Life's too short to rush.
Life's too short to rush.

Life’s Too Short To Rush

How to make a trip truly memorable

We’re three strangers who just met, sitting on a rooftop bar and casually engaging in conversation as we’re sipping a beer watching the sun set from atop. We’re talking about hopes and dreams of the future to come and how we are planning to change the world.

“Life’s too short to rush.” the words flow out unexpectedly as this goddess of fire talks about meeting the love of her life and spending a day with him doing absolutely nothing. The wisdom strikes a chord within as I don’t know what she means yet I understand exactly.

First You Understand, Then You Know

There’s a difference between knowing and understanding. Knowing is when your logical mind can interpret the information. Understanding, however, is when your heart and body knows but you’re not able to articulate it into words or explain it logically. It feels like relief. A wave of relaxation streaming through your body as you receive an answer to a question you’ve been pondering for a while. Knowing, on the other hand, feels more like confirmation, re-iterating something you already know.

Too Busy To Live?

For anyone that has been lucky enough to go on a game drive in Africa, you’ll know that when you drive fast you are very likely to miss the majestic elephant hiding in the shadows of the trees or the leopard patiently observing from a tree. It takes slowing down to get most of a game drive. It’s not about covering more ground but getting the most of the ground you do cover.

Life is exactly the same. It’s not about how fast you go or how much you’ve done, it’s about how engaged you are in what you do. It’s the difference between rushing through Paris on a Contiki tour, taking pictures from inside the bus as you’re driving past the Eiffel Tower, or sitting for hours on the same spot in a coffee shop observing the people around you as you slowly sip on a coffee and watch the patterns emerge.

Local Is Lekker

A trip becomes truly memorable and worthwhile when you allow yourself to participate in the local culture. When you slow down and take the time to fully engage in what you are doing rather to see how much you can do in the shortest available time.

The best travel experiences of my life has been slow.

It is sharing food with locals in hidden places far away from the busy and overcrowded main streets. It’s being taken to a small Italian restaurant outside the touristy center of Brussels where there’s place for six people and you know that each meal is prepared with care and love.

It’s allowing the local Thai to take you to a roadside stall and ordering food on your behalf, being pleasantly surprised to discover the true flavors of the region which you would never have experienced did you order yourself.

It’s being invited to share a home cooked meal with new-made Chinese friends, educating me in the cultural habits and introducing me to new flavors and ways of eating. It’s playing games after dinner and washing the dishes together when you truly experience the culture of the country you’re visiting. You don’t experience culture by staying in a hotel and doing planned tours.

Travel is a Cultural Exploration

Culture is only experienced when you engage in conversation with the locals, eat together and smell the surrounds. In France it smells like perfume and flowers as you walk through the streets and the markets. In Thailand it smells like animals being slaughtered as you walk through carcasses hanging around and all sorts of animal pieces lying around. In Africa it smells like sweat and dirt. In Europe it smells mouldy and old as you walk into the ancient shops and restaurants. It’s not about it smelling good or bad, it’s about smelling the uniqueness of the place you are in. It’s about tasting the flavors of the food and appreciating the colors.

When you go fast, you end up having been everywhere but not having experienced much.

The question is whether you want to be the tortoise of the hare? The hare goes fast but ends up losing the race while the tortoise slowly but purposefully moves towards his destination.

I again realize the importance of going slow as I walk into a courtyard asking someone who works there where I can find the vineyard. She looks at me blankly and responds that there is no vineyard. I continue looking, find the nearly 250 year old vineyard and touch the bottles of wine that is still being produced from the grapes from the vine. I walk back to the girl, show her the plant barely 100m away from where she spends most of her day. Right behind her I read about the history of this oldest vine in Cape Town, possibly the entire Africa, on a huge poster which she has never noticed before.

To travel you don’t have to leave your own city or country. To travel you need to slow down enough so that you can notice the nuances in the cultures around you. It’s about taking the time to walk into a shop where you’ve never been before. It’s about doing something you’ve never done before. It’s about talking to someone you’ve never met before.

Life becomes fun when you take the time to enjoy it. Life is about the exploration. It’s about finding as many treasures as possible on your way, not reaching a destination.

Originally published in Medium: