If you can afford it, or you have a really nice boss, provided that you think that you earned it, go for a long stretch of time. Long stretch will give you more time for your slow travelling and will engage you in more experiences and conversations.
If you are like me, than maybe the only way to travel you know was fast travel. Imagine tour groups. You go to different city everynight, from hotel to hotel, night after night. Go to the main attractions, snap pictures, and shop some souvenirs, before you head out to the nearest chinese restaurant.
Slow travelling is the ultimate opposite of everything you know about tour travel. Spend two or three days in a city, or to the extreme, like what I am doing now, spend a month in a city. Blend in. Say hi to strangers in coffee shops. Engage conversations with the locals, and most of the time, they would love to show you around. Get into the small streets and people houses. Listen to what makes them laugh, what makes them proud, and what dissapoints them.
And in the name of everything holy and pure, please, please stop eating Chinese food when you are in Italy. I know that the local cuisine is foreign to you, but that’s why we travel after all. We seek new experiences and seek what people are eating in different parts of the world. You think you don’t like it? I say that we just haven’t give them (the food) a chance. Try it.
Yes, going slow will take you to fewer places in the same amount of time. But let me tell you, the depth and richness of intimate experiences are things that will stick to you a lot longer than pictures of you in front of various monuments and tourist attractions. Think about it.
You must, must have a schedule
This is also very important. I first learn this from the Sagmeister talk, but then I found it out for myself.
Without a schedule, you will end up waking up late everyday and not doing anything, and feeling not productive and wasting your time.
Make a list of projects and goals of what you are going to do and make a simple schedule to accomodate that. Have a basic forecast of what you can do in your destination, make a projection of projects based on that. When you do arrive, soak in with the atmosphere for a few days to find out what you can other things that you can make and tweak your schedule accordingly.
Make a calendar of what are you going to do everyday. Even for reflections and thinking, make days for those too.
Master a new craft
Learn new skill. Demand it from the people you meet. Learn how to make coffee, how to make souvenirs, how to speak local tounge, how to cook local dishes, anything. People are wired to be excited and charged when they learn to master new things.
Share your craft
On the other hand, share what you can. You’re a photographer? Make family pictures of the locals? IT consultant? Make a simple website for that shop or repair that networking problem on the local warnet. Finance director? Share what you know about investing, about saving money, about good money habits. You will make a lot, a lot of impact, and nothing felt more good than that. Trust me.
You must make a journal
Experiences are great when you, well, experience them. But they become lessons only when you write them down and find out what they are teaching you. I really think that this is an essential part of a journey. You don’t have to be a writer, or you don’t have to write beautifully. Write down in your own words, for yourself, what are you learning. Read them five years from now, and that journal will become a compass, a monument.
Make an action plan, or simpler: a promise
Since we do sabbaticals to ‘find out’, make sure coming home you bring something actionable. A set of things to change, or maybe just one simple promise that you know might change everything.
Come home not with just a set of pictures, but a plan to better you life, whatever it is that means to you.
Expect great things
Then great things will happen to you. Come with an optimist point of view, expect that you will come home a new, charged, changed man. I have so many positive expectations for my trip here in Ambon, even with a ton of reasons to not to. Local town, nothing new, an area full of scars of conflict, what are you going to do there for a month?
But nothing but great things have happened to me here. I learn to dive, I see this amazing new view, new landscape underwater, I learn to speak local tounge, I take amazing-amazing pictures at my own slow pace. I do portraits of strangers, something that I always wanted to do. I make so many interesting new friends, and learn to look life through their eyes. I learn how to make local coffee, make and bake fresh bread. I learn the social dynamics of this place, listening to the war stories of conflict and how people are learning to live with it now. So many experiences I would not have it any other way.
Lastly, go home and make your dent in the world
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There you go. Few tips from me. Would love to help out more, do not hesitate to chat in the comments.