BY MAYA ROSE FERNANDES
Goans, in general, are well-travelled. Whether it’s something in their DNA or in their cultural ancestry, I don’t know, but you’d be hard-pressed to go anywhere in the world without finding a Goan who’d been there before you.
My immediate family is no exception to the rule. My paternal grandfather was a musician who travelled often across India with his band.
My Goan father lived in Darjeeling, for a spell. Maybe that’s where he first caught the travel bug. And, maybe, I caught it from him.
One of my father’s passions has always been to travel. He saved up so that our small family could see a new part of the world, every few years or so.
When I was a child, I vaguely remember visits to Paris, Rome, London, San Diego, Miami and New York. I was on aeroplanes before I was old enough to fully appreciate it, and before many of my peers had ever even stepped inside an airport. Decades later, I’ve been able to fully appreciate the exposure I was given.
My father had short work vacations, so ours was a consumerist kind of travel, with very little awareness of what I was supposed to appreciate about those countries. I noticed their difference. But, somehow, those early sojourns into other worlds settled somewhere within me, because, later, I developed a restlessness to be somewhere else.
Four decades and thirty-two countries later, I feel all-travelled out. My need to visit other places is sated.
I’m much more interested in ‘slow travel’ now – the idea of one taking their time to explore a destination, immersing themselves in local culture and taking enough time to truly savour the sensory delights of a place in a way that isn’t possible when rushing through multiple locations on a fixed schedule.
It allows travellers to get off-the-beaten-path, discover hidden gems and avoid crowded places.
As incomes have increased and flight prices have dropped, we’ve become a nation of more global travel. One only has to look to the proliferation of selfies on Instagram accounts and travel bloggers on the web to understand the scale of what is happening. Consumerist travelling is thriving, but is it good for us?
Whether you’re on a standard two-week vacation with family, travelling with friends, or just discovering the joys of solo travel, consider staying put in one place and really just getting to know that place instead of bouncing around, consuming locations, sights and places to go, see and be seen.
Your nervous system might find it more relaxing, and you might surprise yourself with an opening up of sorts as you get to know people and they start to recognise you as a familiar face.
Letting go of rigidity allows you to embrace the unplanned and welcome uncertainty. The off-the-beaten-path experiences will excite your brain and warm your heart. The art of slow travel is the art of deepening your experience of a place.
Alain De Botton
Alain De Botton, in his book The Art of Slow Travel articulated it much better when he said, “If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest – in all its ardour and paradoxes – than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside of the constraints of work and of the struggle for survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems – that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical.”
He continues, “We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why and how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully termed eudaimonia, or ‘human flourishing'.”
So, the next time you’re planning a trip to somewhere, think about the value of slowing down and truly enjoying what it means to ‘discover’ a new place. At the very least, it might help you appreciate where you live even more.