I am someone who enjoys speed. Driving at 120kms to 150kms an hour overtakes your thoughts, all that there is, is the zooming road ahead. As an entrepreneur, I also like pace in growth and learning. And therefore, my style of travel was also power packed, where I would want to see the most I can in a place.
I went on a trip to the mountains for 10 days with 4 books, few postcards and lots of time. I did not seek to explore every nook and corner of the place, yet I came back knowing the place more than I have known any other. I was present in every moment that I spent, that the memories are still fresh.
Does that mean every trip must have the agenda of doing nothing? No, not really! Then what exactly do I mean by slow travel?
Style of exploring a new place:
I have enjoyed exploring on foot equally in a city like Singapore or a mountain town like Manali. International destinations offer free walking tours across genres from art and culture to the top 10 places to see. These tours are conducted by students studying travel and tourism; sharing fascinating stories along the way.
In India, I talk to a local, share my interests and ask them to recommend a walking trail. I was lucky to find my thinking rock in my stay in the mountains, on one such trail.
Number of days:
My travels have often been with my sister, Diipti. We have a thumb rule we follow after goofing up our stay in Bali. I booked a 4 day stay when it took us 9 hours to reach Bali. Our thumb rule is that the stay in the place must be more than the number of hours it takes to reach there.
Eg: If it takes you 6 hours to reach Ladakh, plan your trip for atleast 6 days (exclusive of travel time).
If your work permits, try out a workation i.e. you stay at a place for more than 2 weeks and you work from there; giving you the benefits of a vacation you can work from.
Soak in the place:
The normal vacation routine is to wake up, enjoy breakfast and set out to explore the new sights and sounds. Our routine in the cities is to wake up, rush through breakfast and then rush through the sights and sounds in office. Make a conscious change from our city routines. Try doing nothing, talk to strangers, stare at the landscape, read for hours at a cafe or in a park, lie down on the grass with the sky above. This is what I would call an immersive experience.
Repeat what you liked:
Visit that park with a beautiful fountain again, have another scoop of ice cream you liked, go and see the sunset again. Doing the same thing again etches the memory in your heart forever. It is another day of awesomeness during your trip. Better to do something you know you enjoy than try out a new experience you aren’t sure of!
Take time to recoup:
Often friends share that they book return tickets for Sunday night or a Monday morning, so that they get maximum time at the new place and don’t lose out on a working day. Picture this vs. returning on a Friday or Saturday. No stress about getting to work. The body gets a chance to get used to the change in air, the mind gets time to adjust to the time difference (incase of international travel), the sleep refreshes you from the journey and you get some time to unpack, prepare for the upcoming week and get back to office renewed, just the goal of the vacation. After having tried both, I strongly recommend the latter.
Keep in touch:
We come back and in a few weeks, the new friends we made fade away in the pages of our memory. It is fantastic to revisit those pages and give them a call. Not only do they feel happy, it also helps relive the amazing time I had spent at the destination. These calming vibes help balance out the stresses of the city, from the pollution to the daily commute to monthly EMIs and more.
There are offers galore on exploring 10 countries in 2 weeks or similar. We have one life to live and want to explore it to the fullest. Why slow travel when we can cover the same places in half the time?
I strongly believe in long term gains. I believe in sustainable travel. When I look back at my trip, if I have lived every moment to the fullest, so that it is etched in my mind forever, the rainbow over the waterfall, the light shining through the Deodhar trees, the Tai-Chi class at Botanical gardens…, that is my kind of travel. We are anyways rushing through chores in our daily lives and I wouldn’t want to do the same when I am exploring a new destination. Just like India cannot be explored in a week, similarly, another country cannot be explored on a whirlwind tour.
To conclude, just as there are more than 190 countries, there are different kinds of travel and even more kinds of travellers. I simply share what I have learnt in my travels across the years. There are times when I have a rushed trip and regretted it. These are mostly for work. At most times, I take in the place as much as possible and as Diipti always says, “Travel where your feet take you.”
Picture shot by Kalen Emsley.