Once upon a time, I was young and healthy and pain-free. Like many college students, I took a couple of quarters to “study” abroad. I went to Paris, and used the locale as a base from which to travel much of Western Europe. Over the Christmas break, I shouldered a pack lent to me by a 6-and-a-half-foot tall guy and spent 6 weeks banging from city to city, country to country. Just like healthy people do every day. Just the way the magazines and websites describe as ideal and fabulous and amazing.
Interesting facts to know and share: About four weeks into that trip, my brain overloaded completely. I’d seen so many cathedrals, ruins, museums, etc etc ad infinitum, that I just couldn’t take anything more in. So I forgot things. Like Prague.
I forgot the arguably most beautiful city in all of Europe. I spent three days touring in Prague, and I remember none of it. Not a single building. Not the view of the river (I hear there’s a river in Prague). Nothing at all.
That’s such a huge bummer. I’ve got a few snapshots I don’t remember taking of buildings I can’t name, and that’s the sum and total of the gain I got from visiting Prague. For that, I might as well have stayed home.
So what does any of this have to do with traveling with pain?
It means that the way I travel with pain now–slowly and selectively–is actually be a better way to travel altogether. The Slow Food movement is all the rage right now. I think I’d like to jump on board something like a Slow Travel movement.
So what does my Slow Travel movement look like?
- Don’t sightsee right off a plane, ever
Instead I leave the terminal, check in to my accommodations, grab a meal and a good night’s sleep. That way I’ll be fresh and rested and relaxed, and get far more information, enlightenment, and fun out of the sights I see.
- Pick a pretty hotel, or a hotel with a pretty view.
If I’ve got a hotel that’s right on the beach, or halfway up the mountain, or overlooking the city skyline, or inside a famous historic building, I don’t have to leave it to start my sightseeing. I can (and do) enjoy a new and wonderful view from the comfort of my bed.
- Don’t plot a list of ten things I must see every single day. Or any day.
Instead, I choose one place I really want to go for the day. And I keep a couple of other possible destinations in mind, in case I have extra energy or my first choice doesn’t work out. Then I spend almost a whole day focused on that one place/attraction
- Rest early and rest often.
If I’m tired and I need a nap…I go back to my hotel and I take a nap. Yes, I miss things by resting when I need rest. Things like collapsing on public sidewalks.
- Enjoy eating regularly.
I take advantage of B&B breakfasts, shop at local farmer’s markets for fresh fruit to snack on, ask locals for recommendation for good restaurants that mere mortals can afford. And I take my time over my meals–I sit and enjoy the atmosphere in the dining room rather than bolting my food so as to rush off to the next item on some checklist.
- Take a day off the sightseeing.
Yes, really. On trips longer than five days, I often take a whole day “off.” Even in Europe, I’ll kick back in my hotel room (enjoying the view, the history, etc.) and meander around the hotel property at some point.
When I travel this way, I don’t forget whole cities. Nope, I don’t see everything. Not anywhere I go. But because I’m spending more time and energy on what I do see, I get more out of it. And remember it afterward.
Photo (c) ♀Μøỳαл_Bгεлл♂_BACK_FROM_PRAGUE