SLOW TRAVEL IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL

LOCATION: SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES

I’ve come to realize that my mindset of being stuck in Sydney to save money so we can leave ASAP, has been taking a toll on my well being and affecting my overall health. I haven’t hidden the fact that Sydney isn’t my favorite city, yet in other places that I’ve lived where I’ve had a worse relationship with (hello London?), I still managed to find my own escape nooks and routines that brought me joy in an otherwise grey and depressing concrete jungle. This made me realize that Sydney was not going to change for me to like it, but instead, I had to change. Cue deep and meaningful introspective pout.

Changing a stubborn mindset

Changing your mindset, attitude or outlook is almost as hard as changing a deep and ingrained habit; no, it’s downright near impossible! I had my aha moment whilst giving an interview to a journalist for a leading Australian health magazine, when she told me that she felt like Siu On and I were truly embracing the simple living, slow travel ethos. *DING* Finally, a light had turned on. I never thought to approach our time in Sydney as an exercise in slow travel before, even though it’s what we had been doing since we left Perth.

The slow travel movement is one that Siu On and I found ourselves in unbeknownst to us on our drive across Australia, and was truly a natural extension of our simple living ethos that we had begun living in Perth. I realized that slow travel shouldn’t be relegated to the fleeting moments you get to spend in a van driving on a road trip somewhere, and that I could actually apply it to my situation now. 

This fast paced, noisy and dirty city was wearing me down and I didn’t like how it was changing me. Instead of viewing my time in Sydney as extinguishing my simple living spark, where everything that Siu On and I had developed and learned was being tested to the extreme (like plastic bags creeping back into our cupboards); I could view the year or so that we’ll no doubt spend here as an experience in slow travel to not only find the heart of this city, but where we could find a place for the city in our hearts.

Lonely view of Sydney Harbour

How to go slow

The first time I came to Sydney was a blur of cramming in as much as I could humanely see and do. Even now I can only vaguely recall seeing the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, and not much else – so much for ‘experiencing’ Sydney, I barely remember it – yet I was here for four days! I am aiming to do the complete opposite to that trip, with the following three most valuable lesson’s I’ve learned from our experiences with slow travel:

  • Lesson 1: Do less. Instead of making a list of things to do that is pages and pages and pages long, just pick out a handful of things you want to do.
  • Lesson 2: Do it slower. Don’t go on a tour, don’t get on a train or a bus. Instead get walking. With your small list, plot them out on a map and look at what’s in between them. The items that are walking distance apart will give you the most opportunity to experience more of the city by allowing you to wander between your chosen  sights. Take your time; you are on holiday so act like it.
  • Lesson 3: Do it for longer. If you are restricted with your time, then choose only one or two things to see and spend more time wandering. If you can stay longer then increase that number, but don’t cram more than one or two things into a single day. Slow travel puts an emphasis on the pace of your travel and to do it justice you should give it adequate time.

Sydney Opera House

Slow travel is not a race

You know that annoying adage that ‘it’s not the destination that matters, it’s all about the journey’? Well in this instance, it’s become my personal motto. Travel burnout should be avoided at all times so be mindful of how you are feeling. New things can be overwhelming so listen to your body. 

So far, I’ve made it a habit to plan out day trips on my rostered day off from work. On these days I leave the city behind and have visited Watson’s Bay and Vaucluse, Botany Bay and Cronulla, and even Cockatoo Island – just a short 10 minute ferry ride from Circular Quay. Sometimes (when he’s not in the Blue Mountains) Siu On will join me, and we recently did the Bondi Beach to Coogee walk; which was the first time Siu had even been to the eastern beaches since we arrived here eight months ago!

Bondi Beach surfers

If you’re in a similar situation to me, I really hope that you can apply these suggestions to your everyday life. No matter where you are, there is good that you can seek out, so go and explore!

Happy travels!

Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.