Slowing Down Because We’re Traveling Too Fast

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When you spend 24 hours a day with your significant other for weeks or months on end, it becomes easy to recognize the micromoods within their moods. At the same time, you begin to see yourself through a different prism as well.

Case in point: I now clearly know that both Mario and I get irritable when we’re hungry and moody when we’re tired — but we are both at our worst when we’re sleep-deprived. And he needs more sleep than I do.

The latter came to play when we spent our day in Gozo, the tiny island north of Malta. It was a gorgeous day and as magical as our surroundings were, Mario and I were a pair of grouches.

We had woken up early — after I had been working until 2:30 AM trying to meet a deadline, and Mario stayed up until 1:30 AM. This was compounded by the fact that we left 15 minutes later than we intended, got trapped behind a slow-moving Coke truck on a one-lane highway, and missed our ferry by seconds. We cursed that Coke truck, which took the last spot on the ship. Needless to say, we weren’t in the best of spirits.

After catching the next ferry, we explored Victoria, Gozo’s capital, while indulging in our usual pick-me-ups: Ice cream. Caffeine. A cafe with wifi. One or all three usually work for me.

But something else was bothering Mario. I had tried to coax it out of him, but had been met with a brick wall. He was quiet and withdrawn. Maybe this was something more than being tired.

“Really,” I said to him as we sat by the seafront in Marsalforn. “What’s wrong?”

He paused for the longest time. “…I think we’re traveling too much.”

For a moment, my heart clenched — did he hate the trip? Did he want to go home?

No, he quickly reassured me. He loved the trip. He just didn’t like how fast we were traveling and how busy our days had been.

PHEW. I had been feeling the same way.

Malta Sailboat

Looking back over the past month, I had been thinking about the days that I enjoyed the most.

There was the day in Paris that we had our picnic by the Eiffel Tower. We did little more than hang out with an ever-evolving group of friends old and new, talking endlessly and eating amazing food in the sunshine.

There was the day in Switzerland that we spent with Adriana, her husband, and their friends — celebrating birthdays, talking nonstop about travel, drinking amazing cocktails, eating delicious food, and just enjoying hanging out and talking with new friends.

And there was the second day after our engagement in Malta. The day after our engagement was busy and exhausting, with a Maltese family gathering and a Festa, so we spent the day doing absolutely nothing: sitting in cafes along the waterfront in Sliema and St. Julians and watching the Facebook reaction to our engagement status. It was wonderful.

The days I had been enjoying the most were the days when I had done little to nothing. And that said something significant.

As fun as our hop through Europe was, it was very fast — every few days we’d pack up and move to a new place, and even when we were in the same place, our days were packed solid with things to do. It got to be too much.

姫路城の桜 (Cherry Blossoms at Himeji Castle)

What We’re Doing About It

It’s time to make some changes in our plans for the SOTM Tour. Here’s what will be changing:

A new plan for Japan. Our initial plan was to take two weeks, get a two-week rail pass, and see as much of Japan as possible. We’re now going to be spending the bulk of our time in Kyoto and doing day trips around the area, plus Tokyo and Hakone as well.

Japan actually has lots of regional train passes that aren’t as well known but are much cheaper than the JR pass. Even though we’re cutting out places we wanted to see like Hiroshima, we know we will still be experiencing a LOT of Japan — just on a different scale.

Weeklong stays in different places. From now on, our default stay is one week. When we land in Korea, we’ll start with a week in Seoul. Thailand will begin with a week in Bangkok.

One week is our sweet spot. It allows us to explore places the way we like to — going on photo walks, checking out interesting neighborhoods, sightseeing a little bit each day and getting to try all the delicious foods we see.

No more US road trip. That hurt to cut, since it’s been a long-held dream for both of us — but I can’t stand the thought of moving every few days for six weeks or more, and neither can Mario. Maybe we can do this in the future when we don’t have as much work to do while traveling.

We’ll still be visiting the US — but we now like the idea of picking five cities and spending a week in each of them. San Francisco, Austin, and New Orleans are high on our list.


How It’s Going

We put our new methods to the test in Istanbul. One week, staying in the same place the whole time.

It was PERFECT. We never felt stressed or rushed. I got lots of work done. Mario got tons of pictures for Someone Once Told Me. We hung out with awesome people like Katrinka and Tom. We would go sightseeing at no more than two sites a day. It just worked beautifully.

Going forward, I know we’re making the right decision — we’re already feeling much more relaxed than we’ve been so far.

