Why, When It Comes to Travel, Less Is More

Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.
— John Kabat-Zinn

This world, which once seemed so vast, has never been so well travelled. Every year, millions of us jump on a plane to discover and explore, to see things our grandparents could only dream about.

However, with this new ease of adventure, the art of slow travel is often forgotten, eschewed for a handful of weeks spent ticking boxes, barely taking the time to appreciate the very thing we have travelled thousands of miles to enjoy. So many of us fail to simply stop and quietly observe the beauty and life that exists around us.

To sit still and just watch.

I have seen some remarkable things on my travels. The astounding power of Iguazu Falls, the vast otherworldly expanse of the Bolivian Salt Flats, Argentina's beautiful Perito Moreno glacier, the iconic Machu Picchu at sunrise and Uluru at sunset. Each one of these wonders represents an adventure I am glad I took. However, when I reflect on the best experiences of my life, these huge landmarks that adorn the covers of guidebooks are not the memories that come to mind.

No, the experiences that I hold dearest may mean very little to someone else. 

Waking from my hammock to witness the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea, silently sipping hot strong coffee from a tiny plastic cup; a hike through the Ecuadorian Andes, the man I love on one side, a small local girl on my other; the moment a graceful condor soared over my head, a million miles from anyone else; sharing a beer at sunset on a beach the tourists are yet to find. 

As I grow older and my memories fade, these are the things that I will not need a photo to recall - these are things I will remember forever.

There is a concept in Japanese culture known as 'Ma', literally translated to 'an interval between time and space'. It teaches that a pause, a breath, a moment of nothingness is what gives meaning to our busy existence, that life is felt in silence, in that moment when what you see before you can no longer be conveyed with words. 

As with much in life, when it comes to travel, less is often so much more

Travel forces you to strip back, to remove expectations, pre-judgements and excesses. To understand that which is important, and that which is superfluous. 

When we boarded our plane to Latin America two very long years ago, I had with me an abundance of possessions, all packed tightly into an oversized backpack. I didn't know what to expect, so I prepared for everything.

Yet, as weeks turned into months and our travels took us further from home, my life and my outlook began to change; I began to change. I realised that many of these items to which I clung so tightly meant very little, that it all could be so much simpler without them. I learnt that I should have, see and do only that which adds to my experience. 

The items that remained on the trip home were only the most valued - a handful of family photos; a simple white scarf; a soft pair of denim shorts; beaten-up Chuck Taylor's; a single gold chain and my dreams to continue to see the world.

So, when wanderlust next hits, when the time comes to once more fill my battered backpack and let travel again steal my breath away, I will take with me only that which is beautifully simple and crafted to last. That which will enhance those moments I crave, rather than detract from them.

Those moments when it is just me, my love, a beautiful view in a foreign land and the excitement of the unknown. After all, isn't that why we travel?


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