In the best-selling book and motion picture Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert spends an entire year on the road. She visits three different countries for four months each. How did she do it? Apart from having a book deal already in place to fund her journey, she also travelled smart and travelled slow, especially in her choice of lodging. From Italy to India and Indonesia, she chose longer-term apartment and lodge rental.
How can you do the same – slow down your own adventures? Well, start by choosing just one place to visit and commit to getting to know it well. Then rent an apartment, lodge or guesthouses with weekly or monthly deals.
Need help getting your imagination racing? Here are a five excellent slow-travel lodging ideas.
Art Lodge in Gobernadora Island, Panama
Isla Gobernadora is located off the Pacific cost of central Panama at the mouth of the Golfo de Montijo, an important wetland predictably called the Humedal Golfo de Montijo. It’s within sight of the famous wave of Santa Catalina and the wonders lying beneath the waters of Coiba National Park. Most importantly, it’s where you will find a special place called Art Lodge.
The owners of Art Lodge, Valerie and Yves, have built an island paradise where you immediately feel at home. As both Valerie and Yves are French artists, the facilities and layout of the lands reflect their love of creativity. Everything is unique – each bungalow has its own character and artistic flair – constructed using local supplies, recycling materials and even incorporating smooth driftwoods from the beach into the designs.
The Art Lodge helps you slow down by changing your rhythm. Isla Gobernadora is a place where people still prefer the relaxed pace of the island life. You tap into it by participating in handicrafts workshops, going fishing or discovering the island and its surroundings. This small idyll has no cars or roads – just footpaths worn into place by generations of locals keeping things as simple as possible.
Kiansom Villa in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Snuggled into the lush green of Sabah on Malaysian Borneo is an ideal place for slow travellers in search of tranquillity. One perfect spot is Kiansom Villa, a self-catering holiday home with fully furnished and spacious rooms large enough for up to six people. A kitchenette makes home cooking possible, as does a convenient local market for the purchase of fresh ingredients.
Our advice is to book for at least a week and take your time with all that there is around the villa. Visit the Mari-mari Cultural Village – a reminder of the ancient indigenous tribal era – a mere five minutes’ drive from Kiansom. Set aside a full day for Manukan Island, a haven part of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and just 20 minutes by boat from Jesselton Point, Kota Kinabalu. You can arrange for island hopping, snorkelling, diving or pure relaxation.
On a drive into the hinterland of scenic hills and paddy fields, stop by at the village of Pekan Nabalu to savour local fruits in season. Visit the Kinabalu Park World Heritage Site and make your way to Poring Hot Springs, famous for its sulphur baths, canopy walkway, butterfly farm, orchid conservation centre and tropical gardens, as well as the Kipungit and Langanan waterfalls.
Herceg Etno Selo Village in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Visit a bygone era just outside of Medjugorje in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Opened just four years ago, Herceg Etno Selo was built to help travellers step back to a time when life was simpler and slower. To get oriented, follow the stepping-stone paths through the 15 buildings built using age-old masonry techniques and arranged to create a sense of community.
Inside your own village house, you’ll find handcrafted mahogany furniture and warm, soft lighting. The favourite common area is the restaurant, which is located at the heart of the village. Here you can enjoy a real taste of rural Bosnia pulled from a menu of local food and wine, including famous varieties like Zilavka and Blatina.
This assembly of traditional-style houses feels like a village also because of an emphasis on culture. The amphitheatre – another favourite common area – hosts regularly scheduled local shows and events. You’ll even find an ethnography museum with great insight into the country’s past. Shoppers can browse in the village shop, which stocks traditional masonry tools and artefacts.
Bua River Lodge in Malawi
The newly opened Bua River Lodge is all about mood – good ones and slow ones. Built with repurposed safari tents on the bank of the Bua River, it is illuminated at night with paraffin lanterns and solar-powered lamps, which means there are no noisy generators and, at dinner, the ambiance is truly magical. When you’re looking out over the river, every night is a good night, but full moons are particularly magical.
As extra incentive to go slow and stay longer, the lodge offers a discount for stays of three days or longer. We urge you to take advantage of it and let the enchantment seep in. You’re going to need to take your time here – leisure activities include fishing, bird watching and walking safaris.
River View Bungalows in Vang Vieng, Laos
Called the River View Bungalows, they are a family-owned business inspired by Mr Southchai Chanthavong, a young entrepreneur with a passion for Laos and its tourism industry. Southchai studied accounting and English in Vientiane before returning to his hometown of Vang Vieng to live his dream of building the River View Bungalows, an internet cafe and the Saysong Guesthouse.
Given the abundance of activities around Vang Vieng, especially the ever-popular river tubing trips that launch from the tubing station nearby, you’ll need at least a week here. Act fast for slow travel savings, though. Until April 11 (2012), get 10% off your stay at the River View Bungalows by booking online in advance.