We live in a fast-paced world. Everything is accessible and at our fingertips. But we are not content with what we have. We want more, and we want to do more. We want to do it all in the least time possible. In life, we have forgotten the art of taking things slowly. I am quite guilty of trying to squeeze a lot to achieve more. It is not surprising that the same problem exists in travel.
I started my travels with the desire to see as much, but I was exhausted over time. For almost eighteen months, I stayed at a place for a day or two, hopped onto a local bus and headed to another location. I used my time to explore as much as I can. With group tours, we travelled with a fixed itinerary, moving quickly from place to place. I did end up seeing a lot, but I did not enjoy the experiences. It was overwhelming. I decided to make a change when I reached Laos in late 2019. I decided to take it slow.
I spent a few days in Luang Prabang, a lot more than I originally had planned. Every day I went to a cafe, got a coffee and just watched the world. Sometimes I sat by the waters of the Mekong River. There was no plan. There was no need to see more and do more. I was doing nothing, but in return, I gained a lot more. It gave me time to reflect. It gave me time to observe. It gave me time to immerse myself in the land, the smell and the sights. And I did this by doing nothing.
Since then, I have tried to do the same in other places. I relaxed in Nong Khiaw, another serene place in Laos along the Mekong River. I did the same in Siem Reap, spending almost ten days there. After visiting the temples of Angkor, I spent the time reading, catching up on Netflix and just relaxing in my hostel. I was a lot more relaxed than I had ever been moving very quickly from place to place.
In Quito, Ecuador, I met an elderly South African couple. They were retired, had sold their belongings and moved to South America to live and travel. They were working at the reception at the hostel when I met them. They planned to travel to across South America over the years, but they wanted to take their time, to get the real essence of a city or a place by living there for weeks or months. They planned to be in Quito for three to six months before heading to another location. I quite liked their approach to explorations.
Similar to the South African couple, I met a French girl, Voilaine, in Nepal. She had stayed on an organic farm with a Nepalese family for weeks before she travelled to the Annapurna mountain range. She wanted to work on the farms to understand Nepalese culture and life deeper. She felt that staying with a family, working on the farms helped her do so. Many thousands of travellers do the same as part of a movement called WOOFing or “Working on an Organic Farm”. I have many travellers, mostly very young, who have done this. Many from the UK head to Australia or Canada on a holiday working visa and then work on farms. The primary motivation is to see a new country, but working on the farm helps them with income and gives them valuable life experiences. Of course, this also has meant that they travel at a slower pace, with the advantage being that they get an immersive experience of local life during their time on the farms.
Slow travel is probably the most fulfilling element of travelling. Many people have a two-week vacation or a week or even just a weekend. While one might think, it is not possible to do this during a week’s vacation. I disagree. The desire to squeeze in as much to prove to yourself and others you have experienced a lot is the root cause of exhaustion. After all, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is quite overwhelming at times. If you can separate yourself (and this is not easy) from this desire, then the rewards are tremendous. You may not have much to show to the world, but you will have a lot to demonstrate to yourself. It can be part of the joy of missing out (JOMO). Both FOMO and JOMO resonate throughout the world. The antidote to FOMO is to ‘Go Slow’ and then let JOMO do its bit.
Go slow. It is worth it.