The art of slow travel

I am a big fan of slow travel. Of taking my time and not rushing, of wandering through small lanes and not zipping through and of staying to linger in a little village I’ve just fallen in love with.
But why would anyone take their time while travelling? Isn’t it better to travel as fast as you can, to as many places as you can and be the envy of everyone else?
If there is one thing that travelling slowly allows you to do, it enables you to immerse yourself in a country. When you spend more time in a place, you absorb more of what the country can offer through your interactions with the people, the food you eat and the way of life. You end up not just travelling or stopping by. If you linger in a place long enough you actually live in that place, and what is the purpose of travelling but to absorb and experience the wonders of life on this amazing planet.
Long trips are a wonderful way to mark a change or new stage in your life. In my first year of university, I spent a month travelling through Europe. After I quit one of my earlier jobs a few years ago, I bought a ticket to New Zealand and explored the country for five weeks. When I left full-time employment two years ago, I celebrated by flying to Russia and spent two months travelling overland, taking only trains and buses through six countries until I reached home. I could have flown home from Russia, but that was never the idea. I wanted to take as much time as I could to explore the region.
Two months of travel, of course, is no big deal. I have met many travellers who took time off from work to travel around the world. Scores more have taken an entire year off to explore continents like South America and Africa.
For many of us, the challenge of travelling for an extended period is taking time off from work. Very few employers would be willing to let their people disappear for more than a week, let alone a few months, but that’s not to say they won’t allow it if you don’t ask.
If you can’t take a year or a month off, settle for half a month and concentrate on a smaller area. Two or three weeks in Tasmania, in New Zealand’s South Island or in Italy, for instance, would be enough to allow you to learn more about the culture, the history and the people in those places.
I have never been able to fathom those whirlwind European tours that travel agencies are so famous for. You might know what I mean- the 12-day tours through 10 European countries, which would invariably include a frenetic, one-day city tour in Paris and one day speeding through Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
If 12 days is all you have, why not spend the entire time in France, strolling through the streets of Paris and enjoying Bordeaux, Lyon and maybe the French Riviera.
If you prefer Italy instead, Rome and Tuscany can be enjoyed in 12 days, although it would be better to set aside three weeks to explore the whole country. What an expert you would be on the food, the culture, even the language after three weeks. Imagine the stories you would have after three weeks in Italy- your stories would go into layers and layers of detail- surely that is what travel is all about.
A deep appreciation of a country or region cannot be gained from those zip in-zip out 12-day multi-country tours. Neither does it make any sense to fly within regions such as the Baltics, the Balkans, Central America or Indochina. Countries within regions such as these have a shared and overlapping history and ideally, should be explored slowly by land.
Assuming that we travel to learn more about the world we live in, taking your time and travelling slowly is the best way to benefit from your travels. And if you write, draw or paint for a living, you don’t need anyone telling you that you’ll get more material and inspiration in three weeks than two days.
At the end of the day, the operative word should be ‘time’. If you don’t have the time to travel extensively, concentrate on a smaller area. Don’t be obsessed about covering a lot of countries if you have limited time.

By : Anis Ibrahim (sg.news.yahoo.com)

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