Many years ago, I spent three weeks in New Zealand with my then-girlfriend. It was the summer holiday we'd both been dreaming of. The perfect way to end a busy year.
However, the stress of the trip tore a hole in our relationship. And a week after returning, we broke up.
It wasn't New Zealand. It was the way we travelled.
She was adamant about cramming so much into our trip as possible, and with both islands, there is so much to see. As we (mostly she) built our itinerary, we frantically worked our way from north to south.
Every day became a game of chasing the ruthless itinerary.
I insisted on spending an afternoon wandering around the neighbourhood in Wellington where my great-grandfather grew up. As I walked the hilly streets, I was struck by the idea that he made a decision to migrate to Melbourne, which meant he met my great-grandmother.
A series of decisions that led to me.
My girlfriend got annoyed as we weren’t ‘actually’ doing anything. This spot wasn’t on her checklist. Or more to the point, it wasn’t Instagrammable.
We ended the trip, (and our relationship) walking the stunning Milford trek. Four days of slowpoking through fjords and rainforests. This was more my pace. Plenty of time to stop and explore. On the final day, you walk 18kms not wanting it to end.
Since we broke up, I have reflected on what memories stand out for me from that trip. And it is those moments when I was still and able to observe and marvel that we were in such beauty.
It wasn't the checked-off list of sights that needed to be seen. Real memories aren’t scrollable.
I am fortunate to live in Australia. A land that rivals New Zealand for natural beauty, albeit on a vast scale. Directions can literally be "drive down the road for two days and then turn right."
Whilst I still yearn for international travel, I am focused on slowpoking my way around southern Australia. And to do that, I spent 2020 converting a Sprinter van into a mobile home on wheels. It has power, running water, composting toilet, fridge and heat.
I'll pack the dogs and off we go. With no clear destination in mind.
The key to slowpoking is to let the landscape unfurl in front of you.
In the time I have had the van, I have been away for countless weekends and many four to five day adventures. By going back to the same places, I am getting to see the subtle beauty of the landscape during different seasons. I am discovering parts of the landscape that the tourists won't see because they're frantically running from one destination to another.
And most of the places aren't on people's radars.
In normal times, over two million people visit the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Not too far is Magic Rock. I found it when scouring Google Maps for accessible places on the coast.
To get there, you drive down a dirt road, past curious dairy cows who watch you dispassionately whilst chewing mouthfuls of grass. At the end, when the scrub bush looks too intimidating, you then need to walk along the cliffs for half an hour. The dirt track is devoid of human footprints.
A small cove opens up below you. Poking out of the gentle waves is this sculptured rock that defies gravity. Somehow it hasn't toppled over.
As you sit there, you can't help marvel at the unlikeliness of life. This rock will, one day, succumb to the forces that surround it. The water will erode the base so that it will have no choice but to fall.
And most likely no one will be there to witness it.
I spent a few hours just sitting there. No one was within cooee, and it was just me at this rock that didn’t know its time was limited. As is mine.
Slowpoking is about finding the small, atomic parts of our world and finding the beauty in it. You don't need to drive past dairy cows to slowpoke. Your own neighbourhood is a perfect place to start. Find places you haven't noticed before. Start off by walking on the other side of the road and see what is different.
Slowpoking is slowing down, discovering newness in what has been in front of you all along. It isn’t fancy. And certainly not for Instagram.