Unsettled Goes Slow: Highlights from Our Slow Travel Contest
By: The Unsettled Team
We were overjoyed and wholeheartedly inspired by all of our community’s entries to our Slow Travel Contest over at Unsettled HQ.
We would be remiss not to share some highlights from your reflections on stillness, insight, and how quiet moments of reflection deeply connect us to ourselves and the world around us, on our blog.
Until then, adventure on…
WINNER: DAVE TAUBE
“After months of planning, days of organizing and packing, 36 hours of sitting on cramped planes, a night in a seedy Johannesburg hotel, and a four hour drive to Madikwe Game Reserve up near the Botswana border, I finally made it to my destination, the lodge that was going to be my safari base for the next three days. My plan was to spend as much time as possible searching for wildlife and to bring home some good photos and some great memories.
I was greeted in the entryway by the receptionist, who handed me a cool towel to remove the dust and sweat that I had acquired during the drive, and a glass of cold fruit juice. Refreshed, I proceeded to her desk. Pen in hand, I began to fill out the necessary paperwork. As I was writing, she told me to look outside the lobby at the water hole.
I glanced over my shoulder, dropped my pen and dropped my jaw. Not 100 meters from where I stood, were two enormous elephants. I grabbed my camera, told the receptionist that I would be right back, and scurried towards the behemoths. I walked as close as I was allowed to and started snapping away. Within minutes, other elephants joined the pair. Huge bulls, mothers with their adorable young, and playful adolescents. Over the next hour, at least 70 elephants came to the water hole to drink, cool themselves off, and splash around. Elephants of all sizes were slurping and gurgling, playing and spraying. It was the most incredible experience of my life.
Time, for me, had stopped. Nothing but those elephants existed in my world. I was totally mesmerized by their presence.
It was at that moment that I had an epiphany. I realized that what I loved doing more than anything else was being with wildlife in its natural habitat. I wanted to witness the sheer rawness and power of nature. To watch a leopard stalk a gazelle, to hear a lion roar in the night, and to feel the thundering hooves of thousands of wildebeests during the Great Migration.
In our everyday world of alarm clocks, stop lights, decisions and deadlines, slowing down to observe and to absorb is essential for refreshing and renewing the human spirit.
Amazed by what I had seen, I slowly walked back to the lobby and finished filling out the forms.”
“This picture was taken in the Thar desert, at the end of my 3 month trip through beautiful India…I packed my stuff and went on an adventure for 3 months without a plan but knowing the purpose of the trip: learning.”
“I feel that’s why traveling is so liberating, it makes you appreciate every little moment, slow down, observe, and then happiness is just a consequence!”
Staci L. Best
“I recently completed a nearly 2k nautical mile sail to some of the world’s most remote islands – the Gambier and Marquesas of French Polynesia…though I captured hundreds of photos of my time in French Polynesia – the islands, the people, the coral reefs, the vegetation- this simple photo of Laundry Day on the vast Pacific at dead calm really reminds me of how little I need to be happy, and how happy I am to have little.”
“My trip to Hawaii was a life-changing experience. I dreamed of the moment I would be blessed to step on an island that was full of incredible energy, full of what the Hawaiians call ‘mana’.”
“Certain sites in Hawaii are believed to possess strong ‘mana’, the spiritual energy of power and strength that exists around and inside us. That place was the epitome of mana…”
“Nepal – Probably the most Unsettled trip I had ever made! This was taken in Chitwan National Park during a safari at dawn. I had lived the most exciting yet the most peaceful moments in my life there. This trip to Nepal was a turning point in my life.”
Shereen Atef Halawa
“My experience of slow traveling is when I was hiking to the summit of the Red Mountain (2,300m) in Sinai, Egypt…I would describe this as a slow traveling experience; slow and steady, slow and fun, slow and enjoyable, slow and challenging.”
“This dromedary was called Mimoun which means luck in Moroccan Darija language and Arabic too. He was resting on a small dune by the Atlantic by Essaouira City, a fisherman town located halfway in Morocco on the West coast…I ended up staying in Morocco for 4 years.”
Rachel Vann (Unsettled Sailing: Thailand alumni)
“This photo was actually taken on the Unsettled Thailand sailing trip in December, during our last night on the boat…I met so many wonderful and welcoming people with the more interesting backgrounds and stories. I also felt the most relaxed I have in years—probably since the invention of social media. When I travel, I am typically a planner, and too preoccupied with doing and seeing it all that I forget to enjoy the moment and where I am. Sailing, however, (with no set destination or agenda I might add) gave me the opportunity to really sit back, relax, enjoy the moment and truly be present.”
