The difference is all in the pace. I have always been a fast traveler, now I am a slow one, and I love it!
I have been on the road for less than two months, and I have been only to Nepal so far. Yet, I have made experiences that could never be lived if I was just taking a holiday, as I did in the past 10 years. Slow traveling allows for a completely different perspective on the places I visit, to get to know better the people I meet, and to enjoy my time even when I am not doing anything “special”. Besides, it is much cheaper.
A two, three weeks, or even a month off from work, compelled me to travel fast, visit as many places as possible, do as many things as possible, squeeze in lots of activities and tours in order not to “waste” any time. Most often, I would organise everything before leaving, and I would follow an itinerary determined in advance. This kind of planning is very expensive, and restrictive. How many times have I told to myself: “I would love to stay here longer”. But I could not.
I used to stay in a place for a max of two or three days, check out the highlight suggested by one or the other travel guide/blog, and then take off, excepting for the treks which would sometimes last longer. Certainly enjoyable, I have visited many countries around the world like this, and I have been always happy with my holidays. But when I decided to go traveling long term, I promised myself I would do it differently. No planning whatsoever, volunteering here and there to keep the cost down and pay for my stay, and just try to live the moment. Frankly speaking, I didn’t know what to expect, and I am surprised, so far, about how much I love it!
To be able to spend two or three weeks in one place, like I did in Pokhara for example, and like I am doing as I write at Bardia National Park in West Nepal, provides a much better idea of how life works there. To feel the vibe so to speak. Plus, by volunteering I can get in touch with local people, have a better understanding of how they live their lives, how they think, as long as their English is good enough to exchange. Otherwise by just taking the time to observe. This is not only interesting, it is useful as I like to write about what I see.
It isn’t only about locals though. Quite the contrary: I spent most of my time with fellow travelers, whom I would have never met otherwise. What a loss would that have been. I have always chatted around when traveling, but time was just too little for anything else. This time it has been different though: between the Manaslu Circuit, which lasted 16 days, and the time I spent in Pokhara, I have met such great people. We walked together, we had many dinners together, we worked and did sport together, and helped each other with small, but important things.
This kind of time and experience is enough for me to call someone a friend. I do not think we can call every person we meet a friend, far from it in fact. I am kind of selective, and I have known many people for a long time without thinking of them as friends. A little time is more than enough, but it’s needed, at least to share few laughs. This little time is what I now have, or allow myself to have.
I have always believed that in some inexplicable ways people recognize each other, they connect, they know instinctively they can get along, they can trust each other. If you are being yourself, you’ll stumble upon the right person for you, and you’ll know, and they’ll know. Being a selective one, I am impressed by the number of people I met I could get along with, in only two months. I am glad I could take the time to get to know them: Molly, Reuben, Swapna, Marteen, Sakshi, Hermann, John… thanks for your time!
Another great aspect of slow traveling is the time I can take for myself. I have surely been busy: working, trekking, selecting and editing photos, writing for the blog… all things, beside trekking, that normally I would do after my return from an holiday. However, I also spent days literally doing nothing, with no pressure to go and see a place, take a photo, or trying to optimise my time. I would simply sit in a bar to enjoy a coffee, read a book, or observe the surroundings; or go to some nice place for a nap. in fact, I believe I have seen much less of Nepal in two months that I would have seen if I had only one month or three weeks to spend here, and I don’t care. I just do what I feel like doing. It’s a skill being able to do nothing, it’s an art I daresay, and I am learning. This goes well with my wish to deepen my knowledge of yoga and meditation too. When? When the time comes of course 🙂
Not to be materialistic, but one last word about money. I believe I have spent about €800 in two months, of which more than €500 only to trek the Manaslu Circuit. Yes, Nepal is a cheap country, but if I had to pay for everything, I would still spend at least €20 per day, and that’s only for basic accommodation and food. Volunteering in exchange for my stay has been so far an incredibly rewarding experience. In Pokhara I was just helping out a café organising events, in Bardia I am helping a cottage building a pond in the garden. It’s fun, it’s new, I meet great people, and I pay for my stay. I believe I’ll continue looking for this type of deals!
Traveling slow and taking the time to ask around for such opportunities allows for much cheaper, therefore longer, traveling for sure. So, here are the first impressions about my slow and solo travel experience, nothing, really nothing negative to report.
To be continued…