Vacation...the limited time you have to leave home and experience a new locale and all of the natural and cultural wonders it brings is just that...limited time. But we understand, the initial response when planning a trip is to squeeze in as many experiences as you can within that timeframe.
When the Neumann family was planning their recent Wildland Adventure to Greece dad kept saying, "We want to be BUSY! We want to be DOING THINGS!" In spite of our best efforts to help slow it down a bit we planned a fun--and very active--family vacation. And here's what he wanted to share with others on their return: "When planning it feels like sitting by the pool for a day would be a waste, but we needed a full day of doing nothing early on. It's easy to fall in love with an itinerary especially when it is worded as well as Wildland presents it, but I think we tried too hard to pack too much in."
Although you may not literally want to sit around the pool to have a more relaxed day, our experience here at Wildland tells us that a rushed experience isn't the best experience, and we're after the best possible experience for you and yours when you entrust us with your valuable time. Together, let's explore what happens when you kick the bucket list of out of your way, slow down, and allow yourself to get taken in by your travels.
"We travel in essence,
to become young fools again,
to slow down and get taken in."
- Pico Ayer
There is a realistic balance how much you pack in on vacation so that when you unpack back home, you're enriched and refreshed, not feeling like you need another vacation.
In my lifetime of travel, I've discovered it's not as important where I go as it is how I go. The design of your vacation should cultivate a new you upon returning home. In our fast-paced lifestyle, slowing down on an adventure vacay is not only an opportunity to escape the every day but also to slip into nature's rhythms and the slower pace of another culture.
5 Opportunities // Slow it down, take it in
Accommodations on a slow journey are often someone else's home, or a small boutique property reflecting the environment and local residents. Let yourself fall into the local life and culture, and do your best to embrace the provincial schedule (not always easy when everyday responsibilities have you used to running hither and yon.) When you enter the door of your overnight stay, take a breath, downshift your life into the proper gear. Enjoy the company and a good night's rest.
For example, where you kick up your feet for the night is perhaps no less important than where you are coming in from after a busy day on the frenetic streets of India. Your trip is an investment in your well-being and it's often here, on nightly accommodations, that we recommend extending your budget. Not only will you appreciate the historic and romantic character of local accommodations, but you'll enjoy a quiet and peaceful home-away-from-home to rest and embark on the next exciting leg of your journey.
Home-stays are a valuable part of many Wildland trips as there is no better way to slow down and experience daily life in that locale. Recently, when the U.S. government imposed new restrictions on hotels where Americans could stay in Cuba, we simply expanded our network of Casas Particulares. Now, for most nights on the island, you are even more immersed in Cuban culture with friendly families who have proudly fixed up their homes to welcome their American guests.
Serve it up Slow and Soulful
The idea of 'slow travel' goes hand in hand with the 'slow food' movement: locally sourced ingredients, farmer's markets, farm to table, traditional recipes, taking time to savor the meal, eating fresh & organic, all of which contribute to experiencing the full terroir of a place. Food is an expression of cultural identity, and often an expression of individual experiences, family traditions, of what we've learned and where we've been. Slowing down to enjoy food with a renowned chef, or sharing of a meal with a local family, typically turns into an intimate conversation and cultural exchange which often only happens over the dinner table. An example of such an evening was an experience we had in Slovenia where our host broke out his harmonica which broke open our hearts. Video: Slovenia Harmonica Performance Brings Tears to Traveler's Eyes - Radovljica, Slovenia
The most obvious and accessible way to slow travel is your mode of mobility. An African safari that allows for opportunities to get out of the vehicle and experience the bush on foot is an entirely different connection with the land, wildlife and indigenous culture. For examply, walking with Maasai or approaching elephants on foot in Zimbabwe. Using the local style of transportation is often going to be slower and more fun than anything we're used to at home. Riding bikes in the Asian countryside, striding a camel in the Sahara of Morocco, or simply walking on foot trails with locals where no roads can take you are a wonderful way to experience local life and meet new friends. And sometimes, the transportation is the attraction... go with the flow of the winds and currents following in the wake of ancient mariners and local fishermen in traditional yachts such as a dahabeya on the Nile, a gulet along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, or a traditional wooden pinisi schooner through the Indonesian archipelago. From Alaska to Galapagos, and the Arctic to Antarctica, expedition ships and modern yachts ply the seas to remote lands at a leisurely nautical pace.
Let Spirit Move You
In life, as in travel, when we slow down to listen and pay closer attention we often discover more about ourselves and the world around us. When I'm traveling in a group, sometimes it's as simple as calling for a brief silence to stop and listen to the surroundings.
For me, just being in nature invokes a feeling of reverence for the beauty and the miraculous web of life that sustains us. Our universal connection to all that sustains life takes on a deeper spiritual meaning when we have an opportunity to learn from indigenous people we meet on our journeys. Indigenous communities share, as Dr. Darcia Narvaez describes, "…a philosophy of the earth, an orientation to the respectful, reciprocal, co-existence…", in contrast to the modern philosophy of escape and disconnection from the earth. As twenty-first-century culture is moving ever faster toward uncertain times, it is imperative to learn to live in harmony with the earth and each other. To this end, in Colombia, we spend a day with the Kogi who believe they are charged with protecting Mother Earth and saving humanity from itself. On our Maasailand Safari, we stay with Maasai who have lived in harmony with wildlife for centuries. And, in Peru, one of our guides, Dalmiro Portillo (shown in this video), shares connections of his native Quechua culture to the mountain spirits we may never come to know without trekking through the Andes and listening more carefully.
Linger Longer in Nature
When you land, head for the hills and let go of your attachment to time. Leaving our daily routine behind is an opportunity to connect to the flow of life around us, to give full attention to the moment instead of the minute or hour of the day. Arising to the roar of lions or howler monkeys in the early morning darkness, our circadian rhythm begins to sync with the natural world around us. And there are many ways to facilitate our harmony with nature. For example, how about planning an extra night on safari under the stars in a remote fly-camp where all technology—phones, watches, kindles—are left behind so you fully experience Africa in the old-world style. Whether you separate yourself from technology, or simply plan an extra day to kick back and linger longer, taking time to detach from the clock is not only relaxing but assures you'll be closer to nature and the culture around you...and we call that a good vacation.
So, next time you're planning a vacation, if you find yourself trying to see and do as much as possible, consider taking something off your bucket list if you can't add any more days to your itinerary. You may just discover more if you plan to see less.
If you any questions about slow travel feel free to get in touch with us at info@ wildland.com or 800-345-4453.
Keeping it wild,