Why I became a slow & a curious traveler + Letting go of my bucket list
Being a curious traveler made me travel slow which in turn allowed me to collect experiences that enriched me with emotional memories rather than just a bunch of photos of popular tourist spots
I feel fortunate , I work hard , I am lazy , I procrastinate from dawn to dusk sometimes & sometimes I forget the existence of the clock.I am not able to let go, to relax, however when I travel, in an unfamiliar place I somehow do more, feel like I get more done. Wandering, eating, seeing ,not necessarily in that order , makes me feel more productive about life in general. I feel calmer. And it took me a long time to get to a place where traveling energised me like this.
Not so long ago, I only knew one way to travel, have a fixed & well researched itinerary , make sure to get up in the morning & be ready to leave on time , take advantage of the Hotel breakfast and follow a list of everything that the place has been advertised for & come back exhausted and be ready to hit the bed at night to repeat the same the next day. That is not to say I did not enjoy them or make memories , mostly because I was with people I loved. But, I hadn’t discovered the joys of slow traveler of become a curious traveler yet.
It was not until my trip to the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh, India; popularly known as the remote cold dessert at 15000 feet ; that I discovered how to be a slow traveler, and also to be a curious traveler . At first I just wanted to be in a quiet place , it is so quite there in some places that you feel you can hear the sound of silence. Sometimes when you are traveling in the mountains you won’t see anyone for hours. All that I did was get up, have breakfast at the guest house & drive around with a car, sometimes stopping the car and sitting on the edge of the road just staring into the vast valley, writing things in my diary while staring at mountains that reflected the shadows of the clouds & changed colors depending on the time of the day, sometimes we would stop in villages with just 10 houses and be invited to have a cup of tea and chat through the morning. I learned to be curious, I asked questions I never thought I would ask strangers about their way of life and came back with home-made yak cheese that was gifted to me by an old man. I learned that you can be happy even when you live in a remote place, with no internet, to sit in a house when it’s snowed down outside and have no access to the outside world. The last part is true for the monks who live in the Key monastery in the Spiti valley with whom I shared a cup of tea one afternoon. I remember the wonder that I felt when I was cold in my tent that we were pitching by the Chandratal lake , getting out of the tent to pace around to get warm when I saw the sky above sprinkled with a million sparkling stars. I remember feeling peaceful.
Slow travel doesn’t mean that you need to choose a remote place. Slow travel means that you become a curious traveler where you go, seek out experiences that are beyond the guidebook and those obviously advertised to the tourists, avoiding the chain restaurants and to eat local , it means having no agenda for the day, maybe to sit in your homestay and talk to the owners sharing food. It means finding a quiet spot by the river and reading a book the whole time. It means to get out of your comfort zone and go with the flow and talking to people whom you meet.
Being a slow traveler has slowly turned me into a curious traveler, I am no longer struggling to mark things off my checklist or my bucket list for that matter. I now believe that life is an amalgamation of experiences, it is not the number of countries that you traveled to but the experiences that you had that moved you from within, that stirs your soul , that makes you come back with an emotional memory rather than just a bag full of tourist trinkets. It means you try to eat like a local, go to the nearest vegetable market & discover produce that you have never seen .It can mean spending a day fishing in the rain with a local you just met
Being curious when I travel made me know & understand how a Goan family lives, discover Goa away from the beaches made me taste authentic Himachali cuisine at a homestay in the Tirthan valley, Himachal Pradesh it made me experience the life changing combo of beef & cheese with local chillies; at a bhutanese restaurant recommended by a local which had no tourists, it made me have a transcendental experience while listening to monks chanting at a remote monastery in the Spiti valley, & also made me cry; it made me discover a quite french bakery in Pondicherry where for the first time I tasted escargot (land snails) bread and see a 18 foot crocodile basking in the sun in the Sundarbans; the largest stretch of mangroves in the world. It made me talk to 3 young women in a village in Himachal Pradesh which I had climbed for an hour to reach & who made me learn about how priorities can be different for everyone. I remember the people I met and I talked to & who showed me kindness in a place were I was a stranger.
How to be a slow & a curious traveler:
Find experiences that you want to have rather than places or countries to check of your bucket list. Cooking & eating your meal under the stars can be an experience rather than say going to Europe for 15 days and packing in 7 countries
Travel solo sometimes , be on your own, see something with only yourself as company and not just because you want to put #solotravel in your instagram post (totally cool if you do that btw)
It’s not about the time though many people put slow travel as staying in a place for a long time, living like a local, not always possible and depends on the lives you have. Rather it is about how deep you can go into a place you are in, talking to a local, reading a book by the river, having a few days where you just go out and let the day decide what it has in store for you
Ask a local for eating recommendations; anyone, bus or taxi drivers , the helpful policeman manning the traffic, the lady getting her children back from school (not the Hotel you are staying in as they will point you to the best tourist spots). I discovered an amazing neighbourhood restaurant when I asked a local in Thimpu, Bhutan.
Next time choose a homestay instead of the Hotel, if you can help it away from the main tourist centre, stay with locals who have grown up there, talk to them, learn about their way of life , go to church with them (like I did)
Rent a cottage or home by the mountain or by the sea away from the tourist hotspots and do nothing all day and cook your food with produce for the local market or farmstand
Try taking a train instead of the flight and sketch out the scenery or write about what you see
Talk to the locals, respect their way of life and learn life lessons
Don’t have FOMO. I didn’t go to a very popular tourist monument while in Bhutan .Be free, dont let the images, social media, other people influence you of what kind of traveler you should be or
So tell me have you been a slow traveler or a curious traveler?
Do you need help in deciding how to be a curious traveler or how to travel slow the next time you plan a trip? I am happy to have a chat, shoot me an email here or connect with me via my social media handles.
STORIES TO INSPIRE TRAVELING WITH PURPOSE
LÉBU CURIOUS TRAVEL GUIDES: FOR FINDING THE EXCEPTIONAL IN THE ORDINARY
LÉBU RECIPES TO SAVOUR YOUR PLATE
STORIES OF FOOD , LIFE & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
SAVOUR LIFE WITHME ON INSTAGRAM