Wanderful Words No. 24: Traveling Slowly and Spontaneously

by Ekua on July 2, 2010 in Mexico,wanderful words

“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

– Lao Tzu

I’ve seen this quote many times before, but thanks to this trip, I finally understand it.

I left home slightly freaked out about  how most of my trip was unplanned, aside from a week and a half of it. I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but no idea of how I would get there or how many days I would spend in each place.

Many would call me spontaneous because I rarely plan big trips more than four weeks in advance. The ideas come early, but the booking and planning phase tends to start late.

But frantically researching and planning either how exactly to get around or which places I need to visit and check off my list puts me at ease. And for the most part, my schedules have been stuck to. There has always been a plan.

I think I was nervous about traveling without a plan because it is dangerous for checklists. It enables you to get caught up in wherever you are, meet enough people who make you want to stick around, and it will keep you from crossing off destinations and sites on your “must-see” list.

When I came to Oaxaca, it wasn’t overtly appealing at first. I quickly began to plan my exit, weighing suggestions from other travelers, bus times, and flight costs.

But in a few short days, the layers of Oaxaca’s reservation began to peel and the charms of the city slowly began to be revealed. So my loose plans were ditched and I decided to stay in the state of Oaxaca longer. Though I haven’t been constantly arriving in new places, each day of exploring brings me to new arrivals and realizations about the city, both good and bad.

People ask me how many days I’ve been here and I’ve forgotten. Fellow hostel mates are doubting that I will leave. But as my trip begins to wind down, I know I have to go, but I will leave with a deeper understanding of how satisfying it is to travel slowly.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lola July 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm

And thus, the reason we travel 🙂
Lovely post!

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Ekua July 17, 2010 at 11:48 am

Thanks 🙂

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Fly Girl July 11, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I think you’ve discovered a point that many travelers never do. Taking the time to unravel a place on your own terms and without checklists and guidebooks is more perdonally rewarding. I’m a big researcher too so I understand totally why you were nervous at first. I’ve always heard Oxaca was vibrant and culturally enriching .

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Ekua July 17, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Yeah, it took me awhile to not feel that I was wasting time and wonder what I was missing out on, but getting settled in was great… until I had to leave 😛

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Mary R July 12, 2010 at 12:49 am

I love slow travel, and I love Oaxaca! Did you see the Guelaguetza? I went on a elderhostel tour with my mom a few years back and it was great!

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Ekua July 17, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Oaxaca is amazing! I didn’t see the Guelaguetza because it’s later this month. So wish I could’ve stuck around for it!

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Lauren Quinn July 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Congrats on breaking the mold and letting yourself settle in. Seriously. I’m terrible at that.

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Ekua July 17, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Definitely try it out sometime! The one risk is that you won’t leave when it’s time, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing 😉

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Simone July 19, 2010 at 9:46 am

Forgoing itinerary, scrapping plans for planes or trains, and just settling into a place instead is one of my favorite ways to travel. Sometimes I settle into a place because I love it so much; sometimes I’m just tired. Either way, I miss it when I leave. Those places are the ones you remember best and most dearly.

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Ekua July 22, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Yes, you remember those places the best and most dearly and you also get to know them the best. I think I’ve gotten to a point where I find the most satisfaction in cultural observation and interaction rather than in sightseeing. I think I’m entering a new personal travel era 🙂

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jon July 20, 2010 at 9:12 am

I like the idea of travelling slowly and really getting to know a place.. Been in Ecuador two years and was just going to stay the summer!

http://savvyroundtheworld.wordpress.com

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Ekua July 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I definitely admire people who liked a place and found a way to stay there long term. Now I have been back for a couple weeks and my longing for Oaxaca has yet to disappear!

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Andi August 15, 2010 at 8:01 am

I think slow travel is the best, but sadly I’ve never had the pleasure to travel slowly. My trips have always been short, due to obligations back home. I’m dying to see Oaxaca. You need to post pics!!!

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Ekua August 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Yes it’s definitely hard to find the time to just stay in one place and it can’t always be done. I was lucky to not be attached to the places I was planning on going after Oaxaca state so I just stayed there! Oaxaca has a great energy about it and it seems to attract really interesting people. Definitely recommend it when you get the chance.

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