Do you prefer fast or slow travel?

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I just got back from a whirlwind bus tour of Hokkaido, Japan. It was called “in depth” but what they meant by it and what I thought that meant were two different things. It got me thinking about the different approaches people have toward travel.

This bus tour was fun, and we got to see a lot (their version of “in depth”) but each place was rushed and there wasn’t time to really let anything soak in (my version of “in depth”). In some ways this was similar to parts of the road trip I went on. We had three weeks but we still rushed through many things because our time in each place was limited.

Spending a limited amount of time in each place isn’t guaranteed to cause fast travel though. I’ve done family trips where we only stay one or two nights in each place, but we don’t try to do as many things in each place. This means we get to spend more time at each museum, national park, and other interesting features (petroglyphs, dinosaur tracks, etc), but can’t see as much during the trip overall.

That’s different from some of my other family trips where we basically live with our grandparents for a month or so, doing daily life and seeing a few things here and there. It’s more relaxing and we get to really go deep into the museums, take our time watching a sunset, or spend all day at the beach or pool. I feel like I have a better appreciation for the places where we’ve done this, but I also recognize that there isn’t the urgency to try to see everything because we know we’re going to come back soon. It’s more like the approach I use where I actually live, spending time doing interesting things on a weekend.

While the whirlwind trips were fun and I saw more in that time than I thought was possible, they left me a little burned out and a bit frustrated that I couldn’t spend the time that I wanted when at the museums or cultural/historic areas. We got to see many things but it was at the expense of really knowing them. At some places, I learned more after I left because there was no time to read the signs or brochures, just enough to run through and take any photos or collect stamps (US national parks stamps and Japan tourist stamps).

Fast travel like this is good for letting me know what I want to come back and see again, so I know where I want to go in-depth the next time. Slower travel is better for feeling like I know a place and its culture. It lets me relax and enjoy the trip as I experience it rather than only in retrospect as my brain and emotions catch up with the rapid itinerary.

Someday, I think it might be fun to experience travelling very slowly, living in a place and working remotely, exploring for several weeks to a few months, and then moving again. If you’ve done this, or know someone who has, I’d be interested to know what your/their experience has been.

Also, I want to know what you think about fast and slow travel. Which do you prefer, and for what kind of trip?

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8 thoughts on “Do you prefer fast or slow travel?

  1. Susan

    So after our three months in Scotland, I can say we’ve experienced both fast and slow travel, all in one trip. I definitely appreciate slow travel MUCH more than fast travel. But I think it depends on the destination (for instance I could have done Dubrovnik in one day, but we were there for a week which killed me inside).

    While we were in Edinburgh we went on a tour in the Highlands, and it was so fast-paced I got whiplash. We had a maximum of an hour in one place (other than the town we stayed in to sleep) but we usually had to move on in a few minutes. I have the photos to prove I’ve been there, but I don’t honestly remember some of the places. I hated it. HATED it. I wanted to stop and savor the mountains and glens and castles. I still get sad thinking about it.

    We had three whole months to explore and just be while we were in Edinburgh. It was absolutely amazing! We were able to get into the nitty gritty and see every corner of the city. We also were there long enough to make an impression on the locals in our neighborhood. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Susan! You bring up a good point about how it depends on the destination. I agree, if there’s nothing you want to see or do in a certain place, or if you only wanted to see something briefly and move on, then taking a long time there would be an endurance battle. But if you really want to see something (whether planned or unexpectedly appealing), it can be hard to feel forced to move on too quickly. I’m glad you got to really explore Edinburgh. That sounds amazing! With those experiences, how would you structure future travel? What would you be thinking about when you plan how long to stay at each place?

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  2. najjarva

    It all depends on the time you can allot to the journey and what you want to see. you can have a long trip and see multiple things or only one depending on what you want, or a short trip with only one more in-depth or many things very quickly (like the visitor center tour), I’ve done both and all are good.

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    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Thanks for commenting. I like both too but for different reasons and I think you have know what’s the priority to you for a certain trip to be able to plan how you want to travel. 🙂

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  3. Mel & Suan

    Guess it really depends on what you want from the journey…was it a specific interest that you were looking out for? For example in Hokkaido did you wanted to know more about how the island was “colonized” and how it was transformed over the last 150 years? Or did you wanted to just go “see” Hokkaido?

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    1. Shelly Najjar Post author

      Hi Mel and Suan, I agree, I think the style I’d prefer would change on the goals I have for the trip. For this one, I didn’t have set goals because my grandma wanted to go and my mom and I went along to help her, but I think I still had expectations based on my usual travel preferences like being able to take time to explore these places a bit longer. For me if I was planning this tour, an acceptable sacrifice would be to spend less time at some of the eating or shopping places (can eat on the bus and I wasn’t buying a lot of things) and more time at the museums and other historical places like that. Still, I’m grateful for the chance to go on the trip and was happy to see the major sites no matter how short, and I know what to plan to return to see on my own in the future. 🙂 Shelly

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