Every time we see a tourist bus stopping in the town where we just arrived, it gives us the chills. Like pieces on a production line, they descend in a row with their inevitable hats and automatic cameras hanging from their necks, their shirts that rarely match their shoes and their continuous rush. They escape from their home routines and their daily stress to get into another pre-defined schedule routine and other stress caused by the need to return in time so that the bus does not leave without them.
We understand perfectly that due to the crazy and imperious mania of having to work eleven months and a half a year to only have two weeks of vacations, the tourist does not have much time available. But the question we ask is: wouldn´t it be more enriching and more relaxing to choose few places to spend “a lot of time”, than a lot of places to spend little time? Wouldn´t it be more nutritious for the soul (and for the stomach) to stop at a typical village bar at noon to try the owner´s home-made food than to stop half an hour to eat a tourist menu and continue to mark places in our travel notebook where the most important thing is the amount of monuments visited and photographed, despite having no idea what you are seeing?
Let´s not confuse concepts. With this we are not saying that if you go to Rome you don´t have to visit the Coliseum so that you can have time to sit down and eat grandmother´s pasta. What we are saying is that if you go to the Coliseum do not go to take a photo to have a souvenir and continue on to other monuments because you only have one day in the city. What we propose is that if you go to the Coliseum you take all day to walk it, breathing its history, understanding the atrocities that happened there, “enjoying” the place. And if you do not get to visit Villa Borghese do not worry; It is a good excuse to return to Rome. Do not go in a hurry. Do not live in a hurry.
But it is true that the concept of “slow travel” does not usually apply to big cities. It is more applicable to rural areas, outside the tourist circuit. Slow traveling is avoiding the holiday package and the all inclusive cruise. However we like to take the slow traveling concepto there too, considering that having a small child means that the traveling times are shortened because you must adapt to the needs of the child. “Slow travel” refers to a style of travel, to a choice. It is about knowing few places to get to really know a place. It is having a month in Europe and yet choosing to discover a single country, instead of five. It is spending more time walking the streets and meeting people, than getting on a train or on a plane.
Our first “slow travel” experience was in 2013, when we decided to spend our 30 days vacation in France alone (at that time we were not doing the blog and our son was not in our lives). It is to this day that we consider that journey as a breakthrough in our lives. Not only because we fell in love there and decided to go back to our home country and live together, but also because we discovered a new way of traveling. We started to stay in houses instead of hostels or hotels, and to dedicate an important time to meet our hosts. We are still in contact with several of them, and we have even visited them no longer as guests but as friends. In a month you could say that we understood France. We walked the streets of some beautiful lost villages, slept in a stone house in the middle of the mountain, tasted more than 50 varieties of cheese. We even had many French people try the mate, our traditional Argentine infusion. In a month, instead of deciding to accumulate places, we decided to accumulate experiences, which in the end are the most memorable things about a trip. Our favorite time was not when we went into a museum or visited a monument. The best moment of the day was when we sat down in the picnic areas along the side of the roads (in France there must be one every ten kilometers) to drink some mates and just enjoy the views.
The last experience we remember is that of our trip to Iceland. It was a little over two weeks in a campervan. Two weeks is not enough to travel one of the most wonderful countries that we have ever seen. But taking into account that many people that we crossed by were doing our same itinerary but in five days, you could consider our journey as slow traveling. And we were able to improvise on the go and choose places that were not in our original plan. And many of them were the best part of the trip. Because that is another advantage of slow traveling: the possibility of changing plans because nobody hurries you, no one forces you to follow a fixed itinerary.
Let’s do an exercise: try to travel in your mind and find some recent trip that you have done. Do you already have it? Now look inside that memory and find something that made you smile. What is it? Is it a monument? Is it a moment when you were in a hurry trying to get somewhere? Or is it an experience? There is nothing more beautiful and unforgettable than the experiences that come with the trips. That feeling of living, and not just seeing and being in a place. That feeling of interacting with the place and not being a mere spectator.
Soon we will begin a trip around Europe in a motor-home. Maybe by the time you read this we will have started. We like to go at our pace, with no boarding hours, no limits to check out. If we like a place, we stay. If we do not like it, we leave. That’s what slow traveling is all about. To choose where and when to be. To live the true freedom of traveling. No clocks, no rules, no driver leaving you behind if you do not arrive at the preset time. Going to the place we want and not to the place indicated by the travel guides.