This is a guest post by Barbara from the Drop Out Diaries
First and foremost, there wouldn’t be an “us” without slow travel.
I met Darling Man after a year of living and working (and traveling) in Vietnam.
I’d gone to Vietnam with the intention of staying three or four months, long enough to get a Teaching English as a Second Language certificate and try my hand at teaching.
It didn’t take long for me to work out I didn’t enjoy teaching but I loved Ho Chi Minh City. So I switched jobs and one of my new colleagues introduced me to his best friend, the man who was to become my Darling Man.
Getting to know this wonderful man kept me in Vietnam longer than I’d planned, much longer.
Three-and-a-half years in Vietnam, working alongside smart young up-and-coming Vietnamese professionals and sharing my off-duty hours with Darling Man and his friends taught me so much about the exotic, crazy, amazing country.
Now, more than four years after first meeting, Darling Man and I are committed to slow travel. Partly because he is a bit of a reluctant traveller, partly because we now travel with our daughter, who needs naps and can be fussy with food.
Traveling with her is so much easier when we have a kitchen where Darling Man can cook up some cháo (Vietnamese rice porridge), which is all she’ll eat some days.
So slow travel is also a compromise for us. I want to see every country, sample every type of street food, trek jungle paths and cycle across entire continents. Darling Man often just wants to stay home.
We are currently slow traveling in northern Thailand.
Our base camp is a furnished three-bedroom house in the suburbs of Chiang Mai that we’ve rented for six months. I have an office and a high-speed internet connection, so I can work and continue to fund my crazy travel plans.
Darling Man has a garden he can potter in and Miss M, our energetic toddler, has a street full of friendly kids and dogs to play with.
Because we will be in Chiang Mai for a total of seven months, we haven’t had to pressure ourselves to do this or that because time is running out. If we are tired, or the baby is grumpy, we can just stay home. We’re not forced out because of hostel regulations or check-out times. We can just hang at home when we feel like it.
We have explored our local market, which is more of an open-air takeaway food centre than a produce market.
We are working our way through the offerings there, from barbecued corn to mysterious pots of brown goop. We are discovering what we like and what we don’t. I love going in the morning and grooving along to the funky beat one of the market dudes taps out as he uses two giant cleavers to mince meat.
After two months in Chiang Mai, we are only just working out the names of some of our favourites dishes. And – oh my – I am so in love with tom kha gai, a sour coconut soup with chicken and mushrooms.
We have visited local temples and the touristy night walking market. We have the luxury of being able to revisit everything, which is great because sometimes we are so busy keeping Miss M safe that we don’t see much at all. We’ve stumbled across local fairs by following the noise and we’ve found fabulous local eating places while getting lost on the way to the supermarket.
Even the everyday is an adventure for us.
Things like figuring out the local rubbish collection service (you have to buy an official black plastic rubbish bag from an authorised agent), borrowing a bamboo-handled hoe from the ladies who tend the market garden at the end of our street and working out how to get a flat motorbike tyre fixed.
Because we are traveling slowly, we have time to wait at a wat while Miss M loudly names all the body parts on a temple statue and rings every single bell – twice. We have the patience to let her marvel at a cage full of cats in the carpark rather than the 700-year-old temple we’ve come to see.
We came to Thailand from Singapore, where we lived for 15 months. That wasn’t the best slow travel experience, mostly because working full-time, commuting and being a new mum was just exhausting.
We didn’t see as much of Singapore as I would have liked – never made it to the World War II tunnels or the tree-top walk famous for its monkeys.
But working and living somewhere gives you so much more of an insight into a country than a holiday there ever can. We lived there through an election, a Chinese New Year, one Christmas and two national days. I am thankful for our time in Singapore, especially because we organised some home exchangeswhile we were there.
Next on our slow travel agenda is France.
Next year, during the French school holidays, we will take up our first home exchange – a villa in Provence. We plan to extend our stay in Provence with a biking and camping tour of the region, then we head to Holland, where we have a week-long home exchange set up in the picturesque little town of Delft.
Then it’s back to Vietnam, where I plan to draw on everything I’ve learnt from slow traveling and from Darling Man to write a book about Vietnamese street food and the people who cook it.
Slow travel changed my life and taught me so much.
It introduced me to many amazing people from all over the world, as well as some delicious street foods that aren’t on the menu at backpacker cafes. (I now regard banana pancakes as an obscene waste of stomach space.)
I do miss the old days of hitting the backpacker bars every night, trading travel stories with unwashed travellers and marveling at the strange and exotic sights flashing by.
Maybe my new love of slow travel is just a part of getting older and slowing down overall. Maybe its because I’ve discovered slow travel is cheaper and more rewarding. Whatever the reason, slow travel suits us. For now, at least.
Bio: Barbara has just dropped out of the rat race for a second time, this time with a toddler in tow. Her blog, The Dropout Diaries.com, is full of funny stories about her travels with her Darling Man and their daughter Miss M, as well as interviews with people who have chosen to drop out in one way or another. Follow The Dropout Diaries on Facebook.