A Case For Slow Travel
Quick! Tell me how many countries you have been to. What's your total count? Maybe you're one of those lucky "few" who has been to Every. Single. One. Congrats. That makes you much more worthy in the eyes of other travellers. You're now considered a "real traveller". An authentic globetrotter.
(Insert eye roll). To me, this is the exact opposite of what travelling should be about. Do you explore unknown lands just so you can tick things off of some list, or do you travel to truly experience a place, its people, the food, and local culture? I'm sorry if I find it hard to believe that you're getting all of that by simply concentrating on a number and flying out of places faster than you came in. To me, that type of quick travel is simply a cruise on foot. You're a tourist. You've come to see those bucket list sights and Instagram-worthy locations without ever experiencing the true essence of a place.
If you're fortunate enough to travel full time (or long term), I want to take this opportunity to explain my case for slow travel. The below can also be applied to people who are simply vacationing and have a limited time to explore Southeast Asia. I have and always will recommend sticking to one country or area. This way, rather than spreading yourself too thin and trying to squeeze in as much as possible, you can experience places in depth. You owe it to yourself and to this captivating region.
On all fronts. Travelling slowly, generally means that you'll spend less. You're able to track down accommodation options through Airbnb or locally-sourced rentals that will offer you discounts for long-term stays. In some cases, this can amount to 50% off of a nightly rate. The same goes for scooter rentals, which is usually the best and least overwhelming option for travel through Southeast Asia. You'll save money by doing excursions by yourself on a scooter, rather than signing up for those pre-packaged tours by car. You'll also see more, since you can stop whenever and wherever you please. If you slow it down, you'll save on external transit. You'll be able to rely on local (and cheaper) forms of transit, rather than depending on those quick plane trips because you're crunched for time. In Southeast Asia, overnight train options are affordable and they also mean you save on an additional night of accommodation. If you're trying to be the next "I've visited every country in the world", then you'll surely be spending loads on RTW tickets or international flights too.
Weather won't make or break it.
When you have a longer time to spend in one place, you don't have to strictly rely on the weather forecast, obsessing about it instead of enjoying yourself. Most of the countries in Southeast Asia have several periods of unpredictable weather. Imagine that you only have a couple of nights in a city and both of those days you're stuck in monsoon rains, practically ruining your excursion plans. I've been there. You're left with two options: continue with umbrellas and rain covers or miss out completely. Either way, you're ultimately left with a more miserable outlook. You feel like you spent a load of money without doing anything worthwhile. If you leave yourself with more time, you'll end up appreciating those gloomy and rainy days. Instead, you'll embrace them as an opportunity to just sit back and enjoy Mother Nature.
You dig deeper.
When you travel slowly, you end up digging deeper. Deeper into the local culture and customs. Deeper into the variety of foods. Deeper into the friendships you'll form with the locals. It broadens your perspective on places and its people. You build an emotional connection that is impossible to experience if you're simply flying in and out of various places, focusing on some imaginary list. You're more in tune with the place because you start to feel like a resident, rather than a foreigner. You have an opportunity to learn the local languages and all of those little quirks not obvious when you're travelling through a place so quickly. Rather than finish your entire trip and realize that it's all been a blur, you can capture those moments with your heart instead of just your camera. Don't miss out on cherishing all of those meaningful encounters and experiences.
You become a traveller, not just another tourist.
When you're around longer, you have more time to explore. You get to find those real "off the beaten track" spots that no one has instagrammed or blogged about. You stumble upon sights purely by accident and feel like you have discovered something special that others haven't had the chance to ravage with selfies. You get to exemplify the soul of the quote, "The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see" - Gilbert K. Chesterton. This is exactly the reason why I have never and will never recommend for people to go on pre-packed tours. Especially for travel through Southeast Asia. I realize it's a popular option for people with limited time, but only because of that dreaded "list" again. When you have someone guiding you to every single location, booking all of your accommodation and all of your excursions, you become a sheep following a herd. The independence factor is an important facet of travelling. It teaches you the necessary confidence and awareness you wouldn't get if you're just being led around by an invisible leash.
You'll become more present and mindful.
Think about your life at home. Was it stressful? Fast-paced? Overwhelming at times? If you travel slower physically, you'll slow down mentally too. And trust me, you're less likely to get into some of those unfortunate mishaps when you do something quicker than your train of thought can handle. You'll be able to take advantage of things like massages, meditation, and yoga; exercising your body and mind simultaneously. You'll put down your phone and your camera more often because you already got those necessary Instagram shots. You'll relish in the moment right in front of your eyes, rather than living in the world of social media. This naturally happens when you're not visiting a country just so you can tick it off of your list and move on to the next. You start to travel for the simple art of moving. You embrace the true meaning of "Wanderlust".
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