Slow travel! What on earth is slow travel?
Each time I mention the two words – Slow Travel, I get quizzical looks. My travels in the last three years have been focussed on identifying things that I value, enjoying places at a relaxed pace, and cultivating spaces for things, activities, places and people that bring joy and meaning to my life. Not that I had not been travelling before these three years. Born in an army family and now married to a man who loves travelling, I think I was destined to be a wanderer. However, the travels had mostly been the rushed kind. The kind that covers three cities in four days and involves striking off all the places of interest because, well, that’s what tourists do.
Pause. No rush.Take it easy.
Slow travel arises from slow living movement. It is an ethos that inspires us to recoup moments for what we value most. It embraces minimalism and JOMO experiences and shuns the regimented itinerary in travel. It took us some time to not rush out the second we checked into our hotel. We gradually learnt to slow down things, enjoy a place slowly, savouring each second like a sommelier sips a glass of fine wine.
The different ways to apply this ethos of Slow Travel to your own travel
Trash the itinerary
A perfect planner for our travels abroad, we used to love an itinerary that properly covered every minute of the day and left no tourist spot unseen. The hotel rooms were only for crashing out after a tiring day of exploring the new city. However, the problem with an itinerary is that it restricts you and takes away the exuberance of unplanned moments. It doesn’t allow you the moments that are special to you. It could be watching a local person sing a native song or to taking a moment to smell a beautiful flower that you spotted while walking. The freedom to do what you want to do and wander around with no time restraints is when the magic happens on your trip. It is these unplanned moments that one cherishes and makes a trip most memorable.
Include less to savour more
The book “Essentialism” by Mr James Latham widens one’s perspective to see that you have a choice to decide what you want to do with your life at any point. The book changed my thinking about travel to a large extent. It’s not important to rush through places. Less is usually more. By going to fewer places one can explore more and immerse in its culture, art and food. Slow travel is about understanding the place in its entirety rather than rushing through it. It gives the satisfaction of knowing more, understanding the people and history of the region better. Darting in and out of a city hardly gives satisfaction. On the other hand, having enough time to unearth different facets of a region does. The point here isn’t to chalk out a traditional trip where you simply strike off all the touristy spots. Instead, it is to have ample time to savour every aspect of a place. You’ll develop a stronger connection and create memories that will leave an indelible imprint on your mind for a long, long time.
Soak in the experience
Close your eyes and smell the food wafting into your nostrils, watch the way food is being made, the manner in which the locals speak, their unique lingo, their gestures as they talk or even the usual sounds at the marketplace. You can relive these memories even when you are back to your home country. They are special and will evoke emotions and stir the connect you feel with that place. Dazzle your trip with these magical moments. Live in the moment. Savour the beauty of “Now”. How many of us waste precious moments scrolling through social media and posting a zillion pictures of your trip? Sometimes it’s good to wander without carrying your phone. It increases your observational skills with no distraction. It is not important to capture every Instagram worthy moment on your camera. Savour the experience. You owe it to yourself.
Brush aside the need for Instagram photos
Browse through Instagram posts and you may wonder if the person who took the selfie really enjoyed the moment or was the photo taken because it had to be shown to the world on Instagram. On Pinterest, posts are dedicated to the most instagrammable places in any top destination. These are popular, most visited tourist destinations and everyone flocks there just for the photo. Since you don’t want to be the odd one left out, how many times have you discomforted yourself to get that one shot for favourite Instagram feed even if you didn’t want to visit the place? Throw away the fear of missing out and embrace the JOMO feeling.
How many times have you felt the need for a “holiday after a holiday”? Or heard the words, ” I’d love to travel more but it’s so stressful.” For many of us, stress begins as soon as we decide to travel. We stress about bookings, packing, reaching on time to the airport, the things to see and so on. We over-pack, over-plan, over-drink, have crazy expectations and worry so much. We waste those precious moments that could have been channelised to make the journey enjoyable. On return, we then wonder what was so exciting about the journey? The next time you travel, travel light mentally as well. Think about what you can live without and leave it at home, mindset included. Slowing things down helps.
Go with the flow
If you decide not to venture out of the hotel room, do it. Lie back on the comfy hotel bed and watch a film of your choice. You can order in and use the room bar instead. You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing just to make your trip status worthy. Travels provide the opportunity to do what your heart desires. It is meant to recharge you. Pamper yourself and indulge in the things you want to do. If learning the local cuisine interests you more than trekking, or if you want to swim in the hotel rather than stepping out, you must not stop yourself. Go with the flow. Only an unscheduled itinerary gives you the freedom to relax for a while, get lost in an area or discover local places and enjoy authentic experiences.
It is all about being a minimalist traveller. The benefits of travelling light are endless. Pack as few clothes as possible in a backpack or small suitcase. Ditch the oversized suitcase and you’ll see how toned down your stress level is. Surrounding ourselves with too much stuff only increases stress levels. The less you carry, the less you will spend time organising your clothes in hotel rooms.
How does slow travel sound? Does it appeal to you, or are you the quintessential traveller who wants a lot packed in, in every trip? Drop a line in the comments below.
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