Among the biggest mistakes travellers make is trying to see and do too much. After all, the passion for visiting new places, trying new things, meeting new people, these are the very motivations that have driven you to travel in the first place. So naturally it becomes very tempting to squeeze every last drop out of your vacation time, rushing around, hitting every highlight, checking things off lists. And, like most travellers, we did a lot of that early on and even now still succumb to temptation and find ourselves choosing quantity over quality at times. There is just so much to see. But more often over the last few years we have been settling into a single location for a month or more, something that has become much easier and more affordable with the rise of AirBnB. Of course, not everyone has the option of flying abroad to some exotic location and just setting up shop there for a month, or two, or six. But if you happen to be one of the people for whom a longer trip is an option, I definitely recommend giving it a try.
On a typical city stop – for us that is normally four nights and three full days – you should have enough time to hit the famous landmarks, eat at a few good restaurants, do a little light browsing at the local market, and maybe enjoy a few too many cocktails one night. You get some good photos, uncover a few unexpected surprises, get a slight feel for the culture and people, then move on. Satisfactory, but it doesn’t feel like you’ve delved under the skin of the city to any great extent. Rent an apartment for a month, however, and your list of experiences immediately expands to include all sorts of interesting new variations. Chance meetings with locals that end in roast goat with their extended family. The suburban park that was basically deserted except for a group of elderly women vigorously practicing tai chi. That quiet little restaurant you reluctantly chose that ended up serving the best meal of your whole trip. The time you took the wrong bus and stumbled across a great concert on the riverbank. Suddenly realizing that the teller at the grocery store recognizes you. Nostalgically recalling seeing one of your favourite movies for the first time on the other side of the world, with unintelligible subtitles and a five-minute musical montage to a surprisingly popular king.
As for where to go for the most memorable long-term stay, well, you can literally throw a dart at a map of the world and be ensured an experience that will last a lifetime. Cities offer endless possibilities, and we have greatly enjoyed Cartagena, Buenos Aires and Prague. Smaller towns and villages provide a greater feeling of immersion, such as Cefalú and Siracusa in Sicily, Koh Siboya in Thailand, or Marsalforn on Gozo. Long, picturesque walking beaches such as those near La Peñita, Mexico can be idyllic, although hot, and sometimes a beautiful highland lake with perfect spring weather year-round, such as Lago de Atitlán in Guatemala, can be the perfect compromise…
Of course, long stays are not all roses and life-changing adventures and surprise empanadas. When you stay somewhere long enough eventually that shiny tourist façade starts to wear off and all of a sudden you find yourself annoyed with the way people are constantly trying to cut in line, or the construction next to your apartment that wakes you up at six every morning, or the way your favourite park is riddled with an inconceivable amount of dog feces. But these minor irritations inevitably fade into the distance over time, leaving you with a warm, sentimental and maybe even a somewhat proprietary feeling for the place that you got to know so well. So which method is better? Get a brief look at five amazing places, or enjoy a long, thorough visit in one amazing place? Unfortunately the answer to that will change from person to person, location to location, trip to trip, sex club to sex club. But unavoidably everyone who tries their hand at slow travel walks away shocked at just how different they feel about that trip than their other more typical holiday excursions. So for those that can make such a trip fit in among the various other elements of their life I would absolutely suggest giving it a shot. You may love it, you may hate it, but I guarantee you will remember it.