My Top 3 Myths About Slow Travel

Slow travel myths suck.

There, I said it. Slow travel myths? They SUCK.

Here’s why.

When you meet new people there’s usually a point that comes up where you exchange what you do for a living. Not always, and some of the best conversations can happen in the absence of job titles. But it’s considered polite. And me? I’m hella polite.

So while I’m struggling to explain what I do, and how it earns me a living, I can see a bright light in their eyes. Maybe they say something like “wow that’s so cool” or words to that effect. Again, not always.

But then, the saddest thing happens.

The light of hope leaves their eyes, and they say “I could never do that”.

Which is bullshit. I’ve said before that there is very little that can physically keep you from travelling if you want to.

But again, it’s polite to not call bullshit to a stranger’s face. And me? Again, hella polite.

So instead, I’ll just go through the top three myths I’ve been told about slow travel.

“Slow travel is expensive”

The myth is that travelling slowly costs more money than travelling fast.

Windsor Castle - photo credit Jean-Marc Astesana (Flickr)
Staying here for a month might cost a bit. But you never know! (Photo credit Jean-Marc Astesana- Flickr)

At least, it costs more money than just staying put, because you’re essentially transplanting your lifestyle, while maintaining costs back home.

Nope. False. Or at least, not always true. Like with any other form of travel, you can spend as much or as little as you want.

Traditional travel planning – one month to see it all – puts you at the mercy of what’s available. You can take it or leave it. It’s not often that you have the time to compare options or shop around widely. With slow travel, you have more time to plan ahead, and thus have more control over your budget. You can enjoy booking discounts for the length of your stay, “mates rates” from new friends, the occasional freebie from locals, and more.

Even without the planning, slow travelling can improve your spending habits. I covered this a little in another post, but the basic trend is that when you have more time you spend less money.

I briefly covered the ways that slow travel can help you save money here. Not including leveraging exchange rates, which is another thing entirely.

In short, slow travel is as expensive as you make it. Myth debunked. Next.

(And yes, I’ll get around to making the post about budgeting later. Pester me if I don’t.)

“You don’t see anything travelling slow.”

The myth: because slow travel dictates staying in fewer locations than traditional travel, you do not experience as much.

INCORRECT. At least, for a certain definition of”experiencing”.

Time Square New York (Photo credit: Eric Salard - Flickr -
If you don’t slow down, how can you see anything? (Photo credit: Eric Salard – Flickr)

When I first left the country for travel, I would build itineraries and smash through them with time to spare. I did quite a lot in a very short period of time. Ate food, saw sites, took photos. Checked things off that list like a mission.

But over the years, I can’t keep these experiences straight. hHalf the time, I couldn’t tell where I was without consulting (a timetable a la this New Yorker cartoon).

It’s true that when travelling slow, you’re likely to visit fewer locations. You build a base, or follow a trail with the relaxed knowledge that it’s the experience that matters. Not some damn fool checklist.

The result is that you see more of your surroundings. You experience them in ways not available when travelling at a traditional pace. And you find more options – more hidden gems and delights.

Put like this, I would argue that you “experience” more when travelling slow. Because you have the time to take it in.

“Slow travel is for students and retirees .”

This myth is usually stated longingly by someone who has just had children, settled into a new place, or started a new job.

Elderly People Road Sign, Singapore (Photo credit: Pittaya, Flickr -
You’re only as slow as you feel. (Photo credit: Pittaya – Flickr)

And it makes sense.

They have their normal life going. Career, a place to live, family and friends. Maybe a favourite pub or coffee shop. They know what’s expected of them, and what to expect.

From an evolutionary viewpoint, it makes sense. There was a time when life was short and brutal. Humanity was hunted, and learning what was edible was a daily game of “vomiting-out-your-eyeballs roulette”.

In these times, the people who learned by copying others survived long enough to pass on their genes. The known path was the safe path, and branching out could mean a messy death.

In the modern world, these expectations can be a hindrance.

Your own expectations, and those of others, can stop you from achieving what you want. With travel decisions, nobody is likely to die, get injured or be otherwise grievously inconvenienced as a result of you wanting to see the world. Yet we act like it’s a real possibility.

Quick note: I am not calling you scared or prone to avoidance. I’m talking about the natural response to change. If you are in this position, great. But if you choose to stay there, great. And if you choose to do something different, also great.

Because “normal life” is what you make it and “home” can be defined any number of ways.

Over the years, I’ve met:

  • a family that picked up and went sailing for a year, with homeschooling in the morning and scuba diving in the afternoon.
  • a couple who dropped work and study for a cycling tour of Asia, with a support van and accommodation on the fly.
  • any number of single parents who decided to get away from the known path and try something new in a new place – with or without their kids.

To me, this proves that expectations can be managed, regardless of circumstances. These people found ways to share, reduce, shift or bow out from expectations and responsibilities. If you want to do something – I mean want-it-more-than-the-other-things kind of want – then where you are in life is not important. You can make that commitment at any time.

These people I met have all done it.

They examined how they were living, and found they wanted change.

They took stock of their circumstances and found that, in many cases, it was just their heads getting in the way of their feet. Once they made the decision to commit, they made it work for them.

Yes, most go back to working 9 to 5. But not all. And those that do often do so to save up and come back out to travel slow.

There ya go. Debunk-age all round.

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