Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Thoughts About Slow Travel

For some people, travel seems to be about cramming as much as they can into what little time they have. Everything’s a rush, and they’re only able to scratch the surface of, say, the five cities that they visit in eight days. They’re looking at a lot, but not really seeing much.

Your experience while travelling shouldn’t mirror the hustle and bustle of your normal life. Travel isn’t a competition. It isn’t about seeing as much as you can or putting as many photos as an SD card or three will hold.

Travel is meant to be relaxing. Travel is meant to be a voyage of discovery. It’s supposed to refresh, enlighten, and let you move at a slower and more human pace.

Slow is a four-letter word, but it’s not a bad one. Especially when it’s applied to travel. Why not slow down? Why not have more in-depth experiences than a whole lot of shallow ones?

For me, that’s the essence of slow travel. Taking your time, absorbing the local sights and sounds and colour. Being something more than just a tourist.

Travel isn’t just about the major sights in a city or country. Often, minor sights and obscure or little-known things are just as interesting as their more well-known cousins. Sometimes even moreso. And, you can bet, they aren’t as busy.

Going Deeper

When I travel, I try to balance seeing one or two major sights with branching off on my own. To be honest, many of the major attractions around the world hold little or no interest for me. But there are a countless experiences even just slightly off the beaten path that are more than worthwhile. Like what? Here are a few of my favourite discoveries:

  • St. Laurence’s church in Bradford on Avon
  • A wonderful little cafe on a side street near the old post office in Brussels
  • A real hutong (not one set up for tourists) in Beijing
  • The Orakei Basin in Auckland
  • A grimy little shop near Sannomiya station in Kobe that served the best gyoza I’ve ever had

How did I come across those, and other, sights? I didn’t consult a travel book or the local tourist information centre. I literally stumbled upon those places while wandering around.

All of these are fairly ordinary sights. But you can find something new in the ordinary. The ordinary can be beautiful. It can be interesting. Why? Because what’s ordinary for someone else might not be ordinary for you.

That’s the key to a truly enjoyable travel experience. Taking the time to explore, to look around, to see what most tourists and many travellers (yes, there is a difference between the two) don’t usually see.

By wandering. you’re opening a new place up to yourself. You’re getting a feel for the local colour and the local flavours. Sometimes, you’re getting a look at how the locals live their lives. It’s not always pretty, but you gain a bit more insight than you would looking out the window of a tour bus.

Wandering around a new, unfamiliar place is a lot more relaxing than rushing here and there with a tour group. And you never know what you might see or learn. That mystery, that chance to experience serendipity, is what makes slow travel so compelling.

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