A NEW CONCEPT FROM OLD TIMES
“It always pays to dwell slowly on the beautiful things, the more beautiful, the more slowly.” ~ Atticus.
Nowadays, society is based on instant gratification. We want everything, and we want it now. In many cases, this is actually possible. Take buying things we want or need as an example. With a few clicks of a mouse, items from our wishlist turn up at our door in no time at all. Or even in the case of food, by pressing the screen of a smartphone a few times, a famous cultural dish originally from the other side of the world is delivered to us piping hot and within the guaranteed delivery time. It’s crazy when you think about it. Not only can we have what we want when we want it, but we don’t even need to leave home to get it.
Is this a good thing, though? As instant satisfaction encourages the desire for more, are we not losing patience and gratitude? With things being so easily accessible, have we not become a society that takes things for granted and overlooks the beauty of simplicity?
Take travel, for instance. Something that was once a privilege and took great effort is now seen as a right and takes little effort at all beyond working to pay for a trip. For the price of a month’s salary, our bags are loaded onto a flying tube that transports us at unfathomable speeds across oceans and continents. Meanwhile, food and moist towelettes are laid before us as we decide what to watch from a library in a seat-back that rivals Netflix.
If you were to stand in Barcelona and bore a hole through the centre of the Earth, you’d end up in Christchurch. You can’t get much further than that, yet travelling between the two cities by plane can be done in around 30 hours, more or less. The incredible thing is that we consider this to be a long time. Try telling that to those who travelled such a distance by sea back in the day, relying on wind for speed and stars for navigation. The majority of us couldn’t even grasp that type of travel because of how easy things are today. There’s definitely much to be thankful for.
However, the problem is that this fast-paced, instantaneous, expectant mentality is so ingrained in us that it affects every aspect of our travel experience. We arrive in new places with schedules that make our daily lives seem like holidays. If only we could accept that we can’t see and do everything, the present moment would be much more enriching.
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Think of a man going to a Saturday evening buffet with some friends. After working hard all week, it’s time for a little reward. Suddenly, an unlimited amount of food awaits. Endless variety for a fixed price, and someone else is going to do the dishes. “Yes!” he thinks to himself. “I deserve this. It was a heavy week, and I’m going to make the most out of all this grub.” His situation may have changed from the weekly grind, but the size of his stomach certainly did not. As if possessed by some supernatural force, he does his finest impression of a human trash compactor and begins indiscriminately devouring piles of food. After three full plates, he’s no longer driven by hunger but by principle. He’s there, and he’s going to get his money’s worth, whether he enjoys it or not. To relieve the discomfort from forcing down yet another plateful, he loosens his belt buckle and undoes the top button of his trousers. He’s determined to finish what he set out to do – eat from every section of the buffet. But first, bloated and groggy, he decides to take a short rest.
I’d wager that most of us have been in a similar situation and can sympathise with this poor guy. Something he had looked forward to all week that was supposed to bring him happiness became uncomfortable and annoying. Hunger became a duty, motivation became an obsession, and pleasure became pain. Why? Well, that’s obvious. He overdid it. Rather than prioritising the foods he truly craved or had never tried, he wanted to have it all, thus turning his reward into a task. With this approach, he would have been better off going to work. At least his trousers would still fit.
Let’s get back to travel now and apply this scenario there. This time two young women from Toronto have just arrived in Auckland. They worked hard over the past year, saving money and vacation days, so they could make the most of their time in New Zealand. Meeting on the last Friday of each month to plan their dream trip, the theme was clear: escape the rat race, immerse themselves in nature, and strike a healthy balance of adventure and relaxation.
They picked up their campervan, buzzing with good vibes and set off to explore Aotearoa. The first stop was a mad dash up to Cape Reinga. That was Tuesday. Less than a fortnight later, they had visited both coasts of the North Island – including the Bay of Plenty, The Coromandel, Raglan, Taranaki, Taupo, Tongariro National Park, Rotorua and more – before heading over the Remutaka Hill toward Wellington. After a night in the city, they arrived on the South Island just shy of two weeks after arriving in the country, where their hurried pace continued.
It’s now Tuesday once again, this time with only one week of their month-long NZ tour remaining. They pull over in Oamaru to visit the blue penguin colony. The vibe in the van is much different, though. They step out in silence and walk separately in the same direction. They’re exhausted, and their nerves are shot. It’s time to loosen their belts and pop their top buttons. They tried to do too much, and this last week would now be more of a task than a holiday. With so much left to explore, including our beloved West Coast, it’s doubtful they’ll be able to properly enjoy it. Life was easier back at work.
How many of you reading this can relate? As with the young man at the buffet, prioritising what they wanted to see most would have made their trip much more enjoyable. Keeping a simple, realistic itinerary is definitely the way to go.
“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” ~ Bilbo Baggins.
Focusing on specific areas and spending more time exploring them rather than trying to see and do everything is called Slow Travel. Quality over quantity, essentially.
This is part one of a four-part series on Slow Travel. In the upcoming blogs, we’ll share stories from here in Glacier Country, each highlighting the three main benefactors of slow travel:
1) the traveller
2) the local economy
3) the environment
It’s hard not to wonder what the seafarers of old would think of how we travel now. On their sailing vessels, they wrote about their experiences. On our flying vessels, we read what they wrote. They defined Slow Travel. Have we lost something in our haste? If so, can we get it back?
Until then, take it slow.
Blog written by Mike Bilo
Mike Bilodeau is a content writer for eco and sustainable tourism operators. He’s an advocate for Slow Travel and is currently making his way slowly around Europe with his dog.