Don’t be afraid to slow down when you need to. It doesn’t mean you’re failing or that you’re not cut out for super-fast travel. This could be just what you need to get into a sweet spot of your own.

Have you ever felt like you were traveling too fast?

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67 thoughts on “Slowing Down Because We’re Traveling Too Fast”

  1. That’s so awesome that you’ve both identified an issue and are actually doing something about it- even if it means making some other sacrifices (like your road trip). A week in Kyoto and Tokyo are hardly enough, and if you’re looking for cheap transport, their night buses aren’t bad at all, and can be super cheap. I used to take them between Tokyo and Kyoto quite frequently 🙂 The rest stops are amazing.

  2. YES! Amen to this! I found the same thing as well – I much prefer to take my time and get to know a place, rather than rush just to meet a schedule or check things off my list. That meant missing northern Vietnam and Indonesia on my recent 5-month backpacking trip through Asia, but coming home with a much better feel for the places I WAS able to visit. Quality over quantity all the way! 🙂

  3. Totally agree with your mindset – I’ve realised that I’ve been travelling too much simply for travels sake – so I’m spending the rest of the year indulging myself and taking things at a much slower pace – I think long term travel definitely changes your perception of your adventures.

  4. WHAT is that cocktail you’re drinking in the first picture? It’s so, so blue!
    I know what you mean about rushing. I only had 2 months to spend in South East Asia and ended up cutting out Vietnam, and as sad as I was at not being able to visit it meant I got to really enjoy Cambodia, rather than doing a quick Siem Reap > PP rush through.

    Really excited to hear about your stays in South Korea and Japan!

  5. One week really is an ideal amount of time, especially for a medium to large city. Good on you guys for recognising that you were on a path to travel burnout and being proactive about it sooner rather than later!

  6. Yup!! I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago!! I have definitely been experiencing travel burnout by trying to pack too many activities into my trips. For this reason last few trips (Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and now this current 9 day trip in the Balkans) has been ALLLL about relaxing, sipping lattes by bodies of water, meandering the streets with no real master plan but to enjoy the company and the surroundings. I’ve felt so much better since I decided to take a slower, more relaxed pace. Slow travel rocks!

  7. Totally agree Kate!
    Sometimes, it’s hard to allow yourself to relax and take your time, but it’s so worth it. Being rushed is never a good feeling.

    It’s great that you decided to travel at a slower pace and congrats for your engagement!

  8. It looks like you had the exact same realization that Mike and I did in South America. After running all over Colombia for a month straight we were exhausted and kind of murderous. Ever since then we’ve tried to slow it down and default to a week or so in each spot. It works out so much better for us in the long term.

  9. I agree completely and I’m glad you had such a good time in Istanbul– and there I was worried that I hadn’t planned enough for you guys! Silly me. 🙂

  10. Good for you Kate! I once did a blazingly fast RTW trip in 2 weeks that included 7 long flights to 5 cities in 4 countries and it was TOO MUCH! I was jetlagged the entire time and all I could do was take a few pictures in each place because I didn’t have time to develop an appreciation for anything.

    My travel style has since evolved as yours has. Spend more time in each place, appreciate it, and savor it. It’s definitely the right call.

  11. Aww, thanks for the shout-out! It was lovely to FINALLY meet you, and of course your rather dashing fiancé. I get what you mean about slowing down. I’m glad I’m spending a week here in Istanbul, rather than just blasting through in 2 or 3 days before my flight to Korea. In Moldova, I only had 4 nights booked in the capital, Chisinau, and extended to 7. I just wanted to stay put. As much as I loved Colombia, at one point I was on a plane every 3 days or so. I ended up exhausted.

    I’m so excited that you’re going to be in South Korea, too! I’ll have to give you plenty of tips for Seoul, most of which will involve food, and cat cafes.

    1. Tom, I’m so glad we finally got to hang out — and had an awesome time together!!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying your break in Korea, too! Bring on the Korean fried chicken…

  12. Kate,
    Awesome! Love this article! I was feeling that way during my Italy trip. Every few days, I had to pack and go to the next city because I wanted to squeeze and see everything into 1 trip. So for my future trips, I vowed to pick a city as a home base and do day trips or whatever I wanted from there.

    Still glad you decided to keep SF on the US list. I’m looking forward to it!

  13. Absolutely!! This is a great way to travel and with you guys less stressed, you’ll enjoy where you are more. I don’t think you could cover everything in Kyoto and the surrounding area in two years, much less two weeks, so don’t worry!! I highly recommend visiting Arashiyama to see the bamboo forest (I found a geisha in there when I went!) Have fun!

