“Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.” – Mae West
The wife and I are planning a trip to New Zealand in December, and our main topic of conversation is, “How fast should we travel?” When putting together an itinerary, the strong temptation is to try and see everything. And why not? Who knows when you might visit a specific foreign country again? Maybe never, so you better see all the main sites, just in case. This is the mistake we made on our most recent trip, to Japan. For the first 10 ten days of our excursion, we stayed in a different hotel every night, while averaging anywhere from 3-6 hours of travel per day. Needless to say, we saw a LOT, and…we were pretty feeling pretty burnt out by the end. It wasn’t until our last day that we decided to wander around the town of Osaka with no plan, seeking out bakeries, and that was perhaps the best day of our trip.
Fortunately, there’s a place in the world where rushing around is mightily discouraged – not by law, but by common agreement. That place is Vientiane, the capital of Laos. Imagine a city of nearly 1 million people where everyone is driving 20 miles an hour. Imagine a national capital where people walk hand in hand on the sidewalk with their families…slowly. When you say hello, they turn, meet your eyes, and gradually respond with broad smiles, “Sabaidee” (“hello” in Laotian). Vientiane is the slowest place I’ve ever been. It’s also a lovely city, with temples, parks, and Buddha statues. I often think of Laos as Thailand 30 years ago. The culture and the language is similar. But Laos is soooo much slower. Wow.
(Are you a chronic planner? Can you imagine taking a slow trip? How about a slow weekend? Remember that vacation is about coming home refreshed, not about returning to your daily life more tired than when you left. When you try to see everything, you see nothing.)