The Art of Slow Travel: Retired and Travelling Full-time

I have been travelling steadily since I retired in 2014. I spent the first year trying to determine the length of the trips that would best suit me. I tried six weeks but it was too short. I did both ten weeks and twelve weeks but they were too long! After experimentation, I found eight weeks to be perfect.

Having decided on the overall trip length, l then had to decide how much time would be spent where. The last thing I wanted to do was race through a country, be happy with what I saw and did but to later feel l missed so much. Or the opposite, where l would feel l stayed too long in a country that had little to show me. To offset this problem, my travels have a certain amount of flexibility built-in.

One of the books in the library of the historic desert city of Chinguetti in Mauritania.

One consideration is deciding whether you will travel solo or in a group. The main advantage of solo travel is no debates!! You do not have to please others or forgo things you want to do. However, in a small cohesive group, this issue can be dealt with. Obviously, the larger the group, the more unwieldy the travel becomes and flexibility is much more reduced.

But the real reasons l champion slow travel include the fact that you can see so much more. Often you see travel advertisements for European trips which feature 6 countries in 10 days! For some this is ideal. They only have to spend ten days and they see the highlights of six countries. Brilliant, if this is what you want. However, at most, l want to see two countries in ten days …and one of those countries has to have a shortage of interesting things to pry out for me to get my fill of two in ten!

Instead, l love to interact with the locals. Now travelling for eight weeks would be a total bank breaker if l stayed in the big-name hotels so instead I stay in local guesthouses for a much smaller cost and everyone l am interacting with, sometimes including all the guests, are locals. In this setting, there is a daily chat about my plans and advice of recent additions. And, of course, there are friendly greetings, such as ” how was your night?” Takes you by surprise when you are first asked! I have had the owner of a guest house take the day off and tour with me. We included very interesting things that I had not read about in any of my research! Local customs? Who best to learn them from than the locals?

Fort Cachua, a historic slave fort, near the Capital city of Bissau in Guinea Bissau.

If slow travel makes you a little nervous, then I would recommend going with a group as it has some strong advantages that slow travel can not give. For instance, a guide/ tour organizer who deals with all the issues as they arise. This can not be taken for granted. I have to plan my transport every time I move about. In addition, I have to know the admission requirements and where I’m going to find food. So all the decisions fall back to me because l am not moving with a group.

So what’s my take away? If you’re considering slow travel, ask yourself these questions.

1.) How much time do I have?

2.) How brave am I?

3.) How inquisitive am I?

Also, you’ll notice I made no mention of language barriers. I have spent many days in places where few spoke English and, poor me, l can only speak English. Yet l got along fine day after day. I just had to do it! So next time you’re abroad, slow down and enjoy the customs, culture, and history the country has to offer.

Terry Lister – Travel Author

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