I live out of a suitcase. Quite literally. After spending nearly a decade in the travel industry and then moving onto international corporate events I can plan for a two-week stint in San Francisco in the space of 20 minutes and fit everything I need into a small carry on suitcase. I would like to say I’ve got packing, unpacking and repacking down to a fine art. Right now I’m writing this blog on a plane to Germany. It’s 8 am, I left the UK just after an hour ago, this time yesterday I was still in Italy and this time tomorrow I will be getting ready to go back to the airport to heading home. It’s full on: 4 airports, 3 countries and several different methods of transport, in less than 72 hours.
I know not everyone has got quite the same working week as me, but traveling so frequently has meant that I’ve picked up a tip or two along the way, (and as my mum often points out I am probably one of the only people who can manage to get through the perils of airport security without even a slight spike in my blood pressure). This is likely to be the first of many blogs I write on the subject, because for me being able to slow travel is an integral part of being able to live slowly.
Get ready to pack your bags as here are my first top tips on slow-travel and how to stay sane.
1. Don’t’ Pack What Your Don't Need
It’s so easy to over pack. ‘Oh, I might just wear these heels’ was always my go-to phrase. It’s only since I upped my travelling schedule where I can be taking 2-3 flights a week that I finally admitted to myself that:
a. I can’t tolerate sore toes
b. I can’t be bothered to carry all this extra stuff that I really don’t need.
I now ignore the voice in my head which tells me what I think I should wear (visions of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday normally flit through my mind at this point) and instead, write out a list of what I’m actually going to be doing and pack accordingly. Because let's be honest, there is no way I’m going to be able to spend 6 hours sightseeing in shoes that I can’t stand-up in for more than 5 minutes!
2. Don’t’ Forget to Do Your Homework
“Plans are nothing. Planning is everything” is a quote I live by.
I’m not talking about planning everything to the millisecond, so you miss out on actually living in the moment (more on that shortly). What I mean, is making sure that you know all the fundamentals of your trip so you have everything in hand when you need it. This is where your phone can be a real game changer. Today’s technology means you can save boarding passes, hotel reservations and even trip tickets to your phone, no scrambling through the bottom of your Mary Poppins bag looking for that one piece of paper you need, instead, you have it all at your fingertips, in the same place, only one click away. A somewhat obvious, but commonly overlooked tip, remember to make sure you can access everything offline as well as online.
Maps.me is an app where you can download maps in advance. It works with the GPS on your phone so you won’t need an internet connection but it will still come up with all the places you need.
3. Don’t Limit Your Experiences
TripAdvisor, Google reviews, Facebook travel groups, booking.com, your friends, your family, Mrs Silvester from down the road, your neighbours’ cat…they all have an opinion on THE BEST thing to do at your chosen location. This means that it can all seem overwhelming when you’ve booked a 48-hour city break to then discover that even if you have 48 days you would still not get anywhere near visiting all the places on the aforementioned list. I always find that the old rule ‘less is more’ is the key to cracking this. It’s easy to look at say a 9:00 am tour of The Vatican in Rome and think ‘it’s only 3 hours, we will definitely be able to make it to The Colosseum (1 hour), Spanish Steps (30 minutes) and Borghese Gardens (3 hours) on the same day. Yes you probably could, and it is easy to be overenthusiastic with travel plans when there is so much to see and do, but by overestimating the sights you can see each day you may end up on missing out on some great moments. You could find an absolute gem of a restaurant after you’ve finished your tour of The Vatican, but wolf down your lunch in 30 seconds flat missing out on the favour of the delicious food as you are so preoccupied with what’s to come, instead of what you are doing right now.
I would recommend making a list of the must see’s: the things you definitely want to do; and then picking a couple of them, going with the ones, like say, The Vatican, which you have to book in advance to avoid mile-long queues on the day, and then leave the rest of your day free. This means that if anything unexpected comes along you can embrace it, but if you do find yourself wanting to see more you can add it into your itinerary as you go along.
4. Don’t Sweat It If You Don’t Do It All
This leads on from the above point and is all about the PMA: Postive Mental Attitude. There are so many ‘must visit’ spots, but if you are honest with yourself from the off that you might not see it all, then if you do it can be a welcome surprise. This is about changing your mindset to be ok with not doing it all. The ‘these are all the things I haven’t seen’ can leave you feeling inadequate, measuring the success of your trip against your own built-up expectations. By changing this mindset to ‘oh wow this is what I have seen’, you will be able to look back with fond memories of all the great places you visited and those you have not seen won't even cross your mind.
5. Do Remember – Slow Travel To See More
Slow-travel is about embracing the moment. It's about travelling at the pace of the environment you are in. For example, in many countries, it’s common to have an hour for lunch, but in Italy, home of slow-living, it is common to see locals have their afternoon break for 2-3 hours. They use it as a time to assess how the morning has gone and they relax before the afternoon ramps up again. By mimicking these patterns and following the local culture you can end up experiencing more than you ever expected to. It’s time to stop, take a step back, and let ‘slow travelling’ take the lead for you.
Written By Emma Bolus