Guest blogger Clare Watson writes about giving up the rat race to enjoy the beauty of traveling slowly around the world with and her fiancé and a 7-foot triple surfboard bag.
Ten months ago in an Airbnb apartment lofted above Melbourne, my boyfriend and I sat on the lounge room floor and flicked through a tattered world atlas. We joined the dots between distant destinations and imagined a life not spent counting down the weeks apart and then wishing time would slow for the rare days we had together. We were living split between the east and west coasts of Australia, waiting for the next scheduled visit.
People who know me say that I am always trying to squeeze as much as possible into my days, that I’ll never say no to any chance to catch up with a friend. This trait morphed into a mechanism to cope with a 4000-kilometre relationship. I purposefully chose a busy life, cramming my days with coffee dates, gigs, wine nights, day hikes and yoga so that time would always be ticking over.
Similarly, in years gone by when I have travelled overseas, I have hit the ground running to see all the sights, jumping from one place (or country) to the next. Race the length of Vietnam in two weeks, whip around Singapore on a ten-hour layover when returning from skiing in Japan, ‘road trip’ through California in eight days. This kind of travel can be energizing. And I have found it so.
If only given a short window of time, I would, like any travel bug, plan similarly frantic trips rather than passing on a tempting experience. However, in the last year, I have discovered the beauty of traveling and living slowly.
In addition to our normal backpacks, my boyfriend and I are currently traveling with a two-metre (7-foot) triple surfboard bag that weighs 20 kg (45 lbs). This forces you to reconsider how you move. In Indonesia, The Whale, as we have nicknamed the bag, would be wedged into U-shaped racks on scooters with doubtful mechanics.
In Sri Lanka and India, it would be strapped to the roof of rickshaws, which max 40 km/hour at best, or hastily loaded onto clunking trains. In the Maldives, it was be ferried in on the weekly delivery boat.
In Europe, while we had the luxury of a campervan for three months, we never strayed far from the rugged coastlines of Portugal and northern Spain, and recently we found ourselves on the Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Just a week or so ago we took five forms of collectivo transport to reach an isolated beach.
Because of the sweat required to relocate, and since you must be patient when chasing waves – you can’t rush the weather – we have settled into a rhythm of spending 1-2 weeks in each place that we visit.
This has given us the time to create temporary little lives where we stop by the market each morning for pre-surf bananas, share the waves with the local kids each day, and revisit a favorite restaurant so many times that our nightly order is remembered with a smile.
We have the time to share meals with our hosts and listen to their stories, to indulge in many good books, to reconnect with old friends, to appreciate the history of complex countries, and to think clearly and reflect. Our days are tranquil and rejuvenating, and I want (desperately) to transpose the essence of this slow life when we return home.
It can be easy to be swept into a rapid-fire life of alarms, emails, tweets and reminders if we are driven by deadlines or connected to the information-overloaded online world, but travel is a chance to lead a different life, one that can be good for the soul and mind.
Take a short course to learn a language or try out scuba diving. Rent an apartment in the heart of a city that you can begin to unravel. See how far your own two feet can carry you on a lengthy hike through an isolated wilderness.
Give yourself the time to remember a place through your own eyes, for the character of its people and its history, not just through a camera lens.
One of Clare’s favorite quotes comes from Pico Iyer in Why We Travel:
And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more