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I Don’t Do Slow Traveling and it’s Okay

I don’t do slow traveling; not that I don’t want to, it’s just that my current situation doesn’t allow such a luxury. I have a regular nine-to-five job, which means I cannot go whenever I please and I have to seek approval from the powers that be before I go on a holiday. The duration of my absence is also based on leave credits and in our company, you have to collect it; meaning we earn a total of 1.5 leave credits by the end of the month. I used to carry the wrong notion that if I go out of town or to another country and I don’t subject myself to the rigors of going to one tourist spot to another for photo ops (a.k.a. evidence that I’d been to those spots), the way most tourists do, then I am doing slow traveling. Wrong. Slow traveling, I have come to realize is much more complex than I thought, one that definitely takes time, which as I mentioned I don’t have in abundance.

First, let us define slow travel. According to the owner of the website, slowtravel.com, Pauline Kenny,

“Slow Travel is a way of slowing down your vacation by staying in vacation rentals, spending one week in a place and seeing what is near you. This gives you the time in one place to experience it in more depth.”

Vacation rentals? I stay in hotels or hostels.

One week? The longest I stay in a place is 4 days.

A time to experience it more in depth? 4 days is not gonna cover it. What I could get, at best, is a glimpse of what a certain place is about.

What happens when you travel short? It’s not going to be as life-changing as when you do it for long, but I would argue that it can be just as enriching. There is a trick to it though. If you just move from one destination to the next without doing anything other than take pictures, chances are, you are not going to have an appreciation of that place. But if you go there and eat their food, talk with some locals, take a stroll, maybe have a coffee, or just sit in one corner and observe, you are still bound to learn something and make the trip a little more interesting.

Are you unable to do slow traveling at this point of your life? Don’t worry, it’s totally fine! Here are the things that I do make my “fast traveling” meaningful:

Focus on what’s important

Because I don’t have a luxury of a time, I’ve learned to narrow my focus on what’s important, meaning the things that I want or deem to be worthwhile. I’m not gonna go somewhere that doesn’t interest me no matter how famous it is. Many times, when people learn I’ve gone to a certain place, they’d ask me about the most popular destination or points of interest in that area. Many times, they’d look at me, baffled when I tell them that I didn’t go. Yes, I take lots of photos when I travel, but no, I don’t go there just to take pictures. I don’t need to prove to people that I’ve gone there; when I go somewhere it’s because I want to.

So don’t go through the motion of going to tourist destinations unless that is your thing. Go, only when you want to. Do not get pressured by the societal expectations of having a photo in a tourist spot that you don’t find to be interesting. Remember that your vacation time is short, so spend your time wisely. It’s the quality of the travel, not the quantity that you should go after.

Eat the local food

I would subject myself into a strict diet at least 2 weeks leading to my trip because I have a no-diet policy when I travel. I like sampling the local cuisine and I always ask  my friends for food recommendations. You won’t find me in the most popular restaurants though, I am more into street food. I like eating where the locals go. If a certain food is a local’s favorite then I should eat it too. Some of the best that I’ve tried are the tamilok and the crocodile sisig in Puerto Princesa, the iced coffee in Vietnam sold by a street vendor, the torched beef, calamari, and pepper pork bun in Taipei, the poqui poqui in Ilocos, the batil patong in Quirino, and of course the ramen in Osaka.

So unless you have an allergy or any other dietary restrictions, I highly recommend that you go out and sample the local cuisine as this is one of the best ways to really get to know the place that you are visiting. Find a restaurant or better yet, dine on eateries, small restos, or try street food. You can also ask the people where and what to eat; the locals know best. [Read: Taiwan Must Eat: Diet Another Day]

Stroll around the neighborhood

Most of the time, we just leave our bags to our hotels then off we go. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but I suggest that you find some time to stroll around the neighborhood in which you are staying. The first time I did this was in Bohol with a former colleague. We spent a few hours just walking and checking out the nearby area from our hotel. It was totally relaxing and made me feel like I was living there. Since then, I make sure to spare a few hours in a day for some neighborhood exploration. It’s through my aimless wandering that I found this charming cafe along Pub Street in Cambodia. It’s when I stepped off the hostel that I found the El Union Coffee in La Union. And it’s through my decision to kill time and take a stroll that I stumbled upon the Daan Forest Park in Taipei. [Read: Cafe Central, a Lovely Cafe at the Heart of Pub Street]

Be curious and ask the locals

Where did the Governor’s Rapids get its name? Why do the Vietnamese love coffee and why do they mix it with condensed milk instead of fresh milk? Why is it forbidden to touch the bas reliefs inside the Angkor Wat temples? Why are there spirit houses in front of homes or business establishments in Cambodia? These are only some of the things that caught my attention and by asking the locals, I was able to learn something new. Traveling is a form of education and you can learn so much just by being observant, curious, and inquisitive. When you see something different, don’t hesitate to ask the natives about it. You’d be surprised at how willing they are to share the information. Not only will you get your questions answered, you may also meet new friends. And then you can go home and have a far more meaningful stories to share with people you know.

Stay in hostels

I am recommending hostels not only for budget considerations, but for the opportunity to meet fellow travelers. I met my instant travel buddy in Cambodia, Nina from the Netherlands at the Luxury Concept Hostel in Siem Reap. I was able to promote and practically convinced an American traveler to visit the Philippines at the Happy Taipei Hostel in Taiwan. I received useful travel recommendations from my dorm mates at the Koniko Backpacker Hostel in Vietnam. The hostels are a good mine of information from the staff and the guests alike so you should consider booking your stay there.

