“We should do something,” said Kia, squinting in the sunlight.
“I think there’s white water rafting close by. Or maybe ziplining.”
“Yeah,” I said, lying back. “Yeah, we should.”
“We should,” she repeated and then, with a leisurely yawn, fell back on her beach towel.
If our first month in Vanuatu was allegro, then Fiji has been more andante but really who can blame us? Fiji’s outer islands (which include the sets of Castaway and Blue Lagoon) are some of the most beautiful in world. In fact, the ‘garden island’ of Taveuni might just be the most picturesque island I’ve ever seen.
Kia’s suggestion that we ‘do something’ is borne of a sense of duty that many of us feel on the road: a duty to get out there, to see things, to tick items off a list we didn’t make. But here’s the thing: if you travel slowly, it offers far richer benefits than a nonstop, adrenaline-fuelled, activity-packed trip – especially on long-term travels like ours. Here are five reasons not to feel guilty about taking things slow.
1. You see more of the country
Travelling overland gives you a chance to take a breath and watch. Whether it’s taking a bus instead of a plane or spending five days somewhere instead of three, you get the chance to take more in. On the way from Sau Bay to Savusavu on Vanua Levu, our bus left five minutes early (without us on it), which doesn’t sound too bad until you factor in that the next bus was five hours later.
Well, there was nothing to do but to throw down our backpacks and wait for the next bus. We ended up chatting to Taina, a local who had also missed the bus. She was on her way home to Labasa for a week, a much-needed break from her seven-days-a-week job in hospitality. Because of the mishap, she would have to stay in Savusavu for a night, missing a whole extra day with her son and husband.
Taina suggested taking a bus to the next town to see if we could catch another bus heading in the right direction. It didn’t work but it was a great afternoon anyway and we saw another part of the island that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
2. You find the best haunts
Mom’s Country Kitchen in Savusavu turned out to be the best meal we’d had all trip. It was a tiny Indian bistro serving rotis and curry. If time were tight, we would have jumped on a boat straight out of town the night we arrived. We were headed back to Viti Levu – Fiji’s main island – and there was a boat docked when we arrived in Savusavu.
But we were in no hurry and Taina had told us about a friendly little B&B in town which we happily checked into: another great find which we would have missed. We stayed for two nights, hanging out at the charming yacht club for a day before catching the next boat to Viti Levu.
3. You spend far less
This is tied directly to the above. A delicious and filling meal for two at Mom’s Country Kitchen cost us about FJ$12 (£4) in total, and the handy little B&B was just FJ$50 (£17) a night for a private double room. Our two nights in Savusavu were well within our budget, meaning we’d have more for the more expensive excursions and adventures later in the trip.
When you’re not in a rush it’s easier to keep costs down. You can wait for the cheaper ticket to become available, shop around for the cheaper hotel or take the slower boat back instead of the plane. We could have taken a 45-minute flight but instead opted for a 12-hour boat ride for a third of the price. It was a more interesting experience and far better for my bank balance.
4. You meet more interesting people
It’s a travel cliché that you’ll meet amazing people on the road but I’ve seldom met anyone of interest while bouncing between backpacker haunts in big cities. Travelling slowly gives you far better insight to a country and its people. Take the Fijians: they are some of the warmest, friendliest people we’ve met but our interaction thus far could have been limited to swapping ‘bulas’ on the street. Instead, we slept side by side with them on long boat journeys and got a real taste of their hospitality.
On our last journey, Kia noticed there were cockroaches crawling around the walls and made us change positions so that she was as far away from the wall as possible. The people around us noticed. One came over and assured her they wouldn’t hurt her, another offered to get some spray from the information desk, a third told her she could sleep on a table instead of the floor. Their concern was deeply endearing.
5. You avoid traveller burnout
Our first month in Vanuatu was exhilarating but exhausting. When I finished my PADI course (which had been packed into three days instead of five), I turned to Kia and said that I felt like a zombie! We had crammed so much into such a short period of time, we really needed some time to just chill.
Of course, the pace doesn’t compare to a month’s teaching back home, but it’s also clear that I wouldn’t have been able to sustain it. We’re planning to be on the road for a year and in that time we’ve got some mighty adventures planned. I don’t want to get six months in and decide I’m too exhausted to carry on – I’ll regret it forever.
We’re currently sitting in our hostel room in Nadi. Tomorrow, we move on to the Mamanuca Islands. We’ve taken about four days to make a trip we could have done in three hours but I’m so much happier we took our time and managed to do, see and explore more along the way. We’re fortunate enough to have the time to do very little, very slowly. I don’t want it to always be like this, but for the past couple of weeks it’s been just fine – like a holiday within a holiday.
Now for some shark diving.