Slow Travel

Since we both retired, my husband and I have done quite a bit of traveling. Sometimes we take a quick drive somewhere close, other times we are away for several weeks or even a month.

Two years ago, a month-long road trip took us through several western and midwestern states, and included a journey along a good portion of Route 66. Last year, we flew to Montreal, rented a car, and traveled through parts of south eastern Canada, and the north eastern United States.

Although we thoroughly enjoyed these trips and relished visiting a lot of different places, each time we moved on we regretted not being able to stay longer and experience all that a specific location had to offer.

This time, we decided to travel in a different way, one that allowed us to slow down, breathe, and relax into life in a foreign country. For a little over five weeks, we rented a private home in Oaxaca, Mexico and enjoyed the luxury of unpacking our bags just once. The house was within walking distance to the central area: close to activity, shops, and restaurants, but far enough away to provide us with a place to enjoy our own company and recharge our batteries.

Our oasis came with a private garden.

By staying in one location for an extended period, we found that our pace slowed and our appreciation for this beautiful city and its culture was allowed to deepen and grow.  Because we weren’t on a tight schedule, we started to match – at least somewhat – our rhythm to that of the city around us.

Santa Domingo at twilight.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t take a few tours or enjoy other “touristy” pursuits – we did. But, because we knew that we had a lot of time to engage and explore, we also could make discoveries that most short-term visitors would probably miss.

What type of travel do we enjoy more? Our answer is that it really depends: it depends on the location, it depends on our curiosity level, and it depends on the time we have to devote to a particular trip.

We just returned home yesterday and I have already found my pace quickening. I have hundreds of photos to go through and pages of notes to organize. Although I promise to not share everything, I do have enough post ideas, along with pictures of doors, murals, churches, architecture, archaeological sites, celebrations, and many other delights we found in this UNESCO World Heritage city, to keep me busy for a while.

79 thoughts on “Slow Travel”

  1. I’m with you on the “it depends” answer. I’ve loved staying put in an area, traveling independently and traveling in a group. Each variation has much that is commendable. Looking forward to your future posts and photos.

  2. What fun! I know how you feel about road trips. I enjoy them. But on the other hand I so want to experience the vibe of every place as if I lived there. Your solution is great.

  3. That sounds to me like just the perfect way to travel, Janis. Funnily enough, I’ve been looking online at cottages on the ocean in Nova Scotia, dreaming of a day when I’ll rent one for maybe three months so that I can live my dream of “writing in a cottage by the sea”.
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Looking forward to the photos and stories to come.

  4. So glad you got to see Oaxaca. It is my favorite place to go in Mexico. Maybe you read my blog post about it a year or so ago? It’s great that you could spend a chunk of time there. So much to see and do, and lots of fun to get to know the rhythm of the place.

    Rin

    1. Actually, we had all different kinds of weather… it even hailed one day! It was mostly hot – not too bad – but Oaxaca is entering it’s rainy season so we had that too. Fortunately the rain was usually hard but brief and the lightning and thunder was amazing (we don’t get that very much in SoCal).

  5. I just felt relaxed reading this Janis! I was just in San Diego for my brother’s engagement party and it was a whirlwind of dinners, family and friends! I didn’t do the things I wanted (partially due to June gloom and everyone having to work). Hans and I were just talking last night about moving to Colombia or Chile as ex-pats in 10 years 🙂 He’s been to Oaxaca! Looking forward to reading more about your trip 🙂

  6. Sounds like you had a wonderful and relaxing time. I don’t do well sitting still, I’m pushing it if I stay somewhere for 2 weeks. Two-four days in one place when travelling is what I like best. I guess that’s how we did 18,000 miles in 72 days in our 5th wheel. 🙂

    1. We actually didn’t do a lot of sitting (I still fit in my jeans after five weeks of eating pretty well 🙂 ). I love road trips too and plan to take many more of those in the years to come. It’s nice to vary travel a bit, depending on the location and the logistics. I’ve never traveled in a 5th wheel… maybe I should try that too!

      1. We have done the RV thing for almost 40 years but we do a lot of hotels too, it really depends on where and how long a trip is whether we fly or drive. Camping has its pros, your own bed and no dragging suitcases around. This is actually our first summer without a RV, our 5th was written-off in a hail storm and we aren’t sure if we’re going to get another one. We may have had our fill of pulling a big unit. 🙂 Maybe you should try it 🙂

  7. I’m not the best world traveler any more, having spent many years flying here and there, sometimes, just like you, staying a long time. I’ve been to several locations in Mexico, loved a small village called Barra De Navidad, but have not been to Oaxaca. Enjoy your travels!

    1. The worst part of traveling is the flying (that’s a big reason we love road trips). I hope to go to Europe again one of these days, but the thought of the hassle plane travel has become, I’m shying away. Oaxaca was a quick (for us) non-stop flight…

      I’ll check out Barra De Navidad.

  8. Welcome home, Janis! Your five weeks in Oaxaca sound amazing! I am so glad to hear that you have heaps of notes, photos and blog ideas. I miss your regular posts and can’t wait to read more!

  9. Oaxaca looks like a great place to setle in for a few weeks to immerse yourselves. but I think you found the secret by renting a retreat (with your own private garden!) I find that staying in hotels or pensions for more than a few days leaves me feeling unsettled rather than relaxed and ready to explore new places.

