Mix Fast Travel with Slow Final Travel Tip
FINCA TATIN, Jungle near Livingston, Guatemala- There are two paces of travel that I love: real fast and real slow. Merits are often found in extremes. I am an extreme person, I like things all they way one way or all the way the other. The middle of the road makes me feel as if I am nowhere, placeless — I like to know where I stand, even if that means thrusting myself into an at odds position.
I either like to travel fast and enjoy the art of moving, the long distance, buses, trains, waking up in a new country, making 500 miles before the day is done, or I like to stay put for two or three months, providing myself with time to get to know a place, make friends, and take away a deep impression of a small speck of life on planet earth.
Anything between these two extremes is work for me. I do not like setting myself up in a place, figuring out the cheap places to eat, finding a good place to stay, working out internet connections, finding a job, completing the labor of travel just to pack up and leave. It is my impression that one week stays in places are horrid: 7 days is just the right amount of time to get set up in a location, I do not want to do the work of getting set up just to make an exit and have to go through this process all over.
For me, the work of traveling is finding a good, cheap room, good food, work, internet connections, friends, projects, investigations. It often takes a couple weeks to complete this work, after which I no longer need to think about my sustenance, and I can skip through to the essence of being somewhere.
If you travel fast — one or two day stays — there is no need to do this work, as there is not much time for it. You walk into a place, eat where you can, sleep wherever, and then split. It is the romance of moving, not the romance of visiting, learning about, taking away impressions of places, that makes this type of travel enjoyable. Fast travel is to invite adventure (things going wrong), it is to live on the sharp edge of wit and to enjoy the constant barrage of intuitive decision making. This type of traveling is often rough, it is challenging, it is purely and simply fun.
Fast travel is to woo folly at every turn, slow travel is to learn, investigate, work, relax, ponder, build relationships, and to be shown a little about your world. Slow travel is the meat of the occupation as far as I am concerned, fast travel is the sugar on the top.
A fast traveler usually never has the time to earn the right to a true opinion on a place — discovery is not the point — and their impressions will be surface level. But this is not detrimental, as they take away other benefits from the practice: they can perceive how places and landscapes blend together, they can see the changes in peoples, environments,
If you ride a direct bus from Lima to Quito you can look out the window and watch the landscape change like watching a film. Your impressions will be on the surface, but there is a lot of surface to take in.
I like to mix incidents of fast travel with bouts of long stays. I enjoy the balance found in the two extremes. A three month stay in Hangzhou followed by a month long hitch hiking journey to Mongolia then back down to Vietnam is the perfection of traveling as far as I am concerned. The blending of extremes can often lend is the feeling of possessing a whole. Fast travel mixed with slow is to take the best of both strategies, and allow variety and intuition to dictate how quickly the road ahead is walked.
I have all too often met fast travelers who have grown bored of riding into towns, going to the sites, just to leave again. This repetition grows stale fast. I have made it grow stale a half dozen times before I began mixing in longer stays in my travels.
When I first set out, my conception of traveling was the process of moving between places, of tramping a continuous route across the world. In this stage, my typical stays would only be two or three nights, I would move fast — taking in only what I could lick of a place and then leaving. I thought this was what traveling was, I thought that my moving through places I would automatically be given deep cultural impressions, that I would learn intensely, that I would be able to understand my world. I found the entire routine a little empty, I realized that I did not really take too much from where I traveled, that moving quickly from place to place for months on end had the tendency of growing stale.
I wanted more.
Then I began staying places longer, staying two or three months regularly, and I found that I could take in a lot more of what I was looking for, that I could take away deep impressions, that I could begin to see how the pieces of the global puzzle fit together. I also found that through staying places longer, that I could still have a regular life while traveling, that the traveling life did not need to be so overtly extreme — so self consuming — that I could balance out my wanderings and lend myself a feeling of completeness.
So I began staying places longer, I began littering the globe with hubs, with bases of operation: Hangzhou, China; Kyoto, Japan; Darjeeling, India; Copan Ruinas, Honduras; Villa Nova de Milfontes, Portugal; Olomouc, Czech Republic; Rabat, Morocco; Suchitoto, El Salvador; Sanliurfa, Turkey; Sosua, Dominican Republic; the list goes on.
