Finding rhythm in the world isn’t always easy. But, what you seek, you will find. Make slow travel your mainstay and delve deeper into the experiences the world has to offer, says Kai Colaco.
Some of the best things in life are done slowly. Take cooking, for example; for the best flavours in your stew, the ingredients just need to simmer in there for a while. We might have lost our rhythm with nature in the quest to live fast. Granted, it doesn’t always stem from choice but necessity; yet it’s still worth making that extra effort to find your place in the world.
While travelling with a group of people, hopping from place to place, and eating conglomerate-produced, sodium-heavy processed foods has a thrill of its own; the road less travelled, where you buy local ingredients, learn about the authentic culture and break bread with locals, has a thrill of its own. And a big reason why that is worth exploring is considering that we have a duty towards people who live in that space.
The phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans” has a basis rooted in respect. Respect towards places, cultures and people. Taking a quick flight or a private vehicle to reach your destination is the quickest and most comfortable way to do it; but it also creates an environmental impact bigger than you need to, while also cutting you off from a thorough experience. It also opens your eyes to what life is like – taking you past the honeymoon phase to see what that part of the world is like.
As tourists, we often want to get the most out of our travels. Given the social media culture we live in, we want to visit all the popular tourist destinations and take the most picture-perfect images, wearing the fanciest of clothes in front of the most prestigious monuments of the world. Now, while this might feel like an accomplishment, slow tourism or taking your time in space to immerse yourself in the culture and learning to live like a local proves to be more environmentally and mental-health friendly.
When you spend longer getting to know the essence of a place and forming connections with locals, the experience ends up being significantly more fruitful than its shallow counterpart. Slow travel urges you to practise mindfulness and become more aware of your impact.
SMALL TIPS ON HOW:
- If you’re a newbie to the culture, start small. Take a trip to a place relatively close to where you live. Maybe within your own state or country, or continent. Learn slowly what it’s like to mingle with people who are culturally different from you.
- Do more first-hand research on the places you plan to visit by talking to people who have “been there, done that.” Getting your info off the internet is often superficial, generalistic and sometimes extreme.
- When you do travel, choose local accommodations, eateries and modes of transport. A great way to mingle with locals and find, possibly, relatively like-minded people is by joining a local workshop or taking a class.
- If you’re someone who likes to cook, pop by local markets and bakeries to pick up fresh and local raw materials. If you want to eat out, seek out local, small-time joints.
- Try developing skills that aren’t native to where you live by learning things from locals, like a new dish or local art. Learn a dying skill first-hand from the artiste. You can’t tell me that’s not cool!
SOME OF THE BEST PLACES FOR SLOW TRAVEL
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
The narrow, canal-threaded and, in some cases, vehicle-free streets of central Amsterdam are ideal for bicycles. Take a relaxed cycle from Vondelpark past all of your favourite museums to your favourite brown café.
- Riviera, France
The Riviera is a gorgeous section of the Côte d’Azur coastline. It stretches from the town of Toulon in the southwest of France all the way to the Italian border. Enjoy the picturesque landscapes on a Moped (scooter) and visit the best of places: Nice, Cannes and Marseille.
- Milford Track, New Zealand
This is a four-day adventure trailing the 53.5km Milford Track on New Zealand’s mountainous South Island. It is regarded as one of the finest walking trails in the world.
- Mekong, Laos
On the Mekong, you can catch river ferries at a number of places and drift casually down its mighty watercourse. A favourite stretch for locals and travellers is the super busy section between the trading town of Huay Xai and the French colonial grandeur of Luang Prabang.
- Sahara, Morocco
Here, you can ride on camelback from dusk to dawn or take treks through the desert. The excursion involves a sure-footed plod across the Erg Chebbi (erg is an Arabic term for one of the massive sand dunes that the Sahara specialises in).
The timeframe of slow travel can extend from spending weeks in a place to as long as you wish. It’s important to remember that while the pace of slow travel may be leisurely, getting up close and personal with a new culture is much more challenging than just breezing through the major tourist sites. Part of the reward of slow travel is overcoming language barriers, differences in customs, and other potential stumbling blocks to make connections with the new people you meet.