Four years in Moscow meant four years of frozen lakes in March. Image courtesy of Polly Barks.
The more I explored of the massive, nuanced country, the more I realized how much I had yet to see. For every onion-domed Orthodox cathedral and Baltika beer with a new friend, I realized there were thousands more moments just waiting to be discovered – moments that would never be realized if I sped off in search of the next destination.
Like the moment I realized I could go into a shop and order what I needed without a heavy ball of anxiety settling into the pit of my stomach.
Like the moment I found the perfect cup of coffee and cake after losing myself down one of Moscow’s quiet side streets.
Like the moment I was chased off a bus by the local man who would become my husband less than two years later.
All of those moments and thousands more led to a much deeper understanding of a country and culture that I never would have known had I whizzed through in a few weeks – or even months! Once I realized that, the prospect of discovering new places in days (or even weeks) seemed far too fleeting.
Suddenly, all of my trips were getting longer and longer, better and better.
My name is Polly Barks, and I have an intense case of slow-travel-itis. I’m the American who has made Moscow, Russia her home for four years, honeymooned in Kyrgyzstan, and made it her mission to see the world really, really slowly.
To be clear, I’m not necessarily advocating for long-term travel. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve tried it and washed out due to fatigue after a few months. Instead, what I’m really about is encouraging people to immerse themselves in their travel experiences, no matter how long they’ve got. Long-term travel often seems to force people to be constantly on the go; this isn’t my idea of slow travel, where I think there are a lot of real benefits to having a dedicated home-base in each new place you experience.
Why? Well, traveling slow offers tangible and intangible benefits! Traveling for longer can actually save you money; allow you to travel more comfortably; and help you ditch stressful, rigid scheduling concerns. Psychologists have even conducted studies revealing that prolonged exposure to different cultures can make people more open-minded, giving them a greater ability to solve complex problems.
More money and more smarts? What’s not to love?
You might even pick up a husband along the way. Image courtesy of Polly Barks.
In case you haven’t noticed, my column is all just a bit of propaganda for the cause.
I’m on a crusade to rid the world of drive-by travel. I want travelers to get up-close-and-personal (and maybe even a little uncomfortable) with their next travel destination. Whether you’ve got months or only a few days, it’s totally possible to reap the benefits of slow travel by being deliberate: Seek out local experiences, try things that make you nervous, and create unforgettable travel memories.
(For what it’s worth, you may not even need four years to feel like you’ve truly discovered a new destination. Four years might be a little excessive, but, hey – no one can accuse me of not being thorough.)