Maximising our time whilst travelling has become the norm and while there’s nothing wrong with that per say: you’ve saved your pennies, you’ve planned and pre-booked. There’s a lot left to be desired.
The realisation that I needed to re-think my travel style hit hard when my dear friend blurted that she’d “done Spain” after spending a week with me through Madrid and Barcelona. The issue was that we were trying to cram every sight imaginable in that seven day window that we’d felt like we’d ‘seen it all’ when in reality the surface was unscathed.
I hadn’t considered that my holiday choices were wearing me down, not until I spent a week in Bali. That dreaded week. What with the beachside Nasi Goreng hosting just enough chilli to sting the lips but not enough that an ice cold Bintang couldn’t relieve. The sun kissed skin, tender to the touch but oozing a glow only make-up could fabricate back home, the lapping ocean shores that demanded your attention before bed and upon waking. Horrible.
Well that was the holiday I wanted you to think I had, in truth I’d rushed here and there to see as much as possible. I pushed myself to surf when all I wanted to do was relax but couldn’t because; you’re in Bali you need to surf.
I hired a scooter and rode to Padang Padang, speeding through traffic; dodging cars, chicken’s and unwashed backpackers just to get that photo of the beach before turning around and racing back to my room for solace. I’d ordered an iced coffee in a hip cafe in Uluwatu and wizzed over to my friends villa to ‘chill by the pool’ only to hashtag #relaxed moments later. It goes on, I won’t bore you.
I came home days later only to realise I was utterly exhausted. Completely zapped. How could I feel so depleted after travelling and why did I feel like I didn’t really get to experience the Balinese culture, lifestyle, language or culinary delights. I’ll tell you why – because I rushed every moment. I fled, flung and flustered my way here and there.
Listen to: The nightmare of kids in hotel rooms. (Post continues after audio.)
I’d hypothesised a solution to my new found problem, but the dilemma was that it was void of action, it wasn’t even glamorous. In fact, I think even social media influencers would turn their noses up at the idea, but travelling less or slow travel was indeed the answer.
Admittedly, slowing down is not part of my DNA. I’m impatient in many aspects of my life. I struggle with slow service and find it hard to listen to someone trying to make a decision. Hell hath no fury like an undecided person in front of me in a queue.
So I decided to give slow travel a go. I cast aside recommendations of tapas restaurants and niche pensiones and I left the travel guides at home. I went off to walk the Camino de Santiago, an 800km pilgrimage trail through Spain. It was a test like never before. It would involve one simple task: putting one foot in front of the other.
My experience was a metaphor for what I believe is the utmost core of slow travel.
I was in tune with nature; I was relaxed and connected with the culture. I was reflective and captured an unforgettable experience. This wasn’t just an annual arbitrary vacation. This meant something. Granted it was for a month, rather than a week but the act of putting one foot in front of the other triggered something extraordinary.
Reducing your carbon footprint, stimulating local economies and connecting deeper with communities are all by-products of a slow vacation. By travelling less frequently on our holidays we benefit much more than increased followers.
This is my mere convivial attempt to change the perception of how we travel, give it a go, I dare you.