How do you travel?
Book round trip air tickets, visit a zillion sites and scout for that one perfect room which meets all your filters, contact taxi services in the vicinity and boom – before you know you are already going places and visiting all the major sightseeing spots! Going live on Facebook, Whatsapp-ing photos to your friends back home, uploading albums loaded with #wanderlust hashtags on Instagram and what not.
But really, has traveling boiled down to just striking off some countries from your bucket list?
Traveling for me is a slow process. It is an indulgent experience. It transforms you from within and refreshes your mind. Calms your tired nerves and boosts your energy levels. How do you expect to be refreshed when all you do is create an itinerary and hop from one place to another just so you cover most locations in a day?
Are you even absorbing the vibes of a place in the mad rush?
Ditch your camera and spend a moment with your eyes wide open to see where you are standing. Look at the water – it’s not blue like your homeland; it’s turquoise. Look at the birds – they have patches of different colors on their bodies. Smell the air. Listen to the myriad sounds. And accept the local meat here is not your favorite one.
Move over ‘Been there, done that’ mentality. Embrace the present. Live the experience. Immerse in the stories of the locals. Sure it won’t leave you with brimming memory cards but will give you a plethora of stories back home!
Like a campsite? Pitch a tent right there. Shop some local veggies and fruits and lit up a bonfire by the river. Not every meal on vacation is meant to be at a high-end restaurant. Experiment with different Airbnbs & Couchsurfing and curb the desire to book your nights at a fancy hotel.
Just last week I was in Goa for 4 days. Our villa was less than a 5-minute walk from the beach, but will you believe me that not once did I visit the shore? Maybe I am done with the water crashing against my feet or I was lazy to wipe off the sand so all I did was find myself a corner to curl around, savored my Cheese Omelette, reclined against the chair of the cafe pitched right above the beach where can I hear the roaring waves. Perfect, eh?
Chatted a bit with the manager. That’s the best part about slow traveling – no half-baked conversations. I am listening to his stories (fish bans, fishermen’s festivals due in the next few days, how offseason Goa is different compared to season etc.) when I smell the aroma of oven-fresh apple pies pass by. At that moment with all my senses, I felt alive. Talking about Goa, with a Goan, right on a Goan beach. If this isn’t the right kind of travel – what is?
Technically, even I am not a Slow Traveller – but I’ve gradually learned what’s my travel type. I like to mix up my itineraries (yes, I prepare rough ones TBH) with some time left for just doing nothing at all. And I don’t always stick to deadlines. Being an ambivert, my interaction with locals is limited to shopkeepers and drivers – and I am totally comfortable with it. So go, find out what your travel type is and you’ll never want to go back to ‘5 cities in 5 days’ schedules.
Maybe it isn’t experimenting with food or interacting much with the people around you. But it’s okay! There are no rules except to be comfortable and enjoy the moment. Not every sight deserves a selfie. Not every journey you take needs an air-conditioned cab. You’ll have the most bizarre experiences in a local train. But it’s okay!
Slow travel is not a procedure. It is a thought process. You need to come out of the ‘strike off my bucket list’ phase and clasp Instagram worthy landscapes in real life.
Embrace your initial blunders.
I am sure many Indian mothers are going paranoid already! 😛 So yes, whilst this article is to urge you to try an unconventional way of traveling, remember to take care. Don’t just start talking to any random stranger on the street. Remember to have the local cop’s contact details on your speed dial. Also, research in advance about a few backup hotels. Carry a snack with you at all times and distribute cash in your luggage. Keep a close friend/ family member updated about your whereabouts. If possible, share your location with a near one at all times.