Last summer, I spent two weeks traveling up the east coast of Australia. I drove all the way from Sydney to Cairns, nearly 1,600 miles, in 7 days. By covering such a long distance, I was able to see a variety of landscapes and partake in a variety of activities in a relatively short period of time. However, I felt like I didn’t get to fully enjoy my time in each destination. This road trip was a tornado of constant driving, checking in, checking out, packing and unpacking. The whole experience was one hectic blur. Thus, this trip taught me a very important lesson about solo travel: sometimes, it’s necessary to slow down.
The Stress and Anxiety of an Over-Packed Itinerary
I used to think that I had to squeeze as many activities as possible into a single day while traveling. Given a short period of time, I felt pressured to pack my itinerary with as many different things as humanly possible. Though unintended, this kind of solo travel caused me a lot of stress and anxiety. I hated feeling rushed, yet I was responsible for creating the unneeded and overstated sense of urgency I felt on every trip.
I would think to myself:
What if I never come back? What if I miss the highlights? I can’t afford to waste a single minute.
I once had only 3 days in Paris, and gave myself a wildly insufficient 2 hours in the Louvre. I ran through the museum trying to see as many famous works as possible. Looking back, I realize how naive this was. I wish I had dedicated a full day to the Louvre. I would have loved to have taken a guided tour of the museum so that I could learn about each work of art, the artists, their stories and what makes each piece so awe-inspiring. I walked right past some of the most famous and profound expressions of human talent and creativity on the face of the earth without even knowing it. Much of what I saw was lost on me, and I left that day feeling unfulfilled.
Quality over Quantity
I used to think that “slow travel” put you at risk for missing out on all the opportunities available in a certain travel destination. I adopted a fervent “carpe diem” kind of attitude, but little did I know that I was acting as my own travel drill sergeant.
Despite my desire to travel in the most efficient way possible, my method of travel was, in reality, very inefficient. I was missing something. I might have been able to see and do a large quantity of things, but the quality of my experience was suffering. It wasn’t until this hectic Australian road trip that my eyes were finally opened to the major travel mistake I had been making.
For a more memorable trip, adopt a slower pace.
It’s no wonder I often ended a trip feeling as if I needed a vacation from my vacation. By packing too many things into a single trip, I wasn’t able to spend enough time in one place in order to become fully immersed in my surroundings. To me, experiencing a new place and a new culture is one of the most beneficial and important aspects of solo travel, and I was unknowingly robbing myself of this opportunity. I have since learned the value of slow and mindful travel.
Slow travel is one of Astrid Solo Travel Advisor’s key focuses. This ideal permeates through all that we do. Whether traveling ourselves, planning a bespoke solo trip, or designing small group tours, the ideal of slow travel is reflected in planning and execution.
What is slow travel?
By slow travel, I mean the kind of travel that affords you a sufficient amount of time to soak in your environment. This will vary by solo traveler and destination. I have personally found that 4 to 5 days on average allows me enough time to arrive in a place, gain my bearings, get over any jet lag and culture shock, and really begin to absorb my surroundings.
Slow-paced travel allows me to distribute my list of activities over the course of my stay. That way, I can ensure that each day is not packed to maximum capacity, making me feel anxious and rushed. While I still like to be moving, grooving and actively seizing the day, I no longer feel the unneeded pressure to travel at such a fast pace.
The Importance of Planning
While 4-5 travel days is my personal, general rule of thumb, it is certainly not an absolute. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible. Say you only have 24 hours in New Orleans during a layover, or like me, 3 days in Paris. In these circumstances, you will have to plan your trip well, and choose a few key activities to focus on. Choose a hotel in a good location, and map out your excursions so that you can travel efficiently and with ease.
For example, when in Paris, stay in the gorgeous, boutique Hotel Regina and you will be within easy access to the Left Bank, fabulous shopping, the Champs Élysées, the Louvre, an abundance of Michelin Star restaurants, and the River Seine where you might even have time to take a beautiful dinner cruise. Spend a full day in the Louvre and at night, stroll down the Camps Élysées and take your time dining in an iconic Parisian café, soaking in the city of lights as long as your heart desires.
Choose just a few things to enjoy so that you can really enjoy those things.
Think about all the things you want to do and be reasonable about how long it will take you to accomplish all of these things. If you have a list of activities that will most likely take 10 days to complete and you only have 7, do not try and fit everything in. Instead, prioritize your list of things to do.
You simple can’t do it all. Rather than swiftly and hastily crossing every activity off your list, you will find that your time is much better spent diving deep into the most important ones.
Slow Travel means Mindful Travel
My new slow and steady approach to travel has taught me to be more mindful throughout my various solo excursions. Slow travel has alleviated my stress and has encouraged me to be present in every moment. It has allowed me to become a part of my surroundings, rather than observe them as I blaze through in a flash. This new attitude has changed the way I approach solo travel and has reminded me that there are always new lessons to be learned with every journey I take.
What are your thoughts on slow travel? Let us know in the comments below!
Author: Madeline Freret
Madeline joined the Astrid Solo Travel Advisor team as a Content and Digital Marketing Manager in 2018. She believes that traveling is an essential aspect of life that allows you to see yourself, other people, places and things in a new light. She is passionate about trying new things, having a curious mind and seeking joy wherever she goes. To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to the About page!
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