    1. I agree with you. Hotels are fine for a few days, but they can start feeling pretty small (at least the ones we tend to stay in) after a while. Just having a kitchen made us feel more “at home,” even though we didn’t do much cooking.

  10. We love Mexico!

    Checking out an area in depth is one of the reasons we got the RV. We want to stay put for 3-6 months is some areas while we Workamp. Then we can hike more, visit museums, get to know local spots, etc.

    1. There is a certain attraction to carrying around your “home” with you. Also, because you are more mobile and don’t need to commit to your length of stay, you can linger some places and move on quickly from others. We haven’t RV’d, but it does sound intriguing… I look forward to following your journey.

  11. This is exactly how I would like to travel. I relish the idea of spending 6 to 8 weeks in one location, getting to know its rhythm and little treasures beyond what the casual tourist sees. Maybe someday I will be so lucky!
    Looking forward to hearing more about this adventure in slow travel 🙂

    1. We really liked having a home base and venturing out every day. It was also nice not to need a car at all. We mostly walked, but we also took a few tours to areas outside the city center which required hiring a driver. It felt a little weird to come home and have to drive to the market rather than walk around the corner.

  12. That looks like a wonderful trip! And like you, I appreciate both kinds of travel. I loved our French river cruise, where we were in a different town or city every day. But I also love going to Sanibel and renting a condo, and doing our best to become a “local” while we are there. The first kind of trip is better for exploring new areas, the second is better for rest and relaxation, I think.

    1. We did a lot of exploring on this trip, but staying at a private home allowed us to feel more relaxed than we would have in a hotel room. There are a lot of snow birds – mostly from Canada – who come every year to escape the cold weather. I know they appreciate the relaxed pace too (especially since they don’t need to shovel snow while there).

  13. I know exactly what you mean – we usually tour in the summer and always feel regretful when we move on because there’s still so much to see in a place. And the packing and unpacking – ugh! In the spring we often have a week somewhere and it’s so relaxing not to be living out of suitcases. Once John retires (ha! if ever) I’d like to spend longer in one place. Looking forward to hearing more about Mexico.

  14. Slow travel certainly does allows for a completely different pace and way of seeing a place. While I still enjoy a quick visit to a major city for a few days, longer stays (especially if I’m able to stay in a truly residential neighbourhood) really give a better feel for the rhythm of life.

  15. Sounds like a wonderful vacation! Going to one place and settling in, matching my rhythm to the city’s, is definitely my preferred way to travel. I look forward to seeing more of your pictures in the weeks to come.

  16. Janis, I did some extended travel in Mexico many years ago, but Oaxaca was not one of the areas we visited. However, we did bring home some nice pieces of Oaxacan pottery, and I have wanted to go there ever since.

    Jude

  17. Fabulous! Renting a home rather than staying in a hotel for a short time, really is different. It also gives you a feel for a neighborhood that you would not get otherwise. This is how our nomadic travels began… every trip we took when our sons were still in high school, would end with me saying… but its too short, I still want to go to…. fill in the blank. When we finally did set out with no agenda and no time constraints, the joy of not having to rush because of lack of time is definitely a game changer. Five weeks in Oaxaca sounds fabulous! Thanks for sharing.

    Peta

    1. I think we may start to do more of this type of traveling. I love to see a lot of places, but I was always moved on with the thought, “when we go back…” Even spending five weeks in Oaxaca has left us with a desire to return… and we will for sure.

  18. I love this way of travelling, whenever it’s possible – I’d much rather spend a few weeks in one location than a few days in a dozen cities. Great post!

  19. Hi Janis! Okay silly me! I knew your trip was coming but for some reason I didn’t make the connection until your comment on my blog let me know you were home. Now I’m going through all your posts and photos. Great memories from my time they are couple of years ago. ~Kathy

  20. I find myself struggling with this too! I want so much to see everything that sometimes I regret not staying the extra two days to savior the experience… I’m still working to find my balance!

  21. Being someone who has lived in multiple countries for extended periods of time, I agree with this post 100%. You can see all the sights and still feel like you haven’t even been to the country because it’s just not personal. I always try to immerse myself in the culture of a country to really make a connection.

  22. Hiya Janis, I am just getting back to the blog world, and loved seeing that you slowed down in Oaxaca. For our next month-at-a-time travel adventure, we decided on Mexico City, Guanajuato and the state of Michoacan. After seeing what a great time you had, I am sorry that we didn’t choose Oaxaca. It is at the top of the list on our next trip to Mexico. Gonna check out more of your Oaxaca stories.

    1. I am so glad that you are resuming your slow travel adventures. I have not visited the places you’ve listed so I am looking forward to reading all about them. I am pretty sure my husband and I will return to Oaxaca in the next year or so – we really loved it and want to go back in the fall and winter seasons. Slow travel is definitely the way to go in that part of the world. I recommend that you search out the expat communities… the are a wealth of information.

      1. Thank you for the suggestion. I spent the day today at the incredible anthropology museum in Mexico City, and thought of you and your husband while inside the Oaxaca rooms. The displays and collection of artifacts were astounding and so educational.

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