One of the great advantages of slow travel is the gift of time — time to wander and even get a little lost. Dictionary.com defines “wander” as: to ramble without a definite purpose or objective; roam, rove or stray. The next time you’re in a new city, town or village or in the country, ditch the itinerary and just step out the door and roam. Enjoy the delicious feeling of having nowhere special to go and nowhere you must be at any particular time. The day is completely open, just for you — to wander and explore.
Years ago, I started going on what I called my Saturday adventures, usually by myself. I’d recently moved to a small coastal town and I was anxious to explore the surrounding area. These weekend escapes were completely unplanned. I’d glance at a map, pick a direction and head off, not knowing what or whom I’d find along the way. My only itinerary was my intention to wander and see something new.
Sometimes I’d spot an intriguing estate sale. Sometimes I’d drive through a small town and tour a historic home. Often, I’d meet a local who’d steer me to a favorite restaurant or to a nature trail leading to a majestic outlook.
I was free to go with the flow, to follow my instincts and my inner yearnings. If a thrift shop beckoned, I’d stop and shop. If the tide was out, I’d stroll along a deserted beach. If a herd of cows drew my attention, I’d pull over and gaze contentedly at the pastoral scene.
Not only did I find beautiful places and people along the way, I learned a lot about myself. It was the beginning of a personal shift in the way I travel that continues today. I’m still in the habit of going on Saturday Adventures, although not always on Saturdays. And when I’m in Europe, wandering is my favorite way to explore a new city, town, village or countryside.
Wandering gets you off the beaten path
How boring it would be to only stick to the main roads and tourist sites. When you wander, you’re far more likely to take the road less traveled and to discover areas that are not in the guidebook. Don’t be afraid to veer off the main drag and drive or walk down side streets. This is the where real life happens. This is where you can discover those hidden gems. My favorite city to wander and get lost in is Venice. Once you step away from Piazza San Marco, and take one of the quiet, winding streets, you might discover a vintage bookstore and the most interesting antique shop you’ve ever seen.
Wandering creates more spontaneity
Without an itinerary or schedule, you are free to explore whatever you find along your way: a museum, a restaurant, a beautiful garden, a quiet neighborhood. You can be as spontaneous as you like. If a street looks interesting, go down it. If someone tells you about a festival in the next village, you have no plans — just go.
Wandering leads to new discoveries and adventures
Some of my most memorable travel adventures (and misadventures) were the direct result of wandering — sometimes a little too far. Like the time my then boyfriend and I were hiking across farmer’s fields in Ireland, having no idea of where we were going, but certain that a gorgeous view of the coastline was just on the other side of the hill. Yet every hill we climbed revealed another field and another hill. As we crested the next hill, it wasn’t a view of coast we saw, but the eyes of a snorting bull staring straight at us. I never jumped a fence so fast!
Wandering becomes a mindful experience
When we’re not rushing around and thinking about where we must be next, we can be more present and mindful. We’re simply enjoying the sights, sounds and smells around us and enjoying each moment. This is where slow travel becomes a mindful experience.
Wandering is guided by your intuition
I believe in the power of our intuition to always steer us in the right direction. No matter where you wander, trust your inner knowing and listen to your intuition. It’s your inner (tour) guide. Your intuition is there to keep you safe. If you turn down a street and something doesn’t feel right, turnaround. Of course, it’s always a good idea to stay aware of your surroundings and the people around you. But couple that with the power of your intuition and you’ll know who’s approachable or not. When you trust your intuition, you’ll enjoy wandering and even getting a little lost at times. Remember: “Not all those who wander are lost.” This quote by J.R.R. Tolkein is one of my favorites.
If you’re currently planning a trip to Europe, I encourage you to leave as many unplanned days as possible, just to wander.