Blog Carnival: 5 Benefits Of Slow Travel
So what is slow travel? It can come in a number of different forms but generally it means not trying to cram in the whole Thailand experience in just 2 weeks or getting the full Bali experience in just a month. Slow travel means staying in one place as an expat for a while, some people do this through teaching, volunteering or other avenues like being a scuba instructor. I have been a slow traveler for a while now and below are my 5 benefits of this culturally rich lifestyle I have dedicated myself to.
Today’s article is written for the Reach To Teach Teach Abroad Blog Carnival, a monthly series that focuses on providing helpful tips and advice to ESL teachers around the globe. The host for this month is Heather Richards. I’ll be posting a new ESL-related article on my blog at the start of every month, and the carnival is always published on the 5th by that month’s host. Check back for more articles, and if you’d like to contribute to next month’s Blog Carnival, please contact Dean at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will let you know how you can start participating!
1. Know a Culture
So you may have just graduated with you degree in East Asian studies and you think you know the culture of your destination. Well, I would say you know a good deal of it, but you don’t really KNOW the culture, you know?
Let me explain.
Looking at a culture from miles away can give you a good understanding of it: its kooks, it’s kinks, its good parts, its bad parts and so on. But until you live within a culture for an extended period of time you will never truly get closer to really knowing that culture.
Living within a culture leaves you no escape from it. It’s there, always, from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep to the minute you get woken up in the middle of the night by a stinky tofu truck in Taiwan or a group of drunk Koreans coming back from a work night. It’s unavoidable, and there is such beauty in this.
You will have your eyes completely opened to the small details, the daily food, the festivals, the religions, and you will be constantly comparing it to your own cultures customs and ways of doing things. This can then lead you to broaden your mind into accepting other (possibly better) ways of doing things.
Let me tell you about death, in particular funerals.
This was something I always saw as a sad, morbid, unhappy event of grey and black. My time living in Bali gave me a new look on funerals. In Bali funerals are a celebration, there is nobody crying, definitely no black and grey, you look around and all you see are smiles and happiness. This is because they are celebrating the life of this person who has passed, not mourning it.
This changed my standpoint on funerals, it completely opened my eyes to a new and (in my own opinion) better way of doing things. There was a death in my family shortly after. The knowledge I had gained in Bali actually helped me in such a positive way. Broaden your horizons and experience a cultural immersion. You won’t regret it.
2. Learn a Language
This is an obvious one, but one to mention all the same. Living in a different country for an extended period of time will make you learn the language, whether you like it or not. This can happen in varying degrees, depending on how much of a disciplined person you are.
If you are disciplined and you are inquisitive then congratulations, you probably have a pretty good grasp on the language. If not and you have done absolutely no language study, then I bet you still can order your coffee in the morning, or tell the cab driver where to go, or order breakfast. Being in a different country makes you learn necessary parts of the language.
3. Discover Secrets
So you go on vacation to Thailand, or Bali, or some other exotic place that isn’t the park in front of your flat in rainy old England. Your vacation is amazing, you went to the temples that everyone recommended, you did the hike that you read up on in a blog, and you went to the most popular night market.
All of these are great things.
Now, you live in a country and you have been there for around a year. You did all of the above in your first month, maybe even your first week. And now, you have reached expat master level 10+.
Now you know all of the secret hikes, you go to the more local night markets for your food where you know the woman serving you by name, you also have a chat with her, as you know the language (see point above), you know the best restaurants, the best secret beaches, underground bars…do I need to continue?
4. Become yourself
So I know this title sounds like the first step to becoming a hippy (and there is zero wrong with that), but that isn’t quite my meaning. When I was living back in the UK I felt like I was constantly becoming involved in activities and joining groups that weren’t entirely for myself, they were because I got roped into them by others for one reason or another. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not what I truly wanted to do.
Living abroad allows you a kind of fresh start, a clean slate to really start to do the things that you want to do. Since living abroad I really feel like I have gotten to know who I am a lot more and that has developed because I have been in total control of the direction of my life.
Although this is something that you will inevitably do if you lived in your home country, I feel that being taken out of your comfort zone and planted into another culture for an extended period of time is a very nurturing experience. It is one that allows you to explore parts of yourself that you may not even have thought about previously and leaves room for you to flourish as a person.
I can honestly say that I have indeed grown as a person since living abroad, through the cultural exchanges, near misses, and eye opening experiences you do become a different person.