 


I always say, there is no right or wrong way in traveling. You can do it for the long haul, you can do it on a weekend, you can do luxury, or you can do it within a budget. However you want to do it, make sure that it’s worth your time. It’s worth your time if you’re able to meet your purpose; you had fun, you learned something, you made good (or even bad) memories. It’s okay if you can’t travel slow for now. It’s not the length of time, but in how you make use of your time that matters. 

 

 

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Comments (18)

  1. Travel Tips
    Travel Tips

    Ahha, your first sentence made me laugh because I have the same reason to say NO for the slow traveling!! Ahha! Not enough money in my pocket ya!

    Reply
  2. Chasing Potatoes
    Chasing Potatoes

    “It’s the quality of the travel, not the quantity that you should go after.”

    Such a great read. I can relate with this slow travelling since I am also working. I can only go on trips during holidays or weekends.

    Reply
  3. Louiela Ann Analista
    Louiela Ann Analista

    Got your point, Marge. And I agree with it… To travel with the days we are allowed to. As long as we are happy with it, then it’s fine. I’m traveling as well right now and I mix slow and fast traveling…

    Reply
  4. Katchutravels
    Katchutravels

    Good One! I agree. I prefer slow travel too. I travel to let my mind explore what stays hidden from a place, trying to connect the dots between history and geography. Slow travel builds authenticity and love for knowing our world better, and what better way than staying in a hostel, meeting people.

    Reply
  5. Suruchi
    Suruchi

    I completely agree what you said here, Marge. We too want to travel slow but neither time nor the finances permit us to do the same. We try to cover fewer places in one trip but explore them to the fullest to make it a meaningful trip Trying local food is one thing which we really love. Thanks for the wonderful article and tips.

    Reply
  6. Erica Poyauan
    Erica Poyauan

    There are definitely pros and cons to slow and fast travels… And it is not always easy to get the right balance in case you plan to mix them all up… I’ve always enjoyed doing both. But I must admit it could be physically demanding. If I have the luxury, I’d prefer to do more slow travels. I really want to take in every bit of a place… But if I can’t, I don’t mind fast travelling for a period of time. After all, as you’ve already mentioned, “It’s not the length of time, but in how you make use of your time that matters. “

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Maybe someday we can do slow traveling, who knows!

      Reply
  7. neha
    neha

    First of all thanks for your tips. The terms like ‘slow travel’ are relative. I feel I do slow travel, but not as slow as those who travel full time. Since I have a job and limited travel time, I do plan my itinerary in advance and try to do as much as possible, without over straining myself. So, can totally relate to what you are saying here

    Reply
  8. Indrani
    Indrani

    Slow travel and full time job cannot go together. Great post, I too don’t diet during travels. It is always before or after travels. 🙂
    I always try and interact with locals too. I started one whole faces of India series based on that. May be you can introduce to us some locals.

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      I am sort of doing that already Indrani, with my Travel Bug series, although I focus mostly on travelers.

      Reply
  9. Emily
    Emily

    Great post. In your case it is 100% okay not to travel slow, you dont have the vacation time and therefore you need to rush around. However, I am a backpacker and spent the first 6 months of my trip tearing around because I needed to see everything and do everything! I soon became burnt out and realised that I needed to slow down! Spending a few days doing nothing but soaking up the atmosphere is fine. We are about to go to Australia on a work and holiday visa where we will be in one place for a few months, and do you know what? I CANT WAIT!

    Reply
  10. Sandy N Vyjay
    Sandy N Vyjay

    We are with you here Marge, though we would love to do slow travel all the time. It just is not possible. Constraints of time and budget ensure that you make the most of the time on hand and we try to see, the most we can. Of course, in between, we do try and squeeze in some short and slow travel as well, which is more of a relaxed vacation kind of an experience.

    Reply
  11. Claire Summers
    Claire Summers

    I do a mix of both. I class myself as a full-time traveler but I have to also work remotely full time. Which means that if I were to be constantly on the move I would never get anything done. So I choose different bases where i really get to know a place and live there for 3-6 months. In that time I take long weekends in places close I want to go to. I love your advice about talking to the locals, eating street food and staying in hostels. I do all of those things when I quick travel and it really helps me to have a more authentic experience in spite of having to move quickly.

    Reply
  12. s
    s

    It is actually pretty good not to do that. even I feel its lame. I also prefer not to do that.

    Reply
  13. Tanya Korteling
    Tanya Korteling

    This is so true; in the past (and still sometimes today), I’m guilty of whistlestop tours where I only stay a few days In each place….however I do try to make that short time meaningful. My favourite first thing to do in a place is to just wander around or rent a bicycle to explore!

    Reply
    • Marjorie Gavan
      Marjorie Gavan

      Hello Tanya! I think we all do the whistle-stop tours at one point in our lives.

      Reply
  14. Cathy
    Cathy

    Couldn’t agree more. Slow traveling is one of traveler’s preferences. Regardless of the time you’ve spent in a particular place or destination, the most important is, you had fun and you won’t regret a single thing of it. Interacting with locals are also one of the best things to do. Of course, try local foods whether you’re in domestic or abroad. And, hostels! Hostels are magical and amazing, you wouldn’t really know who you are bumping into! Cheers to more travels Marge! Let’s go travel crazy again together soon! Xx

    Reply

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