Wooooooh! Woooooooh! The trend train is leaving the station and I’m going to miss it – again. I’ve lost track of all the ones that have passed me by; fedoras, “Breaking Bad”, and kimchi come to mind.
The latest travel trend I’m ignoring is actually the opposite of movement: slow travel. No one boasts about seeing 9 countries in 18 days anymore. I’m more likely to encounter people who have returned from a digital detox or a 3-week immersion trip to a small village in Peru. Even legendary travel writer Pico Iyer is a fan. In an article in The Guardian, he makes the case that our everyday lives are full of movement and diversion which is what we used to seek when traveling. Iyer notes that slow travel offers the opposite, “…the chance to make contact with loved ones, to be in one place and to enjoy the intimacy and sometimes life-changing depth of talking to one person for five – or 15 – hours.”
Sounds lovely, right? But, I simply don’t have the time.
I’ve hit the stage of life when I’m starting to hear the seconds tick away. Not the minutes yet, but the seconds. When I plan a trip, I assume I it will be my one and only visit, make a list of the things I MUST see or do, and aggressively tackle that list upon arrival. Do not stand in my way. I’m a woman with a mission. Like Carrie Mathison, without the drones.
This is a recent development. When I was young and living in London, I spent hundreds of hours in pubs connecting with the locals, adopting a fake accent by the second pint. I walked through mews after mews into the wee hours, soaking up the city until I felt like I was wearing it. Tour Westminster Abbey? Watch the changing of the guard? See the Crown Jewels? That’s for tourists. I’ll do that when I come back. You know what? It’s been 30 years and I’ve yet to return.
I mean I will. Someday. I hope. But I don’t have enough years left to assume I’ll get a second chance at any of my destinations.
That’s why I construct a sightseeing strategy and execute it with military precision. My travel mates find it exhausting. Most will throw up their gloves and wait for the bell to ring in the 12th round like Floyd Mayweather. It doesn’t deter me. I move quicker on my own.
To the critics who might call me an irresponsible traveler, someone who doesn’t really see a place, I’d argue the opposite. What I’ve learned is that life and all of its messy, wonderful details get in the way of reckless abandon. My way is responsible, in that I understand how precious time off and time away are; I treat my travel hours like currency that I choose to invest wisely for maximum returns.
I’m not always a complete crazy person on the road because the length of my list varies with the location. For example, the non-negotiable itinerary for my upcoming trip to Belgium is fairly light: wander around Bruges, drink a Trappist beer, see the Ghent Altarpiece. I have 4 days. Piece of cake.
Paris, on the other hand, might be a bit of a blur: top of the Eiffel Tower; Les Puces flea market; les musées: Rodin, d’Orsay, Louvre; long walk along the Seine; Notre Dame; Sacré-Coeur…sacrebleu! It will be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time and I can’t wait.
I often dream about my retirement years. Long days spent puttering around a golf course community in Boynton Beach? I don’t think so. Within the next few years, I hope to be able to pull up stakes and relocate for a couple of months to different locations around the globe. Then I’ll be able to mine a place and really get to know it. But I hate what-ifs, and were that day not to arrive, I need to make sure I’ve filled up my mental and emotional scrapbook.
If you see me coming, get on board or get out of the way. I’ve got an express train to catch!