Have you ever thought of changing pace, slowing life down and spending every day with your family? That’s what I’m doing right now with my 10-year-old daughter Emmie as we explore Asia together for the next year or so.
It’s not the first time we’ve done this – from February 2016 Emmie and I travelled for more than two years, just us and our backpacks and no deadlines or plans. It was freeing: it opened our eyes to the world around us and it meant that we were together all the time – a luxury we didn’t have at home in Sydney, Australia.
To us, slow travel really means just taking it easy. The only deadline we ever have is leaving the country we are in before our visa runs out, and we simply plan as we go. If we love a place we stay as long as we like and if we don’t, we move on. If we get sick – Emmie recently had an ear infection – we visit the local clinic and hunker down wherever we are until we are well again, with no worries of missing bookings or needing to move on to stick to an itinerary.
An island paradise
Right now we are on Siquijor Island in the Philippines, which was named Isla del Fuego – The Island of Fire – by the Spanish who came here 1565. It’s a mystical island province in Central Visayas where mangkukulam (healers) still practice today. Recently it’s become a popular tourist island, and is only a short ferry ride from Cebu or Negros.
Siquijor is the tropical island of your dreams – it is filled with palm trees, its many reefs are carpeted with colourful, chubby starfish and stacked with rainbows of fish and ancient, giant corals. Its waterfalls plunge into turquoise pools that seem painted, and the white-sand beaches mostly lead to peaceful snorkelling. There are huge cave systems and underground rivers, and tornadoes of barracuda in its northern waters. It’s still very quiet here (often I have the house reef where we are staying to myself), though we have noticed changes since we were last here four years ago.
Bamboo walkways now surround the beautiful Cambugahay Falls, where rope swings from three towers around the main pool cost 50 pesos for as many swings as you like. The proposed international airport will bring more tourists, so visit the Philippines now before many of its quieter islands become more popular.
We’ve spent three weeks here on this island and will stay a while longer yet: there is another marine park to explore and beaches to swim, and all the time in the world to enjoy being together, making new friends and learning more about the island.
Finding a balance
For Emmie, full time travel means distance education and balancing schoolwork with learning about the world around her, which is another reason to take it slow. Emmie is at her best when she has time – aren’t we all? – and, while during our first trip away we struggled with schooling, right now we are managing well.
A day's work might include maths and an online assignment as part of her formal work, and helping to manage our budget and converting prices from Philippine pesos to Australian dollars puts what she's learned into action. Yesterday we explored rock pools and Emmie created her own assignment about corals, and art class today is drawing the rock pools' creatures. We try to balance formal schoolwork with a "world schooling" approach of learning from everything around her as we move through Asia. We both learn so much as we travel.
The social and life skills Emmie learns from our journeys, and exposure to many different cultures, religions and ways of living, is priceless, and at this time in her life – and mine – it’s the best life for us.
Bonding over distance
If you’re considering full time travel I cannot support or encourage you enough. The benefits of being with your family or loved ones every day without the routine, restrictions and anxiety of a busy life at home are immeasurable. I have learnt so much about my little girl since we have been travelling together. We have created a special bond that will keep us close for her whole life, and we have shared incredible adventures and experiences.
Waking up on the Great Wall of China, scuba diving for the first time, sitting on the top of a small boat in Cambodia as it inched its way through the Tonle Sap River, Emmie trying her first xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in Taipei, delivering rice to needy families, hiking through jungles, jumping into waterfalls and meeting friendly locals everywhere. To us, this is truly living.
Our album of memories from travelling slowly together will always be in our hearts and minds, and I strongly believe that this life – the slow life, the travelling life – is truly our best life.
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