None of us will forget 2020: the year our lives were put on hold; the year everything changed. Unwillingly separated from loved ones; our homes immediately converted into makeshift offices, schools and gyms; and the (never-to-be-taken-for-granted-again) privilege of travel suddenly revoked.
Six isolated months of working from home (aka living at work), social distancing, obsessive sanitising and baking banana bread later, and restrictions are finally lifting.
It’s time to see if the human race has learned its valuable lesson: will we emerge gentler, kinder and more appreciative and understanding (of each other, and indeed our planet too)? Only time will tell.
“Just as the world is slowly opening up to travel, so too should we be slow in (re)appreciating it.”
Slow it down
As we rejoice the gradual reopening of global borders, many of us seek a new way of being, of interacting with others, and most certainly, of how we plan to travel. Gone are the rushed, jam-packed days of multi-destination, tick-as-much-as-you-can-off-your-bucket-list travel. It’s time to slow it all down. It’s time to really appreciate the gift of travel.
A shift in traveller mindset
As we all take a slower, more thoughtful approach to travel, how we travel becomes just as important as where we travel. While we may not (initially) travel as often and as freely as we once did, when we do actually travel, we’ll make it count with longer, more private and immersive stays in one destination. Quality over quantity.
Many will reunite with loved ones on a lengthy, multi-generational milestone journey with their carefully-chosen and trusted quaranteam. While others may opt for a soul-restoring adventure for one … a chance to hit that reset button after so many months of restrictions and uncertainty.
And instead of jetting, carefree, from one crowded stop to the next, many will opt to limit their movement — and exposure to other travellers — by travelling in the safety (and privacy) of their own travel bubble.
However we choose to explore in the days to come, there’s no denying that the unencumbered joy of travel, both near and far, can improve our mental health and help pull us out of the six-month rut we’ve all been in. We could all use a generous dose of happiness right now.
5 benefits of slow travel
1. Gain a deeper appreciation
Spending more time in one place gives travellers a chance to delve deeper into a destination. To really understand and experience the soul of a place and its people.
Take the time to immerse yourself in a landscape and its unique cultural and natural heritage. Learn about the destination, engage in real conversations with the local people you meet and experience more of the adventures on offer. From community visits and local markets, to scenic helicopter flips, cooking classes, wine pairings and so much more.
Instead of simply ticking off a bucket list destination, slow down to gain a deeper, more meaningful connection with it. Take the time to learn, understand, interact with and fall in love with the heart of the place.
2. Rest and Reset
We live such fast-paced lives and in an effort to maximise our time ‘off’, we often take holidays that are just as busy as our work lives. When you give yourself more time in one place, it removes that travel guilt (and FOMO) of having to be everywhere, doing everything.
Give your soul a chance to catch up with your body. Press the pause button on life and really let yourself relax, de-stress and unwind. Take some time to actually enjoy those luxury suites, have a guilt-free lie-in, order breakfast-in-bed, laze by the pool with a good book, linger longer at each meal, and indulge in that sneaky siesta. With more time in a destination, you can enjoy some ‘you’ time without missing out on the adventures.
3. Get back to nature
If anything, lockdown has certainly taught us to appreciate, respect and connect with nature more. Nature is our remedy and being confined to our homes this year has inspired many of us to get outside and embrace the great outdoors.
More time in a destination allows you to really slow down to see the smaller things and appreciate the nurturing freedom (and safety) of the earth’s wide open natural spaces.
Take the time to go on long walks, swim in the ocean, lose yourself in a forest, hike a mountain trail or just sit in the sunshine. Most importantly, disconnect all of your distracting devices so that you can truly reconnect with the mood-boosting and restorative benefits of Mother Nature.
4. Give back
The local communities that rely on tourism for their livelihood have been the hardest hit. As we seek to maximise our time away, spending more time in a destination allows those neighbouring communities to benefit.
As the world slowly emerges from this crisis, we have a global duty to travel more responsibly, sustainably and safely than we used to. Now, more than ever, we have a shared, and even more critical, responsibility to (further) minimise our footprint on the earth and to give back to the destinations we choose to explore.
May we all endeavour to travel more mindfully, immersively and authentically; gain a much greater understanding and humility from our interactions; and ensure that our travels directly benefit the land, wildlife and people of a destination.
5. Less ‘do’ and more ‘be’
Last, but certainly not least, is the benefit of simply ‘being’. The first, and only, rule of slow travel is that you can (and must) do away with a schedule. The beauty of staying longer in one place is time, glorious time. Some days can be adventurous and energetic, while others can be unapologetically lazy and idle.
Take your watch off, put your cell phone away and just be present. Don’t be a slave to technology or a timetable. Go for long walks in nature, breathe in the fresh air, relax the body and practice mindfulness. Your exhausted 2020 self will thank you.
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