Adventure travel: art of slowing down

Here we look at where we are today and how do we travel. Then compare this to some though inspiring observations that give us a new perspective on our adventure trips.



Molat harbour where Susie and John ended their kayaking day trip.

'Why didn't we stay for a few days here, John?' – Susie squeezed her ferry ticket and said the words that disappeared in the air of calm Molat harbor, as the three of us were looking at the arriving ferry bound for Zadar Old Town. Neither John nor I replied. It was a statement more than a question.

'It's been a magnificent day and thank you for everything. We really had a gorgeous time. Next time we will come for longer. I wish we didn't book our accommodation in Split tonight.'

I am writing this because I very often hear this message. People overcrowding their itineraries in advance. To be honest, on a private note, on our own travels, my girlfriend and I are guilty of the same. A number of times we found ourselves staring at the bus terminal in Peru, Cuba or Ecuador, wishing we didn't have to go. Wishing we haven't crowded our itineraries as much. Wishing we allowed more time to actually stay there instead of moving to the next place. Wishing we had more time to digest what is here. We all need to live, breathe and make sense of what we see, instead of just see.


sea gulls croatia

Sometimes we are racing ahead on our travels and in our lives. Not unlike a flock of seagulls behind a large fishing boat. It’s easy to lose focus from what matters.

We know we are caught up in the racing game in our work lives. As Pico Iyer clearly put in his talk: 'I was racing so much that I could no longer catch up with my life.'

On the same note, Einstein said that time and space are the same things. You can reduce the distance by moving faster with planes, phones, and emails. However, reducing distance, only happen at the cost of putting more pressure on time.

It is striking that we self-create this pressure during our time off. Holiday becomes another race. Maybe we do that out of fear of change. John Francis noted in his talk about what 17 years of silence taught him: 'I didn't know who I would be if I change.’  Or maybe, it's just fear of missing something. Perhaps we design our holidays like venture capitalists design their investment portfolios: let's diversify and break it into 100 small pieces and then one investment will actually be awesome. We do that knowing that half of the stuff we booked will probably be too much or maybe not as good. It’s hard to choose the right adventures, places to see. That is why it is worthwhile and we appreciate it. Choosing 2 multiday trips instead of 5 single day trips allows us a gap in time to appreciate what we are seeing.

Perhaps we should take inspiration from nature and see how things are designed there. It turns out that it is precisely the gap between and within the activities that make the difference.


slow adventure travel

Only calm and unrushed mind can feel the saltiness of the air, see patterns of rolling hills and notice ripples on the water.

We can see how the gap principle goes to the very core of our being – our DNA. Siddhartha Mukherjee, American physician and oncologist in his book ‘The Gene: An Intimate History’ wrote about the evolution of human gene:

Did you know that worms and humans have most of their genes the same?  What makes the human gene different is what is happening in the gap space filled with non-gene material between the actual genes. It's the proteins there that actually influence when, how, where and how much genes will be activated. So, the stuff in the gap between the genes is the main difference that makes a worm from a man. Your holiday is the same. It's not so much about the sights you see (the genes if you will), but what you make out of it. Two same people may see the same thing but create a completely different impression.

Kayaking on a day trip just to run off to another activity next day is a race. Paddling someplace for 3 days makes a deeper, more meaningful and insightful impression. You get a feel for your kayak, the sea, the waves, the saltiness of the air, the little town streets on islands not worn out from tourism. You say 'Hi' to the local. Primarily because you have time, but also because that's what you do in small towns. Especially if you run into the same person in a cafe, shop, and bakery. That doesn’t happen in a day.

So, the message is: take time to digest things. Do fewer things but do them completely. It means you will see less, but you will see better. There will be fewer dots on the map from your trip, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.


village Sali in Croatia

Taking the time to see life unfold. Either a daily cleaning ritual or a shark teeth pattern on the fishing boat. Adventure is wherever someone is trying to find (time for) it.

To wrap it up: small, magical places exist. They are not in guidebooks, they are not on the main street, they are not even listed on your itinerary. They just happen - very much like life. It's not a collection of boxes to neatly put everything away. It's between the boxes that counts. If finding the magical places is half of the work, the other half is to allow time for magic to happen. Otherwise, it’s as if you were never here.

At it's core, adventure is all about an unexpected outcome. Not knowing what will happen next. Seeing something unique and feeling it in your bones. You can argue that, instead of taking 10 different day trips, taking a two 4-day kayaking trip instead, is an adventure on its own. You will not see ‘entire coast’, but you will feel a dozen of small uninhabited islands. The eyes forget, but the feeling stays.

Just to finish on a small personal note. Some time ago, my girlfriend was attending a year-long Yoga Alliance instructor class with 8 other people. Tutor started by saying: 'All of you are in this class for a reason.' It sounded abstract at the time. Fast forward a couple of years and some of these people are very close friends of ours. One of them got hooked on kayaking and was even one of our kayaking guide for a while. So, everything happens for a reason. You may know the reason only later in future. As Steve Jobs said:

'You can never connect dots (of your life) looking forward. You can only connect dots looking backward.'

I would add to this: allow time for dots to happen in the first place. 🙂

I hope this serves as food for thought and helps you design and have a wonderful (multiday) adventure in Croatia and beyond.

If you want to see more about what John and Susie missed check it out our photo essay on Living on Island Molat.

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‘‘Conversations’ isn’t necessarily about the things that we talked about on our trips. It is about all the topics that you wanted to know about or ones that we promised we’ll look into. It’s about that constant pursuit of Croatia’s and region’s secrets, insights, history and lifestyle. It’s about enabling you to dive behind the obvious and get the best of your travels – challenging the status quo and celebrating cultural and natural diversity.




Hey lets do an adventure trip together! 

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