No Rush: Slow Travel as a Sensibility

Should I stay or should I go now? We’ve all faced this dilemma before, from a dull party to awkward date. These questions are simple when framed in the context of typical urban living – most of our routine is fixed, removing a lot of the guesswork and ambiguity that would occur otherwise. But in the context of the modern nomad, this question is always humming in the background, the winning card in our back pocket.

This freedom to choose an alternative path at any given time is a major appeal of the nomadic lifestyle. Modern nomadism is not based on scarcity and need like our ancestors, instead the movement is based on a desire for abundance – abundance of time, of pleasure and of quality of living.

The modern nomad’s independence from imposed codes means they can leave a place at any given time. This freedom is a mixed blessing. When the experiences are enriching, the dilemma goes away, there is no need to move. The problem arises when something is amiss, and we ruminate to identify the source of the tension and make the necessary shifts. Often this end up being the desire to change our external setting, preferring to move on to the next unknown.

The elusive part of this coming/going process is the ambiguous timing. When you first arrive the senses are overloaded, absorbing new sights, sounds and smells… not to mention your mental tank going into overdrive to assimilate (or survive) in a new culture. How you take a cab, say please/thank you in a new language, which coffee shop is best, etc… But once these high-operating requirements fade and the sameness filters in, the mind tends to wonder, wandering into the future and planning for the next adrenalin rush. Once an exit drafted, this cycle is often repeated in a new place, reliving an experience that is akin to falling in and out of love.

The rush of falling in love can be addictive, but we all know that getting stuck on the novelty can keep you from going deeper. If we choose the buzz over the possibility to develop depth of feeling, we are cheating ourselves from a more rounded experience. If boredom and familiarity is pushing you to change place once the infatuation period is over, it is akin to not giving love a chance.

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” – Lily Tomlin

Slowing down as an antidote to rushing off is more than an action, its an attitude. Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement, reminds us that our need for speed may be an illusion:

“We believe that we can add meaning to life by making things go faster. We believe life is short — and to compensate, we must move faster to fit everything in. But a lifetime spans decades.” The Slow Food Movement asks for us to take back control in a culture of distractions by slowing down. The movement later influenced its offshoot –Slow Travel. The Slow Travel concept believes we can reengage our relationship with places, to allow our environment to absorb us (and not that we have to swallow the environment).

If slowing down (a culturally suspicious term for the prevailing norm) is to be tried, what are the benefits? Why would we want to fall in love anyway?

…to Loosen Up

The opposite of getting a grip, slowing down helps us release the gripping sensation. Loosening our mental muscle means we can stop evaluating the situation and relax the tensed “ready for action…” state. Loosening up in a place is a preparatory state where you stop planning, researching, and trying to generally maximize time. Thoughts like “since I’m here I should do X, Y or Z” can be prohibitive of letting go. Try to make your not-to- do list as long as your to-do list.

…to Experience Spontaneity

Successful spontaneity is only recognized through reflection at the end of the day. Perhaps you made a friendship with an unexpected person, discovered impressive architecture, or perhaps you followed the same routine per usual, but this time it
was effortless. Creating structure is necessary when we first arrive at a new location, but after settling in we can allow for events to unfold for themselves.

This may also mean savoring unexpected mishaps, such as turning a missed bus connection (negative experience) into a positive experience, such as hitching a ride with someone you spend the day exploring with.

…to Check-in

Being constantly on the go can keep us distracted from other low-level needs. Sometimes this can be as simple as getting organized. Having down time in a place to lay low and review can be helpful for optimizing experiences to come. Maybe we need to start incorporating exercise, reorganize our files or photos, or call home to touch base with family or loved ones. It can also be as simple as realizing you need a secondary workspace to break up the workflow. They may not be critical needs, but staying put for a while can let us remember what details we may be casting aside, and bringing them into our awareness sooner will help our general emotional and mental wellbeing.

…to Gain Depth

Culture cannot be absorbed in a day, and most new cultures need a minimum of 3 months to experience properly, and up to 12 months to experience fully. Cultural integration means experiencing a range of local meals and customs, adopting tidbits of language, and generally being able to operate independently in a foreign place. Engaging fully with a culture enriches our knowledge and sense of self and better prepares us for the next place we choose to “fall in love”…

Make this life a wonderful adventure.

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