I’ve often said that slow travel is the way to go. In this post, Molly McHugh from South America Living tells us why.
Not only is staying put for extended times in one location the most affordable way to travel – solo or as a family – it is the most enjoyable. More than the proverbial time to ‘stop and smell the roses’ it is a time for family time… relaxing family time as opposed to always on the go hectic family time, which is probably what you are trying to get away from in the first place by venturing abroad.
First World country luxuries (lovely home, decent car, expendable family income) are usually a result of an individual’s First World-level sacrifices (spending 4-plus years in University, working 50 hours plus per week). Maintaining a middle-class or higher lifestyle is usually at the expense of having quality family time with your children i.e. regular ‘non-rushed’ meals together, down time outside of school activities, sports, other commitments where there is no agenda to fulfill except to enjoy each other’s company.
Need a break from all of that? Want to reassess your priorities and actually get to spend time with your children, and enjoy that time together to the fullest instead of stressing about all the work that needs to be done (school, business) and all the money that needs to be made to pay the bills? Move abroad. Rent out the house and take a year sabbatical on the road of life, leaving behind the dead-end of First World entrapments.
And what is the best way to move abroad or travel for an extended time as a family? Slowly. Find a starting point (country, city) and land with the intention of moving to other areas as your family desires, not in accordance to some pre-travel ‘we have to see everything to make this all worth it’ itinerary.
Everyone wants to hit a few highlights (Machu Picchu in Peru, The Eiffel Tower in Paris, Khao San Road in Bangkok) but try not to get all worked-up over every one that is within twenty miles from wherever you are located. Often times the best highlights when on the road are the ones your family will discover on their own, outside of a guidebook or ‘Top 10 Attractions’ list you read online.
As an example, when we (my son and I and four-legged buddy) started a cross-country journey from Mexico to Argentina (2007) we spent a month in San Miguel de Allende to take a break and relax a bit. “No more buses!” was the general idea, at least for a short while. We found a lovely small hostel and rented a room at low-cost, connected with other families visiting the town and my son did a ‘circus’ gymnastics course for fun. But what turned out to be the highlight of our stay? My son becoming enthralled with a local ironsmith at the market whom he befriended.
Next thing I knew I was buying material for him to try his hand at making keychains and other simple items during his daily lessons with the lovely artisan. Was that planned? Of course not. I had no idea they even existed or that my son had an interest in the trade but that is what happens when you travel slowly and experience an area beyond the tourist zone or tourist mode of staying a night or two and then moving on… you get to actually ‘experience’ the area. Live it. Learn about it, meet locals, get immersed in activities other than those marketed to tourists and promoted by guidebooks.
You get to enjoy daily routines (not constant new challenges, which can be stressful) and family time together, without the mortgage payment hanging over your head or three hours of homework the kids have to finish. A time to enjoy life. What could be better?