Though staying too long in places can lead to the same patterns that leads a person to escape the sedentary life to begin with. The moment you stop looking around curiously, stop asking questions, playing the part of the fool, walk through the streets in your own thoughts not engaging anyone, is the moment you stopped traveling. Abstractly speaking, three months in one place is the cut off point between traveling through and living somewhere:
If you stay somewhere for longer than three months you are no longer traveling, you live there.
This is Andy Hobotraveler’s criteria, and I have adopted it as I have found no reason not to. Though I tend to take rules lightly, and it is my impression that a four month base of operations is not really too much different than staying somewhere for three months if you are still actively engaging the place, exploring, using the place you are set up in like the hub of a wheel, regularly traveling the spokes out to other places nearby.
Though all too soon, even the best of hubs tend to dry up. In agreement with Andy’s criteria, I have found that after around two and a half to three months, I feel the urge to escape and go in for a round of fast travel to get the gears working again, to go in search for another hub.
I have found a little hub at the Finca Tatin in Guatemala. I traveled up here from another hub in El Salvador, and before that a hub in the Dominican Republic. I connected these places with bouts of fast travel. I feel somewhat balanced when I look at my travels from the past six months: some places I explored deeply, others I burned through enjoying the ride.
I have been at the finca for around two months, and it has taken this long to really get into this place. When I came through here four months ago as a tourist, I just enjoyed the place, I was not able to get into it. Now that I have returned and stayed on as a worker, I am beginning to get an impression of how this place works, of how this region of planet earth comes together. I am now getting invited out fishing with Maya fishermen on the Rio Dulce, I have befriended sailors who teach me a little about sailing, I walk through the streets of Livingston and I know people’s names, I know where the rivers go after the road ends. This region of the world is now full of faces, conversations, memories, knowledge. I have seen animals that I have never seen before, learned to fish like I have never fished before, ate odd fruit that I have not tasted before, I have just began getting a feel for this place. It has taken two months.
Another month here and I should be ready to go, on to another region, off to find a new hub. The road is looking as if it is going to go up through Belize, to Yucatan, and then maybe over to Cuba, where I will look for a new place to set myself up in.
After 11 years I am learning how I like to travel, I am learning strategies that keep me happy and balanced. I know that I love the process of moving, I crave the experience of coving long distances in short amounts of time, of watching how landscapes change, the shock of going from one environ to another, though I also appreciate what I can learn, accomplish, and build from staying in a place for a longer duration of time. I know that I will not come away with a deep impression of a place just from passing through, but just passing through is often — for a lack of a more articulate word — fun. Though I know that the real essence of traveling, the reason why I live this way, comes from making hubs for three months at a time, from peeling back the covers and taking a brief look at what lays beneath the covers of a place.
In engaging opposite extremes in repeated succession, a sense of balance can occasionally be achieved. By mixing fast and slow travel my world can stay balanced, I can feel fulfilled while at the same time being entertained, energized, thrilled, intrigued. Most of all, by mixing bouts of fast travel with slow, I found a formula to keep going.
If someone asked me how I have been able to continue traveling for so long, I would refer them to this tip. This is a basely simply travel tip, but I feel as if it provides the key to long term travel. It is my impression that to travel the world perpetually and remain happy and fulfilled in your journey, it is of essence to find a sense of balance. I find balance in my travels by mixing the routine of fast traveling with that of finding and staying in hubs for two or three months. By sequentially creating hubs, while moving fast in the search, I have found that I can take the solid life that I crave — the life of working, diving into projects, having a family, finding deep substance in places, people, myself — and mix it with the challenge, the thrill, and the sensory rewards of traveling.
This is my key, and it is a very simple one. I once advised a friend that the key to perpetual travel is to find a way to have everything that is good about the sedentary life and apply it to a continuously revolving landscape. For me, for every long term traveler that I have ever met, travel is not an escape from life, it is the modus operandi for seizing life. Likewise, the fruits of the sedentary life are still sweet, the trick is to make them sweeter by combining them with the joys, the experiences, the intrigue, and the knowledge that comes from traveling.
This is also the last travel tip that will be published on Vagabond Journey for a long time. This tip and How to Travel Long Term? Make Homes, in my opinion, are the pinnacle of what I have to offer the aspiring traveler. It is easy to take a six month trip around the world, it is difficult to keep going.
I am now taking this website in a new direction, the travel tips section will stand as it is throughout this transition, and perhaps well beyond it. We are parting with the backpacker/ budget travel melee, heading for new ground.