The apology of slowlitude

I once read on a t-shirt somewhere « the best ideas come while walking ». I just spent 3 days on my own, walking through Costa Rican mountains, I had time to think. A lot of time.

I have been travelling around for four months now and one of the first thing people ask me, even before asking me where I am from or what my name is, is “are you on your own?” It seems to trigger many people’s curiosity to see a woman travelling alone, whether It is in Europe, in the United States or in Costa Rica. When the answer is “yes, I am”, I observe two kinds of reaction. Some people treat me like some sort of super hero, other like a poor lonely thing. That surprises me since I don’t consider myself as one or the other and it gets me thinking.

There are two things that I highly appreciate when travelling alone. One thing is the solitude. I find this word very interesting in English. The notion of time seems crucial to define it, a short-term solitude being a positive thing, while a long-term solitude leads to loneliness. We don’t have that differentiation in French, and “solitude” is used for both solitude and loneliness, and as far as I know, bears negative connotations. So when I went back to my hotel, I googled it. The first hits are about personal development and learning how to love yourself, then comes dating website and forums. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Wikipedia definition of solitude in English says that as far as health is concerned, complete isolation leads to distortions of time and perception. My case is not that bad, but travelling does affect your notion of time. Everybody has experienced loosing tracks of the days of the week while on holiday. That brings me to the second thing I enjoy while travelling, which is taking my time, not jumping from one city/country to another. Many tourists like me go on a Central America tour in a couple of weeks, sometimes a month or more. I considered doing that myself, but quickly forgot about it. I wanted to take it slowly, I like to slow travel (sometimes to the extreme, like living in Norway for four years, still don’t know how that happened!). This is somehow a luxury, since most people don’t have the freedom to take months off to travel (then again, I can argue with that), but as far as I am concerned, I find it extremely frustrating to not have/take the time to get to know a place and its people. You can’t sum up a country and even less a culture in a week time. To me, travelling isn’t about “doing” a country, but actually trying to learn and understand in order to put things in perspective.

That’s how I came up with the idea of slowlitude. What is nicer than taking the time? Taking the time to walk slowly on your own through unknown places and listen to whatever is going on around you, whether it is people chatting in a café or birds flying around you in a forest?  “Freedom is considered to be one of the benefits of solitude” says Wikipedia again, I would say freedom is one of the benefits of slowlitude! Have you experienced that before?