One Martini, Two Martini, Three Martini, Floor
So goes the Dorothy Parker quote. I have a similar attitude to the number of destinations I can cram into one holiday. Single destination holidays allow optimal laziness and relaxation, although combining a few nights in a city followed by a week or so on a beach allows you to fit in some city based sightseeing, thus justifying remaining glued to a sunlounger for the remainder of the holiday. Occasionally, and only if I’m away for at least two weeks, I’ll add in a third destination – usually somewhere not too far from the second location. Any more and it doesn’t feel relaxing, or slow. Packing and unpacking becomes tedious, and the amount of time spent travelling starts to eat up days of your precious break.
To Fail to Prepare is to Prepare to Fail
So said a lecturer to me once. Research your destination first, and find a way to make this pleasurable rather than seeing it as a chore. I use Pinterest as a visual bookmarking tool for hotels I like the look of, then whittle them down. If it’s a city break, I care more about location than whether I have a huge luxurious room. If I’m staying at a hotel in a remote area that I might only leave a couple of times, I want a decent room, and some good restaurants. Do I really want to spend 3 hours in a car when I’ve just got off a 12 hour flight? Is the hotel super cheap because it’s the middle of rainy season? I once spent a very enjoyable time in a hotel in Khao Lak at the end of rainy season – I took the risk for the bargainous off-season rates, and was blessed with great weather. The hotel staff told me I was lucky, and that it had rained all day every day for the previous two weeks. Know your stuff, and manage your expectations.
Khao Lak – the sunshine after the rain. Two weeks’ worth of rain.
Finding a Favourite
Try and identify as early on as possible a bar, coffee shop or restaurant that you love (I added in coffee shop to make me look less like a booze-hound, but in reality it’s almost always a bar, or a restaurant with a decent bar). This serves a few purposes. Firstly, it’s nice to identify something as “yours” – it becomes a place of memories, one you’ll remember and talk about in years to come, and look forward to returning to on repeat visits. Secondly, it’s a useful contingency plan. Whenever your evening isn’t turning out quite as you’d hoped, if everywhere else is full, or crap, you can decamp there and know you’re going to enjoy it. Also, the staff will likely remember you (make sure this is for the right reasons), and a familiar greeting goes a long way in restoring your good mood.
See something, not everything
Pick a couple of key sights you want to see, and intersperse the days spent sightseeing with days relaxing on the beach or doing some ad hoc exploring – to me, one of the many pleasures of slow travel is the opportunity to explore at leisure, walking around with no particularly destination in mind, and stumbling across interesting hidden places. Avoiding over scheduling means you have time to be spontaneous, or take advantage of any exciting opportunities that might come your way.
Quilted effect gold headstone discovered whilst wandering around backstreets of Berlin
Find your own slow
People have their own interpretations of what slow travel is. A friend once berated me for posting on Facebook during a holiday. Stop being on Facebook, and go and RELAX, she said. I was laying on a sunlounger, by a private pool in a villa in Bali, with a wine and snack filled fridge only metres away. I wondered how I could be more relaxed, without taking a sedative. For me, slow travel is about having the time and headspace to do and appreciate things in a way I don’t at home. That might involve catching up with friends on social media, getting up late, or going to bed at 8pm to watch a movie. I can spend all afternoon pottering around narrow unexplored streets, visiting a temple, or just staring at the blue sky. I’ve never felt the need to rush from one major tourist site to the next, in a box ticking exercise, filming everything and seeing nothing. I want to see something, but not everything. But it’s for you to find your own slow…