Stacy Sample (Unsettled: Peru alumni)
“When your career of 18 years falls apart around you, I learned to take some time to slowly start over. This is me pouring out my heart and grieving the losses to the sound of the rocky waves in Lima. Being intentional about my next steps has made all the difference! Thanks to this time in Lima I have a clear why that guides my steps. This sabbatical let me hear from God and walk in a new direction. This was part of my new beginning!”
“Here I am in Monument Valley, Utah in August 2016. It took me 2 days, 13 hours, 2 buses and endless roads to get there. That’s pretty slow – but what *really* made it the definition of “slow travel” is the 4 years that preceded the journey. 4 years in which I slogged, worked three jobs, hustled, freelanced and sacrificed a great deal to get the money for the trip, get the logistics sorted, get the time off, get my head in the right mindset (I had to work very hard to tell myself I was worthy and deserving of slowing down, experiencing this trip for no other reason than really, *really* wanting to experience it). Then I arrived, sat down on that beautifully dusty, seemingly endless ground and every single, painstakingly slow second leading up to it had been worth it…I slowed down. And it was the most beautiful day of my life.”
Lori Kahn Hamlin
“In the last year, I have had 1 child graduate from HS, quit my job, gotten divorced, Turned 50 & have my last child graduate next month…. I will be an empty nester. My life is not at all how I expected it to turn out and it has gone by in a flash. I am making a conscious effort to stop living in the past or being anxious over the future and instead try to be present and enjoy each day as it comes. I want to make each day better for someone else & really appreciate the beauty in the little things. This photo is the picture in my head when I go to my happy place and want to be at peace.”
“Traveling slow is about going somewhere and experiencing the place for all it’s worth. Taking my time to meet people, locals or travelers passing by. Seeing places most don’t get to see and working in places that will mark me like a beauty spot for my mind. Speckled my brain with the treasured journeys I continue to accumulate. I took this photo in a small beach town in Portugal called Figueira Da Foz. I arrived at the end of the summer season when everything started to calm down. My job as a volunteer worker was to take photos to capture the magic of this place. The plan? To stay a month vs. the reality: I stayed for 3!”
“That’s me during a visit to Amboro National Park in Bolivia. I had owned a small restaurant for the previous 10 years. Not only did I run it, organize everything and keep it alive all the time, but I worked 16 hour days all the year round…This moment in the national park was amongst many incredible moments of peace and tranquility I felt as I slowed down, not just physically but mentally too… Life is too short to not sit and smell the roses!!”
“There are moments in life that could never be anticipated, moments that your soul yearns for, places that keep a part of your heart forever. I close my eyes and I’m back. Riding the bumpy waves to Nusa Ceningan Island with my three angels. The journey sometimes takes you to unexpected places where your heart heals and unwinds. That place for me was a beach next to Mahana Point called Secret Beach. I close my eyes and I’m there.”
“Slow travel: Changing human perspective, effortlessly.
Journey: I had taken a 9-hour bus ride along the mountains from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu to Pokhara.
Plan: I was to spend a week not in Pokhara but at the ‘village on a hill’, Sarangkot, in a serene and tranquil week, where my only daily activity was to interact with fellow humans. A lot of joy.
Perspective: Perched on the top of the hill so close to the sky, so high up, I was on top of the world. Mesmerised by the beauty of the slopes and the bright night-lights of that minuscule town, so far, deep down below. I had spent afternoons on the stairways chatting to children who repeatedly carried water up to their homes and to mothers washing clothes at the outdoor communal washbasin.
Then one morning, after a few glorious days in Sarangkot, the calm clouds nonchalantly drifted apart to make way for the majesty above it. At that moment, with sheer grace, the sun had shone to reveal the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. Breathtaking. However, to my surprise, I couldn’t help but feel little. I was no longer so high up close to the sky. Perched on that little hill I was far from the top of those mighty mountains, I was so far, deep down below.
Slow Travel: There is always more than one-way to gaze at something and slow travel never ceases to open our eyes, it does so in the most subtle manner or it astonishes in a flash. Nevertheless, it achieves it with no effort.”
“I like to be challenged when I travel and this was one of my most challenging experiences. In late 2017 I trekked to Everest Base Camp with a few friends. I’d never really trekked that much before but I thought it would be a great experience.
The trek was over several days and was gruelling at times due to the altitude and volume of walking involved. However it provided the perfect opportunity to breathe in the fresh mountain air and appreciate the stunning scenery and culture that was all around you. We got to know about each other a bit more as we escaped the world of screens and technology, but also still had time to ourselves to lose yourself in thought as you made each step towards the goal of reaching base camp.
This picture sums up the entire trip for me. After a tough section of climbing I turned around to see this view and just stopped and took everything in for a few moments. The perfect time to appreciate the wonder of nature that is all around us.”