The Joy of Traveling Slowly

There is a joy in deciding that time is your friend, in choosing deliberate stillness.

Couple on beach at sunset

Realizing you will never be able to see everything you want to see is actually liberating.

When anyone, young or old, begins traveling, the instinctive urge is to make every moment count, to see as much as you possibly can, to voraciously experience everything. Fourteen countries in fifteen days. Grinding schedules to get from one destination to the next with maximum efficiency. Ticking off each vista as an item on the checklist and moving to the next.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. When you have a single week of free time, the feeling that you need to use every single minute of it is understandable and even admirable. (It’s also exhausting, but that’s a different thing, and hey, you can sleep when you’re dead, right?)

The maxim that you never know what is enough until you have too much applies to traveling, too. So after years of short, sweet vacations in which I crammed every possible minute with activities and sights and destinations, I have finally reached the conclusion that fewer is better. Staying fewer places for more days. Seeing fewer points of interest but not hurrying. Fewer experiences, fewer sights, but each one experienced more fully.

By the way, I don’t expect you to believe me – you have to learn this on your own. But, maybe you’ll think about it and possibly reach this point sooner than I did.

There is a joy in deciding that time is your friend, in choosing deliberate stillness. Walking along the Victorian-era promenade in the Welsh town of Aberystwyth, we stopped for ice cream. And we sat on a bench in the evening sunlight to eat it. Passersby with their little dogs greeted each other and us. Beach goers gathered in small groups on the pebbles by the water, making little fires of driftwood, cooking sausages or just enjoying the warmth. In the bay, a pair of dolphins made their way purposely along the coast, dark backs arching oh-so-briefly above the sun-kissed waves. And I saw it all while savoring the creamy sweet taste of mint chocolate chip. Ice cream has not tasted that good in years.

Not so long ago, I would not have stopped for ice cream, or if I did, I would have kept walking into town, eager to get on with it, to see what was around the next corner. I would have missed so much.

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