I just sent off an email to a friend. He was asking for my thoughts on Lisbon, Portugal as he’s considering visiting the city on his upcoming trip to Europe. Here’s a quote from his email:
For now I plan on doing Ireland to Portugal to Spain to France to Belgium to Switzerland to Germany to Scotland and than [sic] back to Ireland. 10 cities. Dublin Cork Lisbon Madrid Barcelona Paris Berlin Bruges (Brussels maybe) Zurich Edinburgh than back to Dublin (not necessarily in that order)
My first thought was: Lisbon… hell yes! (It’s my favorite city in Europe.)
My second thought was: That sounds EXHAUSTING!
Granted, he’s taking a month off, which is a long time for us Americans. We get so little vacation time, so I recognize his desire to maximize every opportunity and travel as far and as wide as you can. When you love to travel you want to go everywhere and it’s hard to cut out potential stops. I’ve done my share of packed itineraries, including one last year that left me dead tired and eager to come home. And that was AFTER we made the conscious decision to reduce the number of destinations and scheduled ourselves a full four weeks!
When seasoned travelers talk about packing for a trip, the common thread is that the more you travel, the lighter you tend to pack. The further you go, the more you see a heavy suitcase as a burden and something that detracts from your experience. I think the same principle is at work with speed of travel. The more you travel, the more time you want to spend in one place, learning and experiencing it as much as possible before moving on. This “slow travel” philosophy really resonates with me. I’m sick of coming home exhausted with endless questions left unanswered.
Some travelers take this to the extreme. I’ve seen online discussions akin to, “You don’t know anything about a country if you haven’t been there for at least 3 months.” OBVIOUSLY, the more time you spend in a place, the more you’ll experience and I respect their desire to truly immerse themselves in another culture, but this isn’t a helpful perspective for your average traveler. Even if we had the time off, I and many others are not interested in living that kind of nomadic lifestyle.
To foster slower travel on our own trips, Kevin and I have set a personal goal that we think is manageable (with room for improvement): No fewer than four nights in any one city before we move on. That will keep us from hopping from place to place for one night here, two nights there, and spending half of our trips on buses and in airports.
So what did I tell my friend? I recommended he cut back the itinerary, perhaps focusing on 2-3 adjacent countries (e.g. Portugal/Spain/France or France/Belgium/Germany). But I closed it by saying this was personal preference from my own experience. Everyone travels differently, and all manner of travel is valid.
Maybe he’ll cut back. Or maybe he’ll cover 10 cities and 8 countries. Either way, I’m reminded of my ongoing struggle against trying to do it all!
What do you think? Do you like the idea of “slow travel”?