It’s all too easy to get sucked into a bucket-list mentality when you’re travelling. If you’re visiting a place for the first time, everything from the guidebooks you read to your friend’s recommendations tells you to tick off a list of all the things you ‘have’ to see and do. Even if you’re trying to see an alternative side to your destination, you will still have a list of things you want to see and places where you want to eat. My suggestion: forget it all.
Coqui Coqui Tulum
If you really want to slow down the way that you travel and get to know the hidden heart of your destination, you need to stop travelling with the mind-set that you want to see and do as much as possible. You have to let go of the compulsion to ‘complete’ the place that you are visiting and just let yourself slide into everyday life. You need to spend your time there living like a local.
Some of the best trips I’ve ever been on have been when I’ve set myself free of the confines of typical tourism and let myself go about my time the way that I would if I lived there. This means long lazy lie-ins (if that’s your thing) rather than setting your alarm for the crack of dawn. Staying someplace with a kitchen so you can cook your own meals rather than eating out three times a day. Freeing yourself from the notion that you have to visit every museum or every beach, and letting yourself discover your favourite places to hang out.
If you’re finding it difficult to adjust to this way of travelling, start with the food that you eat. This is the complete opposite of staying in all-inclusive hotels and eating out for every meal. On your first day, seek out your closest supermarket or street market and purchase enough food for your stay. Make breakfast in your accommodation when you wake in the morning, then pack lunches to eat as a picnic or on the go. In the evenings, cook meals and enjoy with a glass of wine at the table, in the garden or on the balcony. Treat yourself to meals out during your stay, but don’t make it the norm. If you lived there, you wouldn’t eat out every day.
Consider how you get around. Hire bicycles or set off on your own two feet to discover the places that you’d miss if you hopped on public transport. Leave the map at home and allow yourself to simply wander, led by anything that interests you. If you stumble upon a tranquil beach or a pretty park that you like the look of, settle down and spend some time there, rather than worrying about what was on your list of things to do. If you find yourself returning over and over again to the same spot during your stay, don’t despair. You’re starting to travel like a local.
But what if you’re on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to a place that you may not visit again? You don’t have to complete shun all of the attractions that a destination has to offer, but in order to slow down the pace in which you see the world, you have to let go of the notion that you want to see everything. Think about the things that really call out to you – whether that’s a boutique you’ve been dreaming of browsing or a landmark that you’ve always wanted to photograph – and work these into your stay. Just allow yourself time to linger and enjoy creating memories, rather than rushing around with a map, ticking off items in a guidebook.
The locals will still visit the shops, restaurants, landmarks, beaches and museums that interest you – the difference is in how they visit them. There’s no rush, no urgency. Once you accept that you can’t see everything and allow yourself to slow down and enjoy each moment, you’ll get so much more out of your trip. You’ll create memories with meaning, rather than simply snapping a photo and moving on.
Writer, photographer and dreamer with an endless wanderlust.
Emma Lavelle has lived in the north of England all of her life, taking advantage of her location to explore as much of Europe as possible. Emma is a slow living enthusiast, writing about her quest for a slower life on her blog, Field + Nest, as well as for various online & print publications. She's also a keen photographer and has just started selling prints of her nature photography. Travel is a huge part of her life, although she's learning to slow it down and appreciate the smaller moments.