Learning About Very. Slow. Travel.

19.October 2011

Our Journey

Above the Fog @ Spencer Butte

There are two great lessons that I learned while traveling around the world:

  1. Never piss off the one person in the whole world who can get you back home.
  2. Slow travel is better.

The first lesson I learned early on in our travels and heeded closely our whole time away. The second took some time to sink in.

Although we loved having an apartment in Santiago and again in Berlin, we continued along on our head-spinning itinerary for months. It was when we finally left India and entered into Thailand that we really slowed down, spending 3 weeks at a resort on Koh Phangnan only to pick up the pace again through to the end.

Why couldn’t I slow down? What compelled me to think that every, teeny, tiny Thai village was completely unique in some way so that I couldn’t just settle in one for a while and really get to know it?

I always seem to be thinking that there is something else ‘just around the corner’ or ‘in the next town’ that absolutely must be seen – it couldn’t possibly be the same as here! It’s been a chronic problem for me — never being able to completely enjoy where I am as I look forward to where we could be. I’ve done well to quell it but returning home has really made me practice.

We are now practicing Very. Slow. Travel.

We have moved to Calgary as part of our Responsibly Irresponsible plan and are learning that travel hasn’t left us at all but that, in exploring our new home and planning for our future, we are in fact just traveling at beyond-a-snails-pace.

We are still traveling in many ways:

  • I still get lost – a lot. My navigation skills have not gotten any better; I still check the map almost every time before going somewhere and it’s not uncommon for me to take an exit and then have to u-turn to head the correct way.
  • We don’t know anyone. We’ve spent the summer exploring our new home and have had no time to make new friends. Mostly it’s just J and I just like when we were on the road.
  • We don’t always know where to go to get what we need. When traveling we often didn’t know where to go to get that cup of coffee or beer that we were craving, or which hostel was the best one to get a good nights sleep, or where the correct bus station was. Now we’re searching for the best sushi place, or the grocery store that actually stocks soba noodles, or a good beer.
  • We’re travelers in our new home town. We’re out every weekend exploring the city, the prairies and the mountains; finding festivals, hikes, drives and secret hideaways as we learn, very slowly, what this corner of the world has to offer.

But we also have the benefit of staying put for a while:

  • Discovering that great coffee shop around the corner. It took trying 4 other ones first but now we have it right.
  • Having a ‘local’. Being able to walk in and have your new favorite barkeep pour your regular is comforting.
  • Cooking. I love trying new food but being able to make a roast or a big vat of pea soup is heavenly.
  • Watching the seasons change. The weather here is quite different from Victoria and I’m enjoying just watching it all unfold as one season becomes another. Of course, talk to me in another couple of months when I’m begging for winter to be over!

Of course sometimes the slow travel lesson cannot be adhered to; such as my upcoming whirlwind tour of the rum-soaked island of Jamaica. Believe me, I’ll manage, but so far I’m liking the slower pace to our journey.

[Photo Credit: Don Hankins]


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17 Responses to “Learning About Very. Slow. Travel.”

  1. Keith Says:

    I did miss cooking quite a bit. Especially in countries where food is delicious but super expensive like Japan and Australia.

    I find myself torn recently as Amy and I look to plan our first big vacation since returning from our trip and 10 days seems like such a short period to see just about anything. We are thinking Portugal and maybe Morocco though. What do you think?
    Keith recently posted..Backpacker to Business Class Part 3: The Work

  2. Kristin Says:

    I completely agree with you Gillian, slowing down is one of the best ways to truly experience a place and be in the moment with the experiences.

  3. Amy Says:

    Agree with you completely Gillian … we love travelling slow. It adds that extra dimension to the travel

  4. Kim Says:

    Gillian, I’m so glad I am an obsessive planner and blog reader because I feel like I’ve been able to identify some problems we will have on our RTW in advance. I, like you, am always wondering what is around the next corner. But I know to keep our sanity and to really get to know a place, we need to move slowly. Thanks, as always, for your wisdom. PS, have you thought anymore about that North American road trip next summer? :)
    Kim recently posted..My Life With F Words: Fear and Faith

  5. Glenda Says:

    Brilliant observations… thank you for your wisdom.
    Glenda recently posted..Celebrate

  6. Jillian Says:

    Great post as always! We too had to fight the need always to be on the go. We’re headed on our first adventure since our RTW on Saturday- when we planned it we had to tell ourselves over and over again that we couldn’t see it all. Now it’s down to 2 places in 10 days.
    Jillian recently posted..Photo:A VERY old book

  7. Audrey Says:

    Gillian,I couldn’t agree more about slow travel. I have looked at some RTW itineraries that have made my head spin. I get very stressed if I move around a lot. I tend to stay in places for longer periods of time. I like to feel settled. For the commenter Keith that is considering Portugal, it is amazing. We spent two months there. Three weeks in an apartment in the Algarve and then the rest of the time exploring other parts of the country. Very laid back, great people, great food.
    Audrey recently posted..Stage Your Own Bed In At The John Lennon Suite In Montreal

  8. Kieu ~ GQ trippin Says:

    Lesson #1.. Lol. Very true.

    And you’re absolutely right. We’re hoping to do things differently on our upcoming RTW too, primarily taking it slow which is why we opted for a half-way RTW instead of a full one. Looking forward to all the benefits of slow travels. Great post!
    Kieu ~ GQ trippin recently posted..How To: Party in Ibiza

  9. Micamyx|Senyorita Says:

    I think slow travel will make you appreciate a place more and it is also good for the health :D I realized that early this year. Being on the rush all the time makes traveling a bit exhausting, which shouldn’t be, right?
    Micamyx|Senyorita recently posted..Flying to Bacolod via AirPhil Express

  10. Phil Says:

    Great post, Gillian. I’m a big fan of slow travel myself. I think its biggest asset is the cultural discovery bit. Immersing yourself for a good long while is the best way to learn about a place.
    Phil recently posted..How to Prevent and Treat Typhoid Fever

  11. Anji Says:

    When you travel slowly you discover many things that perhaps in a short stay you would overlook. I guess that’s where the true beauty in travelling lies. In discovering those places that make a place authentic and unique.
    Anji recently posted..Around the World in 80 dishes- Mexico

  12. Bobbi Lee Hitchon Says:

    I agree with this article completely. When I first started traveling abroad, I was obsessed with hitting as many countries as possible as soon as possible. I soon realized how silly this was as I was only scratching the surface of the places I was visited and some of those places I may never have the chance to return to and do again. I think it’s so important to submerge yourself in one culture, stick around for a while and get to know the people. Plus, it makes travel relaxing and so much more meaningful. Great post.
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon recently posted..Preparing for an era party on a budget: Blitz

  13. Bridget @ Green Global Travel Says:

    great article! I think that there is so much more that you are able to learn when you travel slowly and really get to absorb the culture around you. best of luck on future travels!
    Bridget @ Green Global Travel recently posted..20 Stories from SnowedOutAtlanta That Will Restore Faith in Humanity


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