The Art Of Backpacking, Travel Slowly.

Slow travel is more than just a buzzword, it is a way of travel, a way of life. It is a way of slowing down on your gap year and enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

There is always a temptation when travelling the world to try and take in as much as possible in as quick a time as possible. I get it, I really do.

Planning your first round the world trip or backpacking adventure is exciting. There is always just so much you want to see and do. The thrill of adventure, the excitement of seeing new places. It can often overcome you and you can very easily get swept up in it all. You can very easily get carried away and make the same basic mistake that the vast majority of first time backpackers make.

Trying to fit way too much into far too little time.

It happens all the time. Backpackers set off and try and fill their itinerary full to bursting. They will hop off a plane, leave the airport just long enough to get the stamp in their passport and then they will consider that country ‘done’. They may only have a month off, but they’ll still try and fit an entire round the world trip into it.

Sure it’s possible to travel the world in a few months. Phileas Fogg did it in 80 days, right? But you’ll only ever see a snapshot of each country or continent you visit, you will rush through the places you do see, and will spend half of your time in transit or exhausted. You may see a lot, but you will miss a whole lot more.

“On average I only ever suggest spending one month minimum, and I do mean minimum, per country.”

Most traditional round the world routes will take you to one country on each continent on a pre set route and this is the mindset that a lot of backpackers have been programmed into by the gap year industry that sell the backpacking experience as a package.

A very typical route involves flying to one country in the Middle East, one city in SE Asia, Australia for a bit, then onto LA and back home within a year. There is nothing really wrong with this of course if this is what you choose to do, and technically yes this is ‘round the world’.

But there is a better way.

‘Round the world’ does not have to be taken as gospel, you don’t have to take it literally. Not everyone can travel for long periods all the time and that is okay too. You can take those short weekend breaks, you can take the week to sit by the pool, that’s all good, but you can’t say that you have seen a country if all you do is catch a glimpse of the airport or the beach resort. If you want to explore a country properly then do it properly and take the time. It is often much more preferable to explore one continent or region well than it is to get snapshots of every continent.

You can still have travelling the world as an ultimate ambition, but think of it as something to do over a lifetime, in bite size pieces.

On average I only ever suggest spending one month minimum, and I do mean minimum, per country. Some places such as Brazil or Indonesia are so vast they require even more time. To try and see them in less time than that is impractical at best unless you limit yourself to one or two towns, cities or islands within that country and accept you will not see it all.

In practice, that means if you have 6 months or a year to travel, you should limit yourself to 6 or 12 countries maximum, one or two less if possible. Just give yourself time to relax (it is still a holiday remember) and see and take in some of the amazing places you are visiting.

This way you can enjoy the journey as well as the destination, because that is what backpacking is about too.

You can take your time and relish the people you meet and the experiences you have along the way. You can travel slowly between town to town and discover new places that aren’t in the guidebook. You can immerse yourself in different cultures, truly see and learn about the countries you are visiting. Most of all, your overriding memories of your trip won’t be which airport was the nicest!

What you should consider before volunteering on your gap year

You have probably dreamed about seeing the places you are visiting for a long time, had prolonged daydreams of experiencing the culture, the food or the people. You probably have a long list of things you would love to see and do. So why rush through a country and barely do any of that?

Give the countries you have longed to visit the time to appreciate them properly. Stop to smell the roses once in a while. Take time to simply watch and experience the culture you are visiting, explore the countries you are passing through much more thoroughly. You will find that when you do this, each destination will open itself up to you so much more, each place will reward you with far greater experiences that go beyond the usual tourist highlights and bestow on you an infinitely deeper knowledge and understanding.

Of course that means you won’t pick up as many stamps in your passport, but it also means you will get to explore the countries that you visit fully, you get to see the whole country and really get a feel for the place, get a deeper understanding of the people and the culture and see sights that most tourists never do. You will be a traveller, a backpacker, not a tourist.

So remember this when you are planning your trip. I know it is tempting to try and squeeze as much in as you can, but there are always other trips! Backpacking is not a once in a lifetime deal anymore!

Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.

Related Articldes

Forget The Gap Year Itinerary, Go With The Flow.

Travel Is Much More Than Just A Holiday.

What Type Of Backpacker Are You?

 

Michael Huxley is a published author, freelance travel writer and founder of Bemused Backpacker. He is also a charge nurse by vocation with an interest in emergency nursing and travel medicine, but his real passion is travel. Since finding his wanderlust a decade ago in South East Asia, he has bounced from one end of the planet to another and has no intention of slowing down.

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8 comments on “The Art Of Backpacking, Travel Slowly.
  1. Paul says:

    Brilliant advice! And I read this just at the right time too. I’ll definitely take this into consideration when I’m planning my trip, I think I’ve already fallen into the trap of trying to fit too much in. I do want to see all the places on my list, but I don’t want to miss out on everything by rushing through them and I want to relax a bit too.

  2. Emily Luxton says:

    Such good advice – I completely agree! At the start of our five month trip I tried to pack in so much of Colombia and Peru that by the time we reached Bolivia I was completely exhausted. Since then, we’ve been travelling slowly and trying to see more of less places – it’s much more relaxing and I feel like we’ve really experienced more of each country, even when we’ve been to less of them!

    • Thank you Emily. I think we’ve all done that at some point though, tried to see to much in too little time. Travelling slowly is something I learned to do over time.

      To be honest though I don’t think it means we go to less countries, I just think it means we have more of an excuse to keep travelling for longer! ;D I may not have hit every country on the planet before I hit 30, but I have explored deeply the ones I have visited, and I have the rest of my life to get round to the rest because I am never going to stop travelling! ;D

  3. Josh says:

    So I’m leaving for South America 10/3, arriving in Lima, and leaving from Buenos Aires sometime early December, so basically about 2 months trip. Would you say for four countries, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, that’s enough time or should i attempt to extend the trip to arrive back just before Christmas?

    • Perfect example of what I was talking about in the article. I would definitely extend it if you can or even better just pick one country if you want to travel slowly as the article says. Each one of those countries needs at least a month, and you still won’t see everything in that time.

  4. Paddington says:

    Let me guess, you ‘walked (slowly) through the Darien Gap’ too?! This sounds like a similar pretentious load of….. We travel slowly, but sometimes logistics make us cut through countries for only a few days. You can always go back, it’s not always plausible to spend a month. Sometimes, you just don’t like a place and want to get out. ‘You will be a traveller, a backpacker, not a tourist’ seriously? You sound a bit up yourself. If you’re the normal traveller and backpacker I’d sooner be a tourist.

    • There is a vast difference between travelling fast and logistical layovers, and a huge difference between travelling slowly and counting any quick airport stop as having ‘done’ that country. Don’t worry though, you sound exactly like the tourist you seem to want to be. 🙂

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Hi, I'm Michael! I'm a published author, qualified nurse and world travelling professional adventurer! I have spent 15 years travelling over 100 countries and I want to inspire you to do the same! Want to know more about me? Just click here!

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