Not too long ago I noticed an Instagram profile that read as follows:
120 countries and counting.
That made me think.
Is this what it’s all about?
Do we only travel to boast about the number of countries we’ve been to?
Do we only travel to upload super cute images of ourselves to Instagram posing on every continent?
Do we travel to be seen travelling?
I started traveling at age 15.
Without mobile phones.
Hardly any communication with my loved ones.
Since then, I’ve been travelling the world for 37 years.
And to be honest I haven’t got the slightest idea how many countries I’ve been to.
Because to me, it’s not about that.
Nor is it about getting on a Hop On Hop Off bus and waiting in endless queues trying to see as many attractions as possible.
That extremely frustrating experience, for me, is not travelling.
That kind of display is not travel.
For me, travelling is getting lost in the heart of a new destination and watching its people do their thing.
Learning their language, trying to communicate with them and understand the way they are.
Exploring each destination in depth.
Wow, Tere! That’s adorable but, a tad unrealistic! Spending all that much time in a place is not always possible! In fact, it almost never is!
I’m not talking about spending two, three, four weeks in a specific place.
It really is not the time you invest travelling but the way travel.
A mindset that I have the feeling as an over50 traveller you’ll know how to appreciate.
Today they call it Slow Travel.
For me, it’s the only way to travel.
And the way I have always travelled.
For 37 years.
It is neither the length nor the quantity – it’s the depth.
What is Slow Travel?
The Slow Travel concept arises as a result of the Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy in the 1980s as a protest against the opening of the McDonald’s chain in Rome.
The goal of its founders was to protect and encourage regional cuisine, local agriculture, communal meals and traditional methods of food preparation.
Since then, this cultural initiative has given rise to a lifestyle known as the Slow Movement, the core of which is the “connection” with food, with local families and, in the case of travel, the connection with people and local culture.
The goal of the Slow traveller is not trying to frantically include the maximum possible number of destinations to its so-called “bucket list”..
The Slow traveller takes time to explore each destination thoroughly and experience the local culture.
Slow travellers prefer to know a small area of a locality, region or country, rather than bouncing from one city to the other, quickly checking off the maximum possible number of tourist attractions.
The Slow journey takes many forms.
Each of us has a way of understanding and creating our Slow experience.
On my last trip to Stockholm, we walked an average of 20 km every day. And the city is not that big at all!
And when the cold weather made it difficult to keep walking, we lost ourselves in the stunning Stockholm subway to see the works of art display in many of its stations, observe the locals travelling back home after a day at work, listening to them speak in their beautiful language, and even approaching peripheral neighborhoods to see how the less fortunate population lived.
Another day we took the local bus and travelled to a nearby town.
And a natural park.
And several free museums (yes, we refuse to pay the exorbitant prices that visitors are expected to pay today to access museums and tourist attractions).
But perhaps, travelling slow for you takes another form.
Perhaps it’s all about riding a bike from one town to another, or driving on secondary roads instead of taking the highway.
Or touring a country by train instead of by plane, the way I do when I visit my brother who lives in the western spanish town of Vigo, and everyone asks me whey would I want to spend 10 hours on a train when it could be done by plain in just 3?
But, I like to see the landscape along the way, listen to people’s conversations, read calmly, listen to music.
The truth is that, no matter what you do the key is to slow down and make the most of every moment and every tiny little detail of your vacation.
And if you can turn it into a sabbatical season or create the lifestyle that I’m proposing here at Nomad@50, why not?
Your slow journey will begin in your planning phase.
Look for unknown destinations that will facilitate this type of trip.
Look for travel options that will allow you to spend time with the local people and get to know them thoroughly (or as thoroughly as you can).
Discard overcrowded and overly commercialised activities
And look for joy in everyday life.
Why Travel Slow at 50+?
Because, you and I both know that all those queues, all those walks through streets full of tourists, all those struggles to be served in TripAdvisor’s most popular eateries…
All of them doesn’t really make us all that happy.
Sure, you’ve done it plenty of times, and you’ve done it for your children, right?
Or for other family members.
But, now, you prefer another way of traveling.
A way that involves all your senses.
That allows you to “be” in one place.
To live the present of that destination.
To observe unhurriedly.
To see the clothes hanging on the clothing lines.
To enjoy the smell of fresh bread at 7 in the morning (when tourists still recover from their hangover).
Without any hurry.
Without feeling stressed about having to cross out all those places of interest in the “must-visit” lists.
Naturally flowing to the rhythm of another culture.
Another fantastic advantage of Slow Travel is that it is generally much better for the environment than other types of travel.
We know that air flight is one of the main contributors to global warming.
It’s true, we don’t always have too many alternatives.
I could do the Australia-Europe route (which I usually do twice a year) by sea and land if I had five or seven months available each time (I hope to have them soon!), but for now, it’s unavoidable – I have to travel by plane.
But, if you can avoid it, take the train.
It is a much greener alternative.
Move by bike
Even traveling by car (if it’s electric or hybrid, especially), is less harmful to the environment than the plane.
The Slow Journey is also good for your budget.
Staying in one place for a week or two or more reduces transportation costs.
Vacation rentals tend to help you save more money than hotels as they allow you to cook your own food instead of eating out.
In addition, you can always try to negotiate a discount for longer stays.
And if you choose a home exchange, the savings can easily multiply!
One thing to keep in mind: While the pace of slow travel is much more leisurely and relaxed, approaching a new culture is more challenging – and at times confronting – than simply visiting the main tourist sites.
But the rewards of a slow trip are far greater – you’ll overcome language barriers, differences in customs and other possible obstacles and you’ll establish connections with the new people you meet along the way.
What if you absolutely fall in love with a new destination?
And if time allows it, stay longer the second time.
But now organise yourself better and try to get to know it more thoroughly.
Learn the language.
I was fascinated by Finland, its language and its people.
And I want to return as soon as possible.
I want to understand the essence of this incredible language.
Start formulating sentences.
And to be able to communicate beyond “Kidos” (thanks)!
I was fascinated by its kind people, its customs and the incredible natural beauty of the country.
And I will try my hardest to return and be able to participate in their customs.
Without pressuring myself about having to add countries to my Instagram account.
That is slow Travel for the 50+ adventurer.
Of for adventurers of any age!
Wonderful, right? 🚋🛴