a pandemic is not exactly what I wanted to spark my desire to continue traveling around the world slowly, but hey, since the shoe fits why not make the best out of it! With all the uncertainties and questions around travel for the last year and a half, this article will not be a downer, I promise you. If anything I think it will give you a new perspective on travelling mindfully and slow, and reinvigorate your thirst to discover.
So first things first... what is slow travel, and why is it truly the future of traveling?
What is slow travel?
Slow can be a relative term, is a week slow? what about a month? Luckily, travelling slow doesn't need to be measured like that. The focus of slow travel is emotional impact. That can be through connecting with a different culture or language, appreciating a new form of art, and experiencing a place through people not pictures.
What amount of time would allow you to achieve that? That's you answer.
Why is slow travel the future?
Let's address the elephant in the room. Traveling can be risky at any time let alone during a pandemic. And for those thinking, but how could you be thinking about travel right now, this is irresponsible... let me explain.
There is travel for purely the enjoyment and entertainment of the voyage, there is travel to meet family and close friends, there is travel to feed the soul and keep mentally healthy, and then there is travel for a million other reasons. Some of which are integral to who we are as a society, and I strongly believe our world would be a worse place without.
Living in a city (Auckland, New Zealand) that boasts almost half of its population born abroad, it would be crazy to think of a world without travel. Closed borders leads to closed hearts, and more than ever I have seen and heard things that I never thought would be spoken out in public. I promised this would be a positive article, so I don't to start listing all the grim statistics that reflect my observations.
Living in a world where all we care about is how good or bad things are within our bubbles is a slippery slope to a world with no empathy. In the era of Instagram, we think of travel as what looks good, but since the beginning of time people have travelled to feel better, be better and create more opportunities, and virus or no virus this will continue to be true.
Travelling slow is one of the best ways to minimise risk, while enjoying all the benefits that traveling can offer.
How to travel slowly?
So how can you travel slow? Here are a few ideas.
Step 1: Plan your life and time accordingly
Travelling slowly doesn't mean you have to be location independent completely. If your work doesn't allow you to pick up everything and go, think of ways to re-arrange your schedule. That might be starting a side-hustle to be able take more time off, or
- Van life: allows you to roadtrip and explore on a relaxed schedule so you don't have to commit to bookings. Also serves as accommodation, so minimum mixing and maximum enjoyment
- Year-abroad: whether it a sabbatical, asking to relocate to another city's (or country's) office, or a year-abroad in school - it gives you the opportunity to test another lifestyle for long enough without a huge commitment.
- Taking your career online: this is by far one of the best ways to ensure that you can travel freely. It's far too big a subject for a few lines, but try to start by calculating how much you really need to earn to be able to live this life? The answer might be much less than you thought.
- Less contact hours: With more and more people working independently or freelancing the stucture of the work week is changing. What options are there for you? Can you negotiate an alternative structure that allows for more time away from the office?
Step 2: Connect with the locals
Introverts beware, this might put you off just for a little bit- but talking to the locals is the best way to immerse in a new place. Whether is a new town or new country, the people around you are either going to make it or break it.
You don't need to go around with a sign saying "Please be my friend". What I find a lot more effective is to try to have a genuine interaction with every person that you come into contact with naturally (a safe distance that is). Whether it is the person serving your coffee, or handing your meal, a neighbor, or sparking an impromptu conversation waiting in line for something, take those little opportunities to form a genuine connection.
Be curious and don't be afraid to ask questions!
And that's not just for the shake of getting to know a place better. Thinking back to some of the most pivotal times of my life I recognise a prevailing pattern. When you start talking about the things you are interested in, when you start learning and growing, and reaching out to others, some of the best opportunities arise. Collaborations, work opportunities, travel buddies, discovering new hobbies... some of the things that bring me a higher quality of life, have started with a simple "hey.."
Step 4: Give the language a go!
You don't need to be a linguistic genious to learn a language. As a matter of fact you don't even need to learn a whole language to connect with people. Learning 50 or 100 words in the language of the country you are visiting can make all the difference.
I have found that in most places locals will appreciate it immensly when foreigners attempt to speak a few words of the local language; and it makes smaller interactions, like buying a coffee, or ordering a meal more pleasant for both parties!
Step 5: Try new things
Wow... Giota you are truly shocking with this one!
Whether we are wired to be averse or excited by change is a conversation for another time. But when was the last time you did something that put you out of your comfort zone? Again, small and gradual is what we are aiming for. Try a dish you didn't think you would order, visit a museum with a quirky subject, try a local dance, or festival that doesn't sound like something you would do at home.
You can travel the whole world, but you can't travel away from yourself.
Traveling slow has allowed me to make connections with people that have blossomed into some of the best friendships of my life.
At the end of day, what are you really afraid of? Put these fears down into paper and see if they are really as big as you think, or if it's just a few hesitations that are keeping you back...