I am currently immersed in my favorite part of planning a trip – the jigsaw puzzle of deciding where I want to go, how to fit together my itinerary, and deciding how long to stay in any one location. My puzzle is complicated by the unavoidable fact that I have fibromyalgia. No longer may I pursue a never-ending check-list of sightseeing and activities, jumping from city to city, town to town in brief stays as I pack in as much sightseeing as possible. I would be out of commission within 24 hours.
This glaring limitation has turned out to be a blessing in disguise and I have been learning about the art of slow travel. I have to slow down and allow myself time to rest and recuperate. The upside has been unexpected – when I am forced to slow down and walk, not run, to the next discovery, I begin to notice the swirling of daily life around me. I observe, appreciate, savour, and leave myself open to meeting new people. Slowing down gives me a richer, more authentic travel experience.
This ethos of travel informs all of my plans for Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroes. This Nordic corner of the world is a hiker’s paradise of ethereal landscapes, fire and ice, mountains and lava fields, hot springs and remote black sand beaches, wind-lashed sea cliffs and remote sheep farms. I cannot wait to lace up my hiking boots.
However, I have to remain cognizant of my body’s limitations. A day hike requires I remember to let my body rest. Some activities, such as sea kayaking and glacier hiking, means at least a day to recover. I must plan accordingly in my itinerary. So I am practicing the art of pacing as I plan.
My overriding guideline is simple: plan 1 day of rest for each strenuous activity. For example, I want desperately to go sea kayaking in one of Iceland’s eastern fjords. Instead of planning 1 day and 2 nights as most on-the-go tourists do, I am planning 2 days and 3 nights in Seydisfjordur. One day to sea kayak and explore the harbor town; one day to rest, lounge in a cafe, and soak in the ubiquitous hot pots at all of Iceland’s neighborhood pools.
This kind of planning unavoidably lengthens my travels, but I find I am okay with that. It is in the moments of unplanned space, silence in my itinerary, that I often discover the essence of the local culture and community. I feel a sense of freedom from any planning constraints – freedom to browse a bookstore, linger in a gallery, or chat with a potential new friend.
So as I piece together my itinerary, I am resisting the urge to plan every moment of every day. My overambitious, perfectionist side resists, but the reality of fibro has taught me it’s often better to allow space to go with the flow.