Recall the children's story about the race between the hare and the tortoise: the hare sprinted as fast as he could at the beginning of the race, while the tortoise took slow and steady steps. The hare, seeing how slow his competitor was moving, decided to take a nap on the side of the race track. Once the hare woke up, the tortoise was about to cross the finish line and the hare could not catch up to the tortoise in time.
The moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. And in this race of life for happiness, slow and steady wins the race every time.
The benefits of traveling slowly, especially when traveling with your family, far outweigh any perceived benefits of traveling as fast as humanly possible.
Here's my top five reasons to travel slowly:
Less pressure to do stuff. Have you ever actually been on a tour group? Early on in my travels, I went on a couple of tour groups in China. Being bussed around to different locations isn't as glamorous as it sounds. The reality of it was that the mornings were really early, days were filled with jam-packed schedules with "rest stops" at souvenir shops, and the only solace from the days was returning to the hotel late at night to take a shower and collapse on the bed, dead tired. Then I had to do it all over again the next day and the next. With slow travel, you free yourself of all those burdens of being on someone else's schedule to check-off a list of "must-see" places. When you do things slowly, you can do whatever you want do, whenever you feel like doing it, and you finally enjoy the freedom of traveling.
Save more money. When you stay in places for longer periods of time, you can save a lot of money. You cut down on high transportation costs including flights, airport transfers, taxis, trains, etc. If you're in a location for weeks or months, you can stay in more affordable apartments, rather than expensive hotels. You'll be able to cook some of your meals and not always have to be confined to expensive hotel buffets or restaurants.
Live like locals. Staying in a local apartment puts you right where all the locals should be. Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and a host of other sites allow travelers to make themselves right at home when traveling abroad. When you stay put for a while, you'll frequent the places that locals go to, whether it be the local supermarket, the shopping mall, the gym, or the bars. You'll be around locals and getting a more authentic experience of being in the country, as compared to being locked up in a hotel compound or resort, oblivious to everything happening in the real world.
Get deeper into the local culture. By traveling slowly and staying longer in places, you're able to get a better feel of the local culture. You go deeper into the cuisines because you can try more stuff. You'll gain a better understanding for the local language and it's different intonations and nuances. You'll make better connections about how and why the local people do the things they do. We spent five weeks in Buenos Aires and had new discoveries every day we were there, such as how dinner doesn't usually start until 9 p.m., how Chinese people run most of the locally-owned grocery stores, and how dulce de leche makes for an incredible ice cream flavor.
More meaningful experiences and relationships are created. The longer you stay, the more meaningful the experience will be for your family. Spend five days somewhere and you'll more than likely forget about your time there after a handful of years. Spend five weeks somewhere and you'll never forget how you felt when you were there, what you did, and who you were with. Five weeks in Buenos Aires was magnificent. I caught up with an old college friend who was passing through, we made new local friends, and my family has a ton of memories that I'm sure we'll still be talking about even when the kids are all grown up.
Life isn't a race from one country to the next. Travel slowly and enjoy the journey for as long as you can.
This post originally appeared on LiveFamilyTravel.com. Images courtesy of author.
Cliff Hsia is a father who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. He's currently on a gap year of world travel with his family. He writes about travel, family, love, happiness, faith, and everything else that life throws at him.
Read Cliff's articles at Live Family Travel and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.