Are you not tired of busy touristic locations full of people taking selfies? Fortunately, a new trend is being born that goes against that – slow travel.
There is no clear definition of what slow travel is. Everyone understands it differently. However, there are some common ideas. It includes visiting a new site with an open mind, no planning. Quality of experience is over quantity. It should help you embrace a moment. For some people it’s their natural traveling style, others still need to learn. And I think I found a perfect place to practice slow traveling – Bieszczady.
Bieszczady is a mountain range in the south-east of Poland. Wild forests full of bears and wolfs are the typical landscape of this region. On top of higher mountains, there are alpine meadows called “połoniny”.
This region is popular among scouts who come here for summer camps. It is also a magnet for artists. Songwriters, sculptors, painters, and poets look for inspiration in this tranquil place.
It is so quiet that the only noise you may hear at night is your neighbors singing by a bonfire. When the lights are off you stay in total darkness – no lanterns, no cars.
It is a perfect location to escape from the busy everyday life. And once you are on holidays why not taking it slow, enjoying every moment and collecting unique memories.
Here are my 24 ideas on how to spend your travel time in a more mindful way.
1. “Catch” a butterfly
Hiking itself is a nice way to spend active time outdoors. However, sometimes walking fast to our destination point we may not pay much attention to what surrounds us. Stop for a moment, look around and you may even get butterfly sitting on your hand! There are many colorful species of butterflies in Bieszczady. Why not looking for some of them?
2. Eat some forest fruit
Hungry? Instead of having unhealthy snacks, get a blueberry or raspberry straight from the plant. The ones that grow in sunny spots are always the sweetest.
3. Sit on a meadow and make a wreath or bouquet from field flowers
Meadows are full of beautiful flowers and they are completely for free! When was the last time you made a bouquet by yourself?
The best meadows are “połoniny” because you get extra an amazing view.
4. Buy a local art piece
No one understands the area better than the local artists, who get inspired by culture and nature. Instead of buying a plastic made in China, get yourself a “real” souvenir, like a painting or a sculpture. One idea might be an icon coated with real gold – a bit pricey but stays with you forever.
5. Collect mushrooms
Wild forests are full of goodies. Not only fresh fruit but also mushrooms, which you can pick and prepare for dinner. Be careful to choose only the eatable ones.
6. Find a spider web
I don’t really like spiders, but spider webs after the rain always grab my attention.
7. Practice your photography skills
Instead of taking a photo of a well-known tourist attraction, look for new spots, angles, and ideas. Get creative about it and learn something new. Try to document unique moments, so that no