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Slow travel: How I overcame holiday anxiety in Santorini

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.

Moving forward

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?

See more travel here.


anxiety on holiday




  1. July 19, 2018 / 12:38 pm

    I tend to rush all the time, working or resting. I so feel you. taking time and just relax relax needs a special place to actually feel like that. Greek islands are definitely an example.

  2. July 19, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    This is a lovely post and I love the idea of going on a vacation with no plans at all and just rolling with whatever comes your way. Usually those end up being the best kinds of trips. Thanks so much for sharing and lovely photos!

  3. July 19, 2018 / 8:03 pm

    It’s so important to sit and slow down sometimes. I’m such a planner, too, and I’ve been working on being more present during my travels

  4. Ann Snook
    July 19, 2018 / 9:48 pm

    I totally know what you mean! There is so much to see and do in a new place, it feels like a waste to actually relax. I need to try this slow travelling for my next trip to really enjoy.

  5. worldlytreat
    July 19, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    What a lovely view! I love the concept of slow traveling, although I always have fear of missing out when I don’t get to see all the tourist attractions on my list. Nothing beats relaxation, experiencing new things.

  6. July 19, 2018 / 10:38 pm

    Great read! It is so true that as a blogger we are often pressured to take all these pictures and experience everything a place has to offer which on one hand is nice but on the other creates a lot of pressure and makes us unable to relax! Also- what is on your black shirt that ends in f***? I love it !

  7. July 20, 2018 / 2:04 am

    Haha, this is so true for me as a travel blogger, I do the same thing just like you, reading as much material as I can. List up all the activities I need to do each day and food I want to try. Pretty tired and sometimes, it just kill my holiday mood. Like you said, I need to take it slow and relax and stop taking pictures or every corner. Lolo

  8. Karla
    July 20, 2018 / 6:57 am

    I’m so happy that you’ll be able to sit back, relax and just enjoy your holiday. I’m not a travel blogger but I can totally relate with you somehow. I’m a working mom and whenever I go travel on holidays I always feel that pressure thinking about work when I’m on vacation. 🙂

  9. Pujarini Mitra
    July 20, 2018 / 7:42 am

    This is so true for me. I go crazy on the research before I travel to a new place. On the trip, I keep feeling there is always something more that I can see and experience.

  10. July 20, 2018 / 12:02 pm

    It’s important to slow down sometimes and just go with the moment. Santorini seems like the perfect destination to do just that.

  11. July 20, 2018 / 12:18 pm

    Well done you! I have travel anxiety, and a HUGE fear of flying, and it’s something that has really affected our travel plans over the years.

  12. July 20, 2018 / 2:16 pm

    Santorini is such a gorgeous, dreamy place, the kind that makes you want to take things easy and just chill. 🙂

  13. July 20, 2018 / 2:57 pm

    Santorini is one of my most favorite places. It’s really important to let go and be in the moment especially when you travel. I understand what you mean by wanting to take great pictures and all that. But what’s more important is the experience and the memories that you make while you’re there!

  14. July 20, 2018 / 11:22 pm

    I have a friend who would really relate to this. He would learn a lot from this!

  15. July 21, 2018 / 11:43 am

    Santorini looks really beautiful. I was supposed to visit a few years but the weather was too rough to take a tender boat from the ship to shore, so we diverted to Heraklion, which was also lovely.

    Regarding anxiety and over planning, I tend to plan and book one thing per day. That way I know I’ll get content, I know the kids will be happy, but if things take longer than expected or we get diverted, it doesn’t matter as there’s nothing to rush off to.

  16. July 21, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    Slow travel is definitely a different experience. Ive been doign Working Holidays, so spending a year in a city at a time, its less intense, and gives you more of a chance to find hidden gems I think.

  17. Elizabeth O
    July 21, 2018 / 3:09 pm

    This was a really interesting post. I can imagine the pressure to produce blog standard posts when you travel is really hard, but I think just being real and enjoying your holiday is a great idea indeed.

  18. July 21, 2018 / 3:18 pm

    The place seems amazing, I’ll go there one day. I also prefer slow travel you can really enjoy the place more when you go with the flow and don’t have tight travel schedules.

  19. Everything On A Plate
    July 21, 2018 / 4:43 pm

    We love your Santorini and your photos! What do you click them with?

    • mattielaceydavidson
      July 25, 2018 / 3:47 pm

      I use my phone, I have the Samsung S9+ x

  20. July 21, 2018 / 9:57 pm

    I tend to rush a lot as well. I can imagine the pressure being hard on yourself. These photos were amazing, and you looked great! The view is gorgeous, I would love to visit there someday. Thanks for sharing!

    • mattielaceydavidson
      July 25, 2018 / 3:47 pm

      You’re so welcome 🙂 Thanks for your kinds words x

  21. brie
    July 22, 2018 / 3:55 am

    I also learned to take my time. Unfortunately, it leads to me doing many things on my own.

  22. July 22, 2018 / 9:11 am

    This post is good. This doesn’t only reveal the beauty of Santorini but also the pressure behind such an amazing blog post.

  23. July 22, 2018 / 5:50 pm

    It’s really hard not to rush youself when it comes to travel. I often hurry alot, there’s so many things to see and enjoy in one place. Would take slow travel for the next time!

  24. July 22, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    What a beautiful place! Sometimes it is definitely nice to just lay back, take the pressure and really enjoy the vacation in the moment.

  25. Megan
    July 23, 2018 / 4:37 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s something I’ve experienced and always feel off talking about. It’s comforting to hear others have gone through it. x

    • mattielaceydavidson
      July 25, 2018 / 3:46 pm

      You are so welcome 🙂

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