  14. The hubster and I are planning a trip to Europe and to Thailand over the next couple of years. Will definitely keep this post in mind because I know I’m the one in the relationship who tries to cram EVERYTHING into one trip and it always ends up being a buzz kill!

  15. It’s been interesting to read about how your travel style has changed from solo to couple. We’ve always traveled as a couple, so we can totally relate to the mood swings and frustrations when we’re moving too fast. At one point, we visited 12 countries in two months – crazy!!

    We did the same thing in Japan. We used Kyoto as a home base and visited Nara one day, Hiroshima the next, Osaka, Kobe, etc. It worked out well. But make sure you dedicate enough time for Kyoto – it’s awesome! Our fav Japanese city for sure (though Tokyo is kick ass too!).

    Sounds like you guys are having fun!

  16. I know exactly how you feel! My husband and I are in month 5 of an 8.5 month trip around the world. Around month 3 we started to get a little burned out after moving around at a fast pace through Asia and Africa. So we built in a few 4-week stays to unpack, exercise, and eat regular meals. We are also doing the same as you and staying at the other locations for 1 week minimums. Happy travels…

  17. Yep, we know the dangers of travelling too fast. We just spent a very rushed 2 weeks in The Philippines. Now the plan is to spend a solid 3 weeks in a nice spot in Cambodia, relax, get our stuff done, still enjoy the culture but without the rushed pace. This is even more important to us as we are travelling with our 2 young kids (2yo and 9 month old), it makes travelling fast even more difficult. We really have to take things slower then before.

  18. I love this approach, too. For me, I always feel pressure in the back of my mind when I don’t cram a ton into my days while traveling (“who knows when I’ll be back here again?!?”), but going at a relaxed pace ultimately seems much more enjoyable and meaningful.

  19. Great post- I sometimes feel like I’m wasting time when I travel slowly but when you look back travelling slow always gives you the best memories. I guess it’s a case if quality not quantity…

  20. Every so often I question if we are making the most of our time since we do move slowly but I quickly snap out of it! It’s too much work to spend less than a week somewhere (which equates to fatigue and petty arguing) and I feel like we miss more of the things that really matter to us (getting acquainted with our favorite street vendor, etc.) when trying to go too fast. But everyone has to find their own pace!

    Austin is a great choice! Chicago, Portland and Seattle would be worth considering as well.

  21. You are smart to go in depth instead of racing through countries trying to check off a list of “top 10 ” and “must sees”.
    There is time… I have been in Italy for 50 years and still have to see the northern lakes region and Cinqueterre… its about the people, the experiences, not just places.

  22. I think this really gets down to the nuts and bolts of being a traveler vice being a tourist. Quick tourism is fine if you don’t have a timeline, but traveling is when you get the really deep, humanistic experiences. I just read a book called Vagabonding by Rolf Potts where he talks about it. It’s a really great travel book and really identifies the essence of travel. I definitely recommend it on your travels! Good luck slowing down, and really try to soak up the cultures in the different places you visit. Have fun!

  23. We know this feeling too well! Even after more than three years of constant travel, we’re still trying to find the right balance between travel and work and how long to spend in each place. You guys should look into housesitting – it’s been the perfect way for us to recharge our batteries after periods of fast travels. We were both completely exhausted after three months of traveling (too) fast through Patagonia, Uruguay and Northern Argentina – when we got the offer to housesit in New York for seven weeks, we jumped at the chance and it helped us getting our travel mojo back 🙂

  24. Kate when you do your U.S. trip please make Madison, Wisconsin one of your cities of choice. You said you were going to Austin and I would enjoy your observations of both cities along with a little comparing and contrasting. I plan on moving to one of them in the next year so your comments would be helpful. Thank you.

  25. You guys are just too cute. We have been moving about every 3-4 days for the past month, with kids and we are tired too. Same moodiness applies to the Wagoner Family. We are going to take the next few weeks to try and slow down a bit too. We need time to process the million pictures we have taken and try to document. We are already blurring our activities in Italy together and not clearly remembering the order etc… In Austria now and on to Switzerland tomorrow. You are doing the right thing!

