Like the many people who are juggling work and home, family vacations seem too few and far between. Despite having co-created a travel website, Get There | Get Lost, and having blessed with plenty of opportunities to go on adventures with my family, free time for traveling is actually quite elusive. The luxury of time is exactly that—a luxury. Hence, I treasure it by making the most of every minute when we find our schedules miraculously free of things to do.
It makes perfect sense on the surface: filling each day of the trip with a plethora of activities in order to see and do the most a destination has to offer in less amount of time. It’s practical to say the least, and it seems as though I’m managing our vacation time wisely. Yet, instead of feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and completely absorbed in the wonder of exploration, I catch myself going strict-mom mode, too uptight about our itineraries, and stressing the whole family out. Quite far from the supposed point of taking a vacation in the first place, we come home dead-beat and more exhausted than we did before we left.
Sure, the popular spots are popular for a reason—in that they really are must-sees. And there’s nothing wrong with joining the tourist crowd, especially if the tailored tours are the right fit for the vacation-goer, in terms of time, budget and just as simple as preference. For us, though, we’ve always opted to go about places on our own pace and try to connect as much as we want to with the locals, engage with other travelers however much or little we want to and, most importantly, feel and appreciate each other’s company as we discover the place together.
In one of the trips we took in the summer of 2016, my family and I met up with a couple of my fellow bloggers based in the Boston metro area. Instead of packing our schedules with a whole lot of to-dos and go-tos, we dialed things down by just getting to know these bloggers whom I’ve been interacting online with for a decade or so. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel like my family and I missed out on an opportunity to get to know Boston and its surrounding towns. In fact, we thought it was a memorable trip because we felt connected with the people we were with.
Perhaps, what I’m also learning about slow traveling is how it aligns to the kind of traveler that I want to be (and hope my children would be as well). Because we’ve veered off the usual hot spots that make us feel rushed, we found that the hidden or not-so-popular parts of a destination offered a more relaxed way of gallivanting, which ultimately allowed us to support smaller businesses. We’ve discovered countless local restaurants, markets, and shops! There’s something magical about the nooks and crannies that are more often than not overlooked; and there’s something gratifying in spending your time and money on small- to mid-sized establishments.
As I plan the next wave of vacations for my family this holiday season, I contemplate on how we can continue to implement the “less is more” philosophy in our travels. This is not to say that I am completely opposed to tour packages and that I am now going to avoid them. I will be first to admit that there have been times when taking ‘basic’ tours turned out to be better than we expected. Many of these tours are definitely worth taking, especially the ones that allow one to go slow. Our tour of Coron, Palawan in the Philippines, for instance, was far from a basic experience, despite having taken a typical tour package. Island hopping by being transported – and practically lulled – in a banca? There’s really nothing to complain about that.
All things considered from all my travels with my family, there really is something to be had with immersing yourself in a new destination without the pressure of having to explore as many places as possible. We already live the day-to-day in the fast lane, that we forget that it’s in being fully present in the moment, without worrying about what to do next, that we truly get to appreciate our experiences. It’s in allowing things to flow more organically rather than racing to the finish line. It makes more sense now to me — if taking a vacation means taking a break from the hurly burly, we might as well take a stroll and dilly dally. Less stress, more enriching experience.