As I previously covered, I spent the better part of six weeks in Asia with my daughter, sister and her boyfriend. There have been a lot of questions as to why we went for such an extended period of time, what we did and how it went. I have addressed some of the drawbacks of slow travel with children in a previous post, but there were also tremendous benefits. The following are just a few.
Jet Lag, Mastered
Traveling between continents as an adult can make it difficult to adjust to new time zones, but kids have it even harder than we do. With longer trips, jet lag is less of a problem. There is more time to recover, less activity in the immediate future, and entire days to burn to get adjusted if so required.
Like any long haul trip across the globe – the travel is exhausting enough. With slow travel you can allow yourselves the time to adjust fully without worrying about quickly adjusting again when you return home. It seems on most long-haul trips that right when you get adjusted it is nearly time to head home.
Deeper Cultural Appreciation
I believe there is always time to stop and smell the flowers, but the beauty in slow travel is there is also time to learn the language. Even on quicker trips I find it can be very helpful and appreciated if you are able to pick up a little bit of the language. Saying “Hello,” Thank you,” and a few other pleasantries goes a long way. However, during a longer stay you have more time to go a little bit deeper, practice and challenge yourself to learn more than just the basic greetings.
Here are a couple of apps I like to use for learning a new language:
In addition to those two – which are dedicated to teaching language skills – I have also learned a great deal by using Google Translate. The app allows you to save text as flash cards or use translated audible files offline for easy use in markets and interacting with locals.
Language is just one piece. It is also great to learn about the food, the wildlife, and local traditions. By taking a cooking class or asking your street food vendor which ingredients they’re using, you can learn about the local flavors. It’s not just about the information, buying a Thai cookbook would have helped us with that. It’s important to see the method; understand why things are done in the manner they are. The longer you have, the deeper you can go, the more of the picture that’s revealed.
While we didn’t technically “live” there, it felt like we moved right in. We knew our neighborhood and the city like the back of our hands. Our daughter Lucy has not yet been an ex-pat, but my husband and I have. It reminded me of what it was like to live abroad, when the journey home seems almost out-of-reach and you get entrenched in your surroundings.
Our daily life consisted of walking to the markets, the playground, swimming at the beach or pool, and exploring the grounds of our condo. We passed familiar faces and interacted with the same shopkeepers. Saying “hello” and “How are you today?”, made it feel like our own little neighborhood.
Cooking, doing laundry, and tidying up aren’t very exciting but they hold their own comfort while on an extended holiday. Making meals in your own kitchen was particularly useful when you just wanted something that felt like home. There’s something comforting about a late night craving for “puppy chow” when you’re 8,000 miles from home. Being able to do our laundry (or take it to be laundered for very little cost) was a lifesaver – especially since Lucy decided she wanted to wear the same two dresses our entire trip… every day… for six weeks. It also made packing before prior to departure less stressful. I knew that I didn’t need to worry about over-packing for such a long trip since I would have laundry options during our stay.
Unlike our usual holidays, which require us to zip from place to place and pack our days with things to see do and eat; we didn’t have to cram our schedule. Instead we settled in and did whatever we felt like doing. Sure there were still some points of interest we wanted to visit during our stay, but for the most part we took it day-by-day. If we planned a day at the beach but the weather turned poorly, we could just go the next day or the day after that. Having the luxury of time removed the pressure of doing something just to do it.
There were some aspects that became a part of our daily routine. The local night market was right outside our condo and it was so good that we went nearly every night. Lucy quickly took to the market for its kid-friendly food options – meat on a stick was an instant favorite. She also loved an outdoor kids discotheque filled with other children twirling and jumping around, each putting on a show for parents and passersby. Some things we did were so enjoyable and affordable that we took advantage of them as much as we could while we had the chance. We never missed an opportunity to lie down for $6, hour-long massages, or to drink fresh coconut smoothies for just under $1 USD.
For the first time in years, I was able to truly relax and enjoy the time with my daughter and family. There were a couple of attractions we sought out during our stay but for the most part, this trip was all about living in the moment together and loving Thailand.
I witnessed my daughter playing with children that spoke different languages without any real apprehension. I watched her conquer fears, try new foods and learn about her surroundings. I saw her growing without any distractions.
The experiences we shared were priceless.
The benefits of slow travel far outweigh the challenges that might deter you from trying it in the first place.
Have you tried slow travel with or without children? Would you if you haven’t and would you do it again if you have?