“It's not the destination, it's the journey”
Is a quote that’s synonymous with inspiring Instagram posts. It’s a quote that's made it onto pillows*, plates, wall-hangings, and even the London Underground ‘Thought of the Day’ whiteboard. I personally think it’s a great quote and sums up slow travel to a tee.
*Confession: I have the pillow.
For those of you who haven’t come across slow travel before, it is set to overtake Bali as the latest #instatravel trend. To break it down, Slow Travel is about being aware of your surroundings on a deeper level in order to have a better understanding of the place you are in. Sound complicated? It isn’t. I have been slow traveling for years without even realising it was actually a thing, because for me it’s so much more than the latest #instafad. It's about getting to know the people, the culture, the food and the place organically. Taking a break from the well-trodden 'to-see' list and instead, opening your mind to new experiences and discovering what it is about a place that really makes you tick. So without further ado, this week on Find Your Fleek Friday, I'm going to share with you some of my tips on how to embark on your own slow-travel journey:
Have an actual conversation with one new person a day
With so much digital conversation, a face-to-face chat can actually seem a bit daunting, but for me it was a bit like speaking in public, the first time you’re not really sure how it’s going to go down, but once you’ve done it you wonder why you were so worried in the first place.
I have learned so much about places just by having a chat with a shop owner, bartender or bus driver, and even if you don’t learn anything new about the place, you never know where the conversation is going to end up. Go with the flow and enjoy the moment. Here are a couple of my favorite random encounters:
Exhibit A: Harry’s Bar*, a waiter called Claudio and a couple of gin martinis later**. After we had put the world to rights Claudio invited me to the NYE party at Harry’s Bar (only one of the most exclusive bars in Venice!). I sadly couldn’t go but what an invite!
*The bar where one drink costs more than my monthly electricity bill
**Treat with caution
Exhibit B: NYC, a torrential downpour and a welcoming burger bar. Arriving soaked through and looking like a dishevelled Stuart Little, the guy behind the bar took pity on me, and to take my mind off my rather sorry state gave me a full history of the bar and the area followed by a quick *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* as he pointed out that the Ralph Lauren was sitting on the table behind me.
Leave any distractions at home
It’s so easy to take your ‘comfort blanket’ with you, whether that’s your phone, book or journal, so try leaving it back in the room, or in the depths of your bag. Give the place you are in your undivided attention, relax at a cafe and people watch, enjoy the feeling of the sun on your face, let your mind wander and your imagination flow, with your nose in a book you are never going to notice George Clooney sitting at the table next to you.
Don't fear the unknown
Whether it's food, drink a new method of public transport, it's easy to stick with what you know instead of trying something new and different. A plane is quicker but on a train, you might see more of the sights and the landscape. You might be a pasta addict, but how do you know if you like pizza if you've never tried it? Trying something new doesn't mean you have to like it, it's all about embracing the journey. When I was traveling in Kenya, I stayed in a tent in the Maasai Mara. I was with a small group of fellow travelers, and we were invited to effectively a tribal BBQ* out of the village. Many of my peers, unaccustomed to this way of BBQ-ing meat declined the goat which was on offer, I can honestly say it was one of the best meals ever and the privilege of joining the Maasi Tribe for dinner is something I'll never forget.
*Basically a goat on a spit
On the other hand, another experience I'll never forget, but not for the same reasons, is the time I tried Campari Soda. I tried it (twice actually, because you know, just in case), the first was with a well-meaning but permanently drunk ski instructor, he called out the order for 'shots' and at which point I was presented with a small bottle containing a bright red liquid. "Down in one!" he cried, and *shudders at the memory*, when the vile liquid hit my throat, I nearly cried too, my eyes-watering so much I looked like I'd just finished watching Marley & Me. I can now unreservedly say that there is nothing I like about Campari Soda, but when I see the drink on the menu it takes me back to a small Italian town, the exchange of laughs and stories with the locals and one hell of a great night!
To sum it up
Slow travel is getting to know the locals, listening to what they have to say. It's about new experiences, trying local specialties, embracing the culture and wandering off the well-trodden path. It's letting your curiosity get the better of you because, as Walt Disney once said: “when you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do”*
*Makes a note to look into costs of printing quote onto pillowcase
Written by Emma Bolus