  26. I’m really looking forward to your upcoming Japan and South Korea posts! I visited Tokyo and surrounding a few years ago and it was an enriching experience. I also spent a semester studying abroad in Seoul and I quite miss it. I absolutely recommend Hongdae, Garosugil, and Samcheong district / Gyeongbokgung Palace–grand and romantic. 🙂

  27. I’m finally in Queenstown. I’d planned to have a bit of a rest and spend longer here. Only trouble is, the hostels are so booked out I keep having to move! I’ll have been in 5 different dorm rooms in 3 different hostels over the course of 8 nights! I guess at least I don’t have to travel far in between 🙂

    1. That was our problem in Bologna — we stayed in the Blogville apartment for two days, then another apartment for one day, then the trip to Bagno di Romagna for one day, then back to the second apartment for three more days. Moving that much takes a lot out of you!

  28. for me 1 week in one place is not even enough to settle down a bit! Everyone should follow their own travel timing, otherwise it becomes a duty instead of a pleasure! At least you realized that at took action. Make the most of this experience!

  29. On a recent trip to London I jam-packed my itinerary so that I could see all of the sights of London in one week. I did see literally every attraction that London had to offer, but looking back on it now it is all one big blur! If I had it to do over I definitely would have gone a little slower.

  30. I totally get where you are coming from Kate. Even though I only have 3 countries under my travel belt so far, I’ve noticed I’m a much bigger fan of slow travel than a blitzed visit. Even though I want to see as much as possible, I also want to take it all in, and that is nearly impossible when you are in a rush or exhausted from hopping around so much.

  31. Hi Kate. I love this post. I always try to see as much as I can when I travel and sometimes its exhausting. I hope you get to see Charlottesville, VA. It’s not big but we have a ridiculous amount of breweries, wineries, cideries, and you can tour the homes of 3 US presidents. Plus the Shenandoah National Park is right here!!

  32. I definitely have a tendency to travel fast. I know in the long run it makes it so I need to go back and visit again since I ran out of time to do everything. It’s a habit I probably need to break 🙂

  33. Diana Borg Cardona

    Great to have an outsider tell the world what all us residents know.
    Malta is a great place to live, but for me it’s necessary to get away for a bit a cuple of times a year!
    But I love our relaxed life, especially the long days of summer.
    Recognise the 1st photo here.
    Saw the Tall Ships coming in by accident when walking down the road. Went home for my camera, but unfortunately the best one (ie the one in your pic) was further away by then. Did use the little zoom I have, but it’s nowhere near as clear as your pic.

  34. Great advice and I’m so happy you were not only able to identity what was really bothering both of you but also that you were able to make the needed change. It sounds like you will both be much happier with a more relaxed, slower paced way of traveling. Enjoy your time together! And thanks for the insight, we need to slow down too.

  35. I don’t blame you. When I read your last month round-up I was surprised by how many countries you visited in only one month. Slow traveling is definitely the way to go if you are traveling long-term.

  36. YES, definitely! I was in Venice for a week recently, and my friend and I purposely planned to stay there for that long even though a week in Venice is more than enough. But we wanted to take it easy, and really get a good feel of the city, and I have to say: WOW. The difference it makes is incredible. Will definitely be ‘taking it easy’ and ‘slowing down’ in my future trips 😀

  37. This was very honest. I’m glad you guys came to this conclusion sooner than later so now you can enjoy everything way more. Please let me know if you need a translator/guide in Japan. I’m a short train ride from Nagoya which you’ll definitely be travelling through for most of your destinations. Enjoy the shinkansen!

  38. This post was oh-so-relatable for me! I started my deliberately solo nonstop travels almost 2 years ago & unexpectedly found my now-fiance on the road! We’ve been though 18 countries in about 20 months & recently realized even though there’s SO much we want to see we needed to slow down to make sure we keep APPRECIATING the journey. Thank you for this openly written post, it made us feel better 🙂

  39. Taking things slowly and not in a rush is better. Great plan you two. You just can’t appreciate the beauty of every place you’re in if you are in a rush. It may take you more time to travel slower but it let’s you enjoy more the scenery or beauty of the place you’re traveling in and you get to explore then meet new people or friends.

    Japan is such a fantastic idea. Good luck to your next trip!

  40. Kate, I can understand what you’re telling. I don’t travel non stop because I have a small child. I take his times and I stay more times in one place. But I enjoy the live of places I visit. Let’s enjoy!!

  41. Hit the nail on the head, Kate! It took me a long time to work this out and since slowing down – I’ve enjoyed stopping to smell the roses so much more. With the exception of now – I’m rushing through Istanbul and it’s sooooo nice I don’t want to leave, but flight already booked. Your blog has actually been a big help for me in Istanbul by the way 🙂

    Have fun smelling those roses, mate!

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