down and spend more time in a place, you will be able to really experience it. You can go on photo excursions, explore different neighborhoods, go sightseeing, mingle with locals and sample the delicious foods you will come across along the way.
Moving a lot means spending a lot of money on transportation. Even in times of low cost travel, bus rides, train tickets and flights can inflate your travel budget quickly. Why not save that money and spend it on some memorable experiences? At the same time, most guesthouses and hostels offer deals for extended stays. Sometimes even three nights is already enough to score a nice discount. It is always worth a try.
How can you save time if you travel slowly, you might wonder. It sounds like a paradox but think about it: Having a packed itinerary means that you will have to move a lot. Getting from A to B will take time, don’t underestimate that. I usually tell people to regard transportation days as a whole day in their itineraries. Even if the actual transport appears to be fairly short, with everything included, preparations, checking out and checking in, the day will probably be over before you can really do anything. Save your precious time and use it to explore and build a deeper relationship with your destination.
Disconnect and recharge
These days we often live in a very stressful environment. Deadlines, commuting, overtime hours, juggling obligations and constant availability. Why do the same thing while traveling? You don’t want to come home, needing a vacation from your vacation, right? It is important to regard traveling as a chance to disconnect from the pressures back home, to recharge your batteries, find new inspiration and return refreshed. Take your time. Take your time to sit in a café and observe the local life, take your time to sleep in and relax on the beach, and take your time to get lost in a foreign place.
Immerse in a place and its culture
Slow travel gives you the opportunity to become a small part of the local life and to establish a deeper connection with a place, its culture and its people. You can become a part of it all instead of being just an outside observer. If you have more time, you can interact with the locals, get to know them and learn more about their lives and their culture. Most people are very happy if you as a tourist make an effort to get to know them. From my own experiences I can say that these moments can make a trip a most unique and memorable experience.
Last thoughts …
Slow travel means spending more time in less places. Slow travel also means to make your journey and the places you will visit special. I know, it might be hard to drop a couple of places from your itinerary. But what you give up in quantity will be far outweighed by the quality of your trip and the experiences you will make. Traveling is no competition and less is more. Take your time to thoroughly explore with all of your senses, to immerse in a new environment, to relax and to make meaningful and long lasting memories. Try it out next time and in the meantime, feel free to ask me for tips concerning your itinerary. I am always happy to help. In my next post, I will give a few tips for traveling slowly and a more unique travel experience.
What about you? Have you ever found yourself traveling too fast or are you a slow traveler yourself?