We’ve been traveling in South America for just over three months and along the way we’ve met all sorts of travelers and people looking for adventures. Recently though we seem to have met more and more travelers who are in a hurry, rushing to get to the next place and get a certain experience ticked off their wish lists.
I spoke to one couple who were planning to travel South America, South East Asia and Australia in 12 months. I asked them how they were going to do it; see so many countries into such short amount of time? They explained they were taking lots of internal flights and pre-booked many tours, for example; a 5 day jungle tour in Brazil and an outback adventure in Australia.
Now, I know everyone is entitled to there own travel style and planning, but I can’t help but think, these “fast travelers” as I call them, are missing out. Such rigid timetables of flights, tours and countries to visit, leave moments of serendipity and unplanned adventures few and far between. Some of our most memorable times have been, when we have acted off the cuff, changed our plan and lingered in place a little longer. Most recently in Colombia we hadn’t planned on going to Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park, but after speaking to other travelers in Villa de Leyva who had just returned and were raving about the place we decided to check it out. It was off the beaten path and torturous journey to get there, but it ended up being the highlight of our time in Colombia. If we hadn’t have kept our itinerary flexible we wouldn’t have been able to make the trip at all.
Another great way of getting to know a country and culture is by traveling on public transport, local buses and trains. Probably the best example of this is in India. We spent 5 months traveling around the country and I’m adamant we learnt most about India’s culture and the people from the long bus and train journeys, chatting to local people, learning about their families, customs and sampling their food.
Sometimes I just want to shake some sense into these “fast travelers”, reassure them that it’s ok to linger in a place you like. Even if you have to skip one or two places or experiences from your travel list, there will always be the next trip.
Top Tips on Slow Travel and keeping an Open travel Plan
(These tips are aimed at people traveling for 3 months or longer)
- Keep your itinerary open and flexible: try not to fit too many places or experiences in. It’s better to see fewer places properly than lots fleetingly.
- Try not to pre-book internal flights prior to starting your trip: if you have to re-schedule a flight you could incur additional charges.
- Don’t book tours in your home country: you will probably get a better price and more authentic experience by booking with a local tour company.
- Listen to other traveler’s experiences and advice not just the guidebook.
- Be spontaneous and act on your instincts have an adventure.
- Travel on public transport as much as possible and chat with locals; it’s amazing what local knowledge you can garn about a place. You might even get a dinner invitation which has happened to us on many occasions.
- Don’t always make your final judgment of a place by the hotel or hostel you are staying in. If you’re staying in a hostel you don’t like, move. It’s amazing how your perspective of place can change instantly once you like your accommodation.
- Finally if you like a place and feel sad to be leaving so soon, linger a little longer, even if it means skipping another destination.