Despite often experiencing anxiety on holiday, ‘slow travel’ wasn’t even in my vocabulary before I went on holiday to Santorini — and it certainly didn’t seem practical.
You see, as a travel blogger and journalist I feel a lot of pressure when I am on holiday to see all the sights, take amazing photos and record every minute. Let me tell you how that all changed…
Before I discovered slow travel
“So tell me what you’ve planned,” P asks me, again, unaware of my slow travel revelation.
He asked me this question at least three times before we set off for Santorini. Now that we’re here he asks me again and again I tell him: “Nothing.”
You see, before every holiday I usually spend hours researching the location and reading as many blogs as I can. I then create an extensive list of things to do and present them to P, informing him of how important it is that we do each activity.
We then work through the list in order, cramming in as much as we can while I snap photos and try to record it all on social media. Unsurprisingly, this often leaves me feeling anxious on holiday.
I sought to do the exact same thing prior to jetting off to this particularly famous Greek island, known for incredible white architecture that hangs off the cliffside, except I discovered there isn’t a great deal to do.
We could have visited the black, red or white beaches, or go on a boat ride that takes you to all three. We could visit ancient ruins, or a particularly popular lighthouse… Or we could lie down by the pool all day doing nothing unless we decide otherwise.
“You’re not going to be able to do that,” P scoffs, having grown so accustomed to my manic determination to do all the things and see all the stuff and have all the fun.
On this holiday, however, I’m not that fussed. This is because I have come to realise how much anxiety I give myself while on holiday.
It was time to take up slow travelling.
Glass half empty and me, the anxious traveller
For the first big holiday we ever went on as a couple we visited four countries in Europe in two weeks. We went to Vienna in Austria, Prague in the Czech Republic, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and then Venice in Italy.
These were four cities I had been desperate to tick off my list but after two weeks of dragging P from place to place I was exhausted, stressed and needed another holiday.
For our next big trip we spent three weeks in the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The weather in the Maldives went from sunshine to rain from hour to hour, due to a cyclone further north. Despite this we got plenty of relaxing done, along with snorkelling and dolphin spotting.
Yet when I look back, all I can think about is the time we lost to rain.
In Sri Lanka we travelled from Colombo to Kandy, Ella, Unawatuna, Mirissa and back to Colombo. We saw incredible things and had an amazing time.
Yet when I look back all I can think about is a temple in Colombo I didn’t get to see because a man with a snake sent P running.
As a travel blogger and journalist I already feel pressure when I am away, not only to see all the sights but to take amazing photos and record every minute.
If you combine this with the fact I am naturally disposed to negativity (the glass will always be half empty with me) and the fact I struggle with anxiety, it becomes quite hard to relax while on holiday, to really enjoy myself and create happy memories.
So what is slow travel?
Have you ever returned from holiday and been more exhausted than when you left? I cannot tell you how many times at work my colleagues or I have returned and exclaimed that we need another holiday to recover from the one we just had.
This is the antithesis to slow travel.
Slow travel can be quite literally interpreted as moving slowly or slowing the pace. Whatever you’re doing, slow down!
(If you’re wondering how many times I can say the world ‘slow’ in a blog post, buckle up!)
Many of us refer to holidays as ‘breaks’, but we don’t actually let ourselves take a break from the rushing around that we’re so used to doing in our everyday lives.
If, like me, you make a list of things to see or an itinerary of things to do, efficiency takes over and you don’t stop, slow down, and savour the moment.
Try putting your phone away for the day, don’t even take photos. Try and shake off this holiday fomo we give ourselves (even though we’re the ones on holiday), because you don’t have to do and record it all.
Enjoy the person(s) you are travelling with, enjoy lying down by the pool or the ocean and doing nothing, or go out with an idea of what you want to do but no strict plan – let yourself have empty moments to spontaneously fill with a discovery. Just take it slow hun.
Of course we did activities in Santorini. We walked around Oia, we hired a car and visited all the beaches, we ate some amazing food and watched the sunset from a few particularly famous spots (surrounded by other tourists of course), but we also did a lot of sunbathing and boozing and chatting.
Without a list of things to do creating pressure and anxiety, I was able to really relax and really, really enjoy P’s company. It was the first holiday we’ve had in which we didn’t even come close to an argument and I came home with no regrets. In fact it was the best holiday I have ever had.
Of course this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop my holiday research and it doesn’t mean P will never again be presented with a list of things I want to see and do. But in the future I will make sure to schedule more down time, more free time to explore without intention and more time to enjoy the company of whoever I am with.
It is time to do away with the feeling of missing out, when I should count myself lucky to be on holiday at all. Who’s with me?