Slow Down, Time, and Give Me Some Slow Travel
When is enough enough? I’m talking about travel, by the way. We travel away from the comfort of our homes for a change of scenery, a different pace of life, a new perspective. We explore, discover new places, refresh our minds, or maybe even, return to a familiar place where we feel “at home.” How many days or states or attractions are enough to satisfy the traveler’s soul? How do we get satisfied enough to, once again, long for home? Because, both are pretty wonderful!
Some might say a few days away is enough to spice up the daily routine or get out of a slump, while others might say a week or a month. I’ve often wondered if we should travel as if it’s the last trip we’ll ever take or the last time we’ll get to a place — so, we better make the most of our time? Or, should we take our time and immerse ourselves at a deeper level? Wouldn’t it be grand if we could do it all? Most days, I want to slow down and focus on what or whom is in front of me.
So, how can we find enough time to get the most out of the hours we have in those magical places — enough to feel filled with it? Perhaps, it’s how we move through time and how we perceive it that matters most. “Slow Travel” could be the answer.
Did you know when you do something new, time feels like it slows down? Ah-ha!
Have you ever noticed how it takes longer to “get there” the first time you drive to a new destination? You’re looking right and left, all around, getting your bearings, noting landmarks. All of your senses are taking in a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells, textures, and flavors. Then, your brain must organize all of the new information and perceptions of the experience to make sense of it. This is how the brain operates. This is also why time feels as if it slows down when we’re experiencing something new or out of the ordinary. We are more alert and engaged with our surroundings; thus, we feel more alive! This is the best argument I have that travel is an opportunity to slow down time. Not everyone has a lot of days to explore, but HOW we explore can make the difference in what is “enough.”
What is the “Slow Travel”?
It’s the 21st Century. EVERYTHING feels faster, especially Time. The whole world is aware of it, so much so that there’s a new movement called “Slow Travel.” It’s a spin off from the “Slow Food” movement — which is basically getting back to the practice where people gather fresh ingredients, cook dishes that might take hours from start to finish, bake a dessert that could be gone in a quarter of the time it takes to make it, and finally, sit down with family or friends to savor a meal and fellowship. Afterwards, they linger after over coffee and dessert crumbs talking. The “Slow Food” movement started as a way to encourage a new generation to take their time.
That’s it, isn’t it? We must “take our time,” or the busy, busy world will take it from us. Lately, figuring out how to slow down our travels has become a topic of conversation. Loosely defined, “Slow Travel” is about doing less and staying put longer so that a person’s time is not filled with the logistics of traveling and changing locations. “Slow Travel” can mean more time to rest, relax, and reflect. It’s also about focusing on “local,” slowing down long enough to walk a mile in a local’s shoes, so to speak. Rather than skimming the surface of a destination, a slow traveler immerses more deeply into the culture and space.
When a traveler connects with the place, the people they meet along the way, and the ones they’re traveling with, the senses fill up, the brain organizes and makes sense — and the perception is that time slows down. There are a few arguments I can think of:
What if I don’t have much time, then how do I practice “Slow Travel”?
Try this: instead of creating a giant check list of to-do’s while traveling — and, instead of spending hours shopping for souvenirs — sit on bench and look around. Stroll through a cobbled alleyway or wander a garden. Stand in front of something you’ve never seen or heard before and simply be still. Ask yourself: What surprises me? What is unexpected? If you’re traveling solo, allow yourself to follow where the day goes. It can be an expansive experience full of surprises — good ones!
What if I’m traveling with a group or have a set itinerary?
The good news is you’re not likely in charge of the logistics! That frees up a lot of time to reflect while traveling between attractions or destinations. Often, planned tours come with “optional excursions.” It’s up to you to choose whether it’s one or three things…or, choose something with a slower pace.
What if I LIKE to shop for souvenirs — that’s not a new experience — can I “Slow Travel” that?
First, I’d suggest you consider whether you’d really rather be sitting in the sunshine in silence or in conversation, or grabbing a few postcards and writing to your loved ones about what you’re experiencing? You can always make souvenir shopping a “Slow Travel” experience by choosing a local shop and starting a conversation with the person who works there. Find something or someone new at every step of the tour. If you like to cook, grab a local cookbook. If you like jewelry, choose from a local artisan collection. If you like candy, buy something yummy that’s unique to the area. That’s my favorite souvenir to bring back.
So, on a trip, we have a choice. We can cram all of our waking hours with activities and arrive home exhausted, but happy that we’ve checked a lot off of our “to-do list.” Or, we can practice “Slow Travel” and immerse ourselves in the whole experience arriving home fuller, more aware of a new place and its people — and just maybe, more aware of ourselves.
Real Benefits of “Slow Travel”
I think it’s possible that we are more informed, sophisticated, and generous travelers by practicing “Slow Travel,” at least some of the time. Our focus is outward on the people, places, and new somethings. Even our reflection, though “Slow Travel” reflection is introspection, is on what we’ve outwardly experienced and whom learned from. When we engage at this level, we transform from tourist to traveler! How cool is that?
When we practice “Slow Travel,” we might:
- understand our destination’s culture better.
- bring home a few new sayings, habits, or recipes.
- leave a piece of ourselves behind by engaging with the local community.
- find it easier to adapt to the language, money, custom, time zone, and cultural differences.
- feel energized and filled up, without being exhausted!
Tangible Ways to Slow Down — or Capture — Time as We Travel (This works on Group Tours or Cruises!)
- Choose somewhere new to explore.
- Choose someone new to walk beside.
- Choose to take a longer trip, so that jet lag or travel time doesn’t steal your “touring” time.
- Slow down, lift your head up, and look around. Tune into all of your senses.
- Enjoy a long conversation.
- Learn something new about your mate or old friend.
- Ask questions and listen deeply. It’s restorative and satisfying for both sides of the conversation.
- Make a Must-See Bucket List — keep it bare bones. Everything else is optional, so you can “follow” your day as it unfolds.
- Reflect on all that your senses are taking in and journal, even if it’s simple bullet point list. (Buy a thin journal at your destination that reflects the area. Do this for each new trip.)
- Write a post card.
- Send the post card!
- Don’t bother to unpack your suitcase if you have to pack it again in a day or so…who wants to spend time packing and repacking?
- Read something new or read a beloved book again.
- Practice immersing yourself into your new surroundings, like you’re diving into the deep end.
I suppose I’ll always wonder whether I should hurry up and do MORE, or slow down and enjoy fewer things more deeply. In the meantime, I’m going to practice “Slow Travel.” I’m going to practice slow-er living at home, too! Maybe it’s old-fashioned. Maybe it’s new-fashioned. Either way, savoring, connecting, soaking in the surroundings, both new and familiar, are wonderful ways to take our time back from the busy, busy world. And, it’s a wonderful workout for the brain.