Have you ever stayed in a city for a couple of days and then left feeling ever so slightly guilty because you may have kinda rushed through it in order to stick to your jam packed itinerary? But then as you slowly roll away from the city, you think to yourself, ‘you know what? It’s okay, one day I’ll come back and visit properly and see everything.’ You then sit back in your comfy seat, let the guilt wash over and watch the city quickly fade into the distance. Out of sight out of mind, right? Then, as you finish making those vows to return, your mind turns over to the really important things, like, your next destination. Another place that you’ll be spending two or three nights in before quickly moving on.
Yeah for me too.
It only really dawned on me when I picked up this completely unassuming book which was lying on Charlie’s Dad’s coffee table. I picked it up because I just seem to be drawn to anything that says ‘TRAVEL’. I had no idea it would BLOW MY MIND.
The book is called ‘The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel’ by Dan Kieran. Slow Travel. I know the first things that went through my mind consisted of: Whaaaaaaat? Is that even a thing? Maybe you’re thinking the same thing but let me give you a small insight into the book. The blurb says “Dan Kieran calls on us to reassess what we are setting off in search of, and how we will know when we’ve really arrived. He argues we need to free ourselves from the mindset of modern holidaying, and have faith in our own curiosity by immersing ourselves in the life-changing experience of travel.” I know, sounds pretty deep. And it IS pretty deep but it’s definitely worth a read. You can buy it here. I still haven’t finished reading the book but I just couldn’t wait to write a post as it provided me with quite a lot of food for thought. So without further ado, here are some of my musings on idle travelling.
As I just said, I have always been subconsciously aware that I tend to rush through destinations. The quote “our lessons come from the journey, not the destination” has always baffled me because I speed through travel and countries as I want to see everything I possibly can for my money. I’ve splashed out £350-£600 for flights to wherever I am and I’m bloody well going to see all I can because I have paid that much to be there. Sometimes it feels like my legs are running off whilst my body and head are helplessly trying to catch up. I can barely keep up with my travels, let alone anyone else, my Mum is constantly asking where I am, what I’m doing, WHY ARE YOU MOVING SO MUCH?! And whilst I can’t deny I have seen a lot, especially for my age, but what have I really experienced?
I have always thought of myself as more of a traveller than a tourist. I am guilty of occasionally chuckling at the group of Asian tourists with their brightly coloured shirts, funny hats and multiple DSLR cameras slung around their shoulders, pointing and in awe of all the amazing sights that surround them. Yes, yes I know need to get off my high horse but I mean, COME ON, those of us who consider ourselves ‘travellers’ are all guilty of occasionally sneering at the stereotypical tourist, (please don’t say it’s just me!) but what really makes us that different to them? We’re essentially doing the same thing, we’re all there to see the culture, absorb the sights, squeeze everything we possibly can into our schedules.
Slow Travel is a concept I very rarely consider unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even then I don’t really think of it as Slow Travel; more of an inconvenience. I only suck it up because I don’t have enough money to fly. For instance, getting a 14 hour train across India was not ideal but it was the cheapest way for Charlie and I to get from A to B, plus it killed two birds with one stone as it meant that we could skimp on one night’s accommodation. But honestly, if I had had unlimited funds, I probably would have flown.
However, as I reflect on my time in India with a new idea of slow travel; the times where Charlie and I slow travelled are probably the times we really experienced India. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to experience the chaos of India than attempting to find the train that matches your ticket, I can’t tell you how many times I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because Charlie and I were running around like headless chickens looking for any train going in the right direction.
The train station is also the only place we got to see all the different kinds of people in India. Even the elusive rich have to wait for their train on the platform with the beggars and children. In fact, despite being uber stressful at the time, those train journeys are where we met the nicest people and made the best stories (more on that in another post).
Then I thought about all the places I was the most fond of, particularly Bali. Adding up the time I have spent in Bali comes to a total of 5 weeks. 5 weeks on a tiny island of a small country, but I now consider it my travelling home. We would tell people we were staying in just Bali for 4 weeks and they’d look at us as if we’re crazy, in 4 weeks we could visit nearly all of Indonesia. But because we spent so long there, we now have friends there, we know the good sunset spots and the quiet beaches you can get away from the tourists. Charlie and I drove a lot of Bali on a moped and we really got to know the island and to some extent ‘discover the undiscovered’. We had so much time there we weren’t rushed and we could relax, a rarity in the rest of our travels.
Saying all of this, I do think that fast travel can be justified. For students it’s difficult to indulge in slow travel. With never ending deadlines, tutor appointments, rent to pay, tuition fees and god knows what else, there just isn’t the time or money to be able to take our time. This totally does not apply to just students, of course people in full time work also find it difficult to find the time to slow travel with such restrictive two week gaps and with just life in general getting in the way.
Now that I’m no longer a student, the next time I travel I will try to take my time, to really see and to really learn, to make the most of where I am rather than rushing through to my next destination.
Here’s another link to buy the book because it’s a must read and I’m so excited to hear what you all think of it!