We all have our own preference of how we like to travel. Luxuriously, fashionably, vicariously, on a budget…
My two very good pals, Lauren and Ryan, over at Flat Earth Magazine like to travel slowly (much to my dismay as I haven’t seen them in over a year).
However, with the number of adventures they’ve embarked upon over their year and 3 months in Australia, it is very easy to see why they choose to travel in this way…
Travel is an experience as unique to each individual as the prints on our finger tips.
For some there is nothing better than a few weeks in the sun at an all-inclusive resort whilst for others the ideal holiday is a couple of months living out of a backpack in hostel dorms in some far-flung destination.
We travel for pleasure, travel to work and travel to see love ones and family scattered across the globe. But for some, travel becomes more than just those few fleeting moments between the monotony of day-to-day life. It becomes a way of life, an unending quest to try to see every corner of the planet before our days are done and turn over every stone along the way.
When we graduated from University in 2014, we knew that we wanted to travel but had little idea (or money) of where we should start. As our feet were itching so badly we decided to opt for the slow game. We left with almost no savings and committed ourselves to at least a year in Australia. Here we could get a working visa and save money as we travelled, making our future travel plans up as we went along.
We know lots of people who go travelling on a round-the-world ticket and return a year later with 30-50 countries under their belts. But in that time (with the exception of a holiday to Indonesia) we have stayed in just one country. And whilst there’s undeniable envy at seeing pictures of friends traversing the entirety of South America or South East Asia, I don’t know if we could have travelled any other way.
To use some awful travel clichés, we are the type of people who need to “walk around every next corner” to see what lies just out of view. The type of people who need to run to the highest point of every walking trail just in case the view might get a little better. And we’re the same with the way we travel. We want to see everything. We want to see the small isolated rural towns as well as the glittering capital cities and all the nothingness that comes between.
So after a few months of work in Melbourne we bought a car and camping gear and decided to commit ourselves to a further year in Australia to ensure we could see everything. So we could properly submerge ourselves in what it means to live in Australia, so we could leave feeling like we were leaving a second home.
We would recommend slow travel to anyone who can commit to it. Rather than experiencing Australia as tourists or backpackers we have fully embraced the culture and lifestyle. We’ve lived and worked office jobs in Brisbane and Melbourne and experienced Australian city life. We have worked in rural parts of Western Australia and Tasmania and experienced the sense of isolation that is central to the rhetoric of Australian culture.
We’ve seen the idyllic life to be had in the endless beach towns that dot its vast coast but also come face to face with some of Australia’s dark social realities. Our preconceptions of the country have changed completely and we will leave with a much more nuanced idea of what Australia really is.
As well as the cultural reward of slow travel the journeys themselves become an incredible experience. Rather than unending cramped bus journeys or indistinguishable plane journeys that all fade into a single, dim memory, each and every journey is unique. You stop in the strangest little country towns, see countless examples of native wildlife and gain a tangible sense of how vast Australia is.
Obviously slow travel does come with its negative moments. You are more at the mercy of chance, a broken down car in the wrong place could be life threatening let alone expensive to remedy. Sometimes you are forced to sleep in roadside pit stops and confined to the space of your car or tent whenever the weather takes a turn.
However, travelling is ultimately about the peaks and troughs. When you look back on trips, the bad memories fade away to nothing more than an amusing anecdote. You need to experience the troughs in order to fully appreciate the peaks and this is never more true than with slow travel. Both the bad and the good are intensified and you’ll learn so much more about yourself when you don’t have a tour guide or strict itinerary to rely on.
Slow travel is a big commitment. We’ve come to the realisation that in order to travel the world in the way we want to personally, it will take at least 5 or 6 years. It’s a lot of time but in our eyes a small price to pay for a life without regret. But slow travel doesn’t have to be a huge rupture from everyday life. Just look into alternative holiday ideas. Cycle around Europe for two weeks, go on a road trip across the U.S.A or even explore your own back yard. The key essence of slow travel is to quite literally slow down. Enjoy the journey and see everything that lies between the big attractions.
You might tick off less destinations and be left with fewer stamps in your passport but you’ll open up every country you visit and often see more of it than the natives see themselves.