Have you ever heard the phrase “I need a holiday from my holiday”? Maybe you’ve even said it yourself? Holidays are usually fast and furious, not to mention expensive. Now that we’re full time travellers we need to travel differently to how we did before.
In the past, whenever we could fit travel in around my husband’s work, it would usually be for quick trips covering vast distances. And it’s not just because Australia is huge, but it is the same for when we travel overseas too. Australians in general have a tendency to cram in as much as they can whenever they head overseas. It’s a big expense and effort just to get out of Australia in the first place, so if we manage to get a month off work to head overseas, you better believe we’re visiting half a dozen countries in that time. We’ll have a checklist of the things we want to see (or be instagrammed in front of) and we’re going to tick off every one even if that means visiting 3 cities in one day.
Our first overseas trip in 1999 – 7 countries in 6 weeks
So on our test run to Japan last year, to see if it was doable for us to go backpacking overseas with three kids, we travelled like any Aussie would: we went from Tokyo to Hiroshima and back, visiting lots of cities and sights in between, in only 2 weeks. Halfway through our trip we had burned ourselves out. We spent 2 of our 5 days in Kyoto at home in our undies before we felt recharged enough to keep going. Now, travelling slowly means that we’re not racing around to see everything. We sightsee maybe 2-3 times a week and we are able to avoid weekend crowds. If something comes up at the last minute, it’s fine, there is always tomorrow. On our days at home we spend time pursuing our interests, reading, and hanging out. The balance works well – we have home days, sick days, and pants-optional days in-between sightseeing and hectic travel days.
From an educational perspective, travelling slowly allows us to immerse in the places we’re in and gain a depth of understanding that travelling quickly doesn’t allow. It provides time for us to get to know a country, gradually accumulating knowledge over the months we’re there. We get to know people, hear their stories, learn their history & language, and even take a class if we want to.
Our daughter attending her art class in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Another reason is affordability. I didn’t keep an official figure on that 2-week Japan trip, but I’d guess we spent close to $10k. Now, $10k gets us 3 months in Malaysia. By staying in a place for a month at a time, we can get long-stay discounts on accommodation. We make sure to rent a place with a kitchen so that we can buy groceries, buying things in bulk for a cheaper price. We’ve eaten our fair share of scrambled eggs for dinner to keep the food budget down. And as for the large expenses like paying for flights, we’re able to spread those costs out over several pay packets, gradually saving up for the next round.
Put simply: travelling slowly means that we can emulate the pace of home as close as possible which also means being able to afford similar overheads. It brings greater value to our children’s world education as we gain a deeper understanding of the places we spend time in. We no longer want it to be a race to have as many places on our list checked off; this is our life now – it’s not a holiday – and we want to be able to take it easy 😉