When it comes to travelling around the world the community tends to divide itself between those who travel fast and those who travel slow. Oh, and those who go on holiday – but we don’t care much for their type around here do we?
It’s easy to compare this ‘traveller divide’ to how people might enjoy their morning coffee. Some prefer a large chocolate-dusted cappuccino, gently sipping and savouring the aroma while perusing the morning papers. Others prefer a quick shot of espresso, instant fuel for the fire, hitting the spot with that caffeine boost and moving on to the next important task of the day with great big tarsier eyes.
Me? I never drink espresso, but I do drink a cappuccino rather quickly. And I love travelling fast – so that kinda blows my previous analogy right out of the water doesn’t it? Ah well.
If we were forced to define our way of travel I’d say we were fast travellers for sure. Since July 21st last year and up until this point (19th June as of this writing – some 11 months later) we have travelled through 23 countries. That’s an average of just under 2 weeks per country. Our longest stay was 5 weeks in New Zealand and our shortest was approximately 8 hours in Brunei (hop-in, hop-out international bank robber style). Does that mean we’ve missed loads? Of course it does! We’ve missed absolutely tonnes of great cities and lakes and mountains and experiences and cultures all because we’ve travelled so fast.
Is fast travel a bad thing?
No, because we’ve actually managed to see so much more!
There are a lot of people who hate fast travellers, they think we’re just skimming the highlights and missing the core ‘truth’ about travel or failing to have ourselves an ‘authentic travel experience’.
They’re right – of course they’re right, if you want to understand a core truth about a place then you need to spend a good amount of time there. But in our opinion there’s simply too much to see.
Put it this way, if the whole world were one enormous, gigantic buffet table, with all the delicious foods of the world representing the same countries as their origin would you rather;
* A. Spend all your time hovering around and picking away at all the various Thai Green Curry and Pad Thai dishes or…
* B. Find yourself the biggest plate you can lay hands on and start sampling the entire menu (with toilet tissue at the ready)
For me the choice is simple: (and is in fact what I do at every buffet I happen to find myself a part of) to not taste those delectable bounties would surely be a sin. If they’re right there on the table in front of you then as a traveller you must be tempted, nay – drawn even, to put hand to food and food to watering mouth? It’s a question of opportunity and time.
It’s a popular belief that you only have one life in this world and as such you should live it to the max. Obviously we’re all human and as such have only a limited amount of energy, enthusiasm, will and desire to do these things. But if you have the opportunity to travel the world for a few months (perhaps the only few months you’ll get before work and family tie you down) then I don’t personally see the point of spending the majority of it in one place.
For me, the distinction came when we visited Chiangmai in Thailand. We absolutely loved that place, everything was nice and relaxed during the day and really active in the evenings. A great place to spend a few weeks or maybe even a month. However, over the course of the week that we were there we saw so many backpackers and travellers sitting in their hostel common areas, earphones in, watching movies and just chillin’. Nothing wrong with this in itself but the same people were in those same spots every day and sometimes all day. They also do monthly visa runs and choose to relive this ‘experience’ month after month for much of their travels. I hope this isn’t the type of person who thinks chillin’ in Chiangmai is regarded as slow travel.
What is slow travel?
To me, slow travel is about getting to know the detail of a place and in order to do this you ironically need to travel fast within a single country. Or to put it more bluntly, make the most of your time wherever you are.
If a person has one month to spend in a country, depending on that person, they may only still see as much as a typical holiday maker on a two week vacation who spends a lot of money and crams in a lot of activities – it all depends on how active you are as a traveller (and of course, if seeing things if your main justification for travel – and not just taking a break which I can certainly agree with).
Why do we advocate fast travel?
Each traveller has their own distinction and opinion about traveling fast and slow, this is mine; You have one life, a limited number of opportunities and too much to see and experience in the short time in which you can physically do so. I personally want to see as much of the world as I can without killing myself in the process. One year after starting our travels and we should have visited over 25 countries in this single trip. We would have spent a good amount of time in each and compiled a list of ‘missing items’ that will definitely keep us coming back when time in the future allows. For me that’s a good start to getting to know the world around me.
Each to their own
But alas, if we were all fast travellers we’d have no specialist bloggers for us to really lean on in times of trouble. We would essentially be “jack of all countries, masters of none”. If everyone lived like this then the travel community might well be a poorer place for it.
What do you think about fast & slow travel? And what would you class yourself as?