Most travellers tend to stay in any given place for 2/3 nights before moving onto their next destination. The reason for this is that it gives them enough time to see the main attractions, experience a couple of nights out, and get somewhat of a feel for a place without wasting precious time lingering.
This kind of fast-travel is perfect for those with limited time as it allows them to tick any major sights off their bucket list, as well as making them feel as though they really have seen everything (because after all, nobody likes to miss out, do they?).
When I was in Thailand, I only had 5 weeks to explore the entire country.
Because Thailand is such a huge country with so many worthwhile destinations, this meant that for the most part, I only got to spend a couple of days in each place.
This didn’t feel like nearly enough time to me, and when I got home, not only did I feel exhausted from all of the buses, planes, boats and tuk tuks I’d had to take, but I also felt as if I didn’t get a proper feel for anywhere that I’d been.
When I embarked on my next trip, solo this time, I made sure that I had time to just be.
I spent 2 months in Cambodia and only visited 5 places. To most travellers, this will sound ludicrous, and I’ve been met with disbelief when I tell people that yes, I really did spend 9 days in Siem Reap, despite the fact that Angkor Wat is “the only thing to do” there.
But you know what?
Slow travel is awesome.
Everyone travels in their own way, but for me, travelling is about more than visiting the most famous temples, just to upload the photos to Instagram and impress the travel blogging community.
Sure, I love playing the tourist and sightseeing, but I also love to unpack my bag and relax a little. I like to get to know my way around the city, and familiarise myself with the best local restaurants, bars and markets.
With Siem Reap in particular, people look aghast when I explain to them that I didn’t get bored there, despite the fact that I only took one day to see Angkor Wat. Those people confuse me. I don’t understand how anybody can visit a big city (especially in Asia!) and proclaim that there is “nothing to do” there.
While I was in Siem Reap I went to a crocodile farm, saw a floating village, went on a boat trip, had my first Swedish massage, watched a boxing match, saw live music, ate snake, visited the local markets, drank cocktails in my hostel’s swimming pool and enjoyed the fact that my hostel threw parties every night on the only rooftop beach bar in the city. I also met some amazing people that made my time there worthwhile.
If I’d spent the standard 2 nights there then I would never have experienced a fraction of the things that I did.
The same goes for my time on Koh Rong. I arrived at the island, initially planning on spending around 5 days there. This turned into 5 weeks. Which in turn turned into 10 months!
Because I fell in love with the place! Sure, there’s nothing to do there besides go on a boat trip (no really – a boat trip is pretty much the only activity available on the island), but none of that matters when you find yourself slowly sinking into a place and becoming part of the furniture.
This is just part of the reason that slow travel is awesome. You really feel like each place becomes home, and it’s such a special feeling.
It didn’t take long for my friend and I to get jobs, and the pair of us were both so happy with our little routine (sunbathe, work, massage, work, party), that none of us felt the need to go and hop on a boat to see some Instagram-worthy temple in some far flung city.
And why would we?
We’d made friends on the island. Hell, we even knew the names of all the resident dogs!
For me, experiences like this don’t even compare to visiting a place for 48 hours and manically rushing through a list of activities as recommended by Lonely Planet. I like being recognised by the locals, and forging real relationships with people. Sure, they may only last a week or two, but when you’re a solo traveller, it becomes exhausting meeting new people every 2 days and having the same mind-numbing conversations with them.
I don’t care about how long someone’s been travelling, and where their next destination is. I just want someone to play yaniv with me when I’m bored, or someone to tell me some gossip, or – god forbid – someone to fancy for longer than 5 minutes.
Travel – especially solo travel – is draining, both physically and mentally. Long-term travel even more so.
As alluring as the road may seem at times, there is something so comforting in knowing that you can call somewhere home, if only for a week. In knowing that you don’t have to worry about organising accommodation somewhere, or paying for a nightbus where you might well get groped by some stranger or killed when the driver decides to fall asleep at the wheel.
It’s reassuring to know that if you decide to have an early night, then you won’t miss out on anything because there will be plenty more parties and pub crawls waiting for you. It’s nice to be able to sleep in until noon and not feel as though you’re wasting your one full day in a place.
Honestly, I understand why people move from place to place so quickly. In our fast-paced world, it seems only logical that travel should be done at lightening speed too. It’s efficient. It allows you to see the most without wasting a single second on something as futile as breathing.
It’s not for me though.
You can keep your tight schedules.
I prefer a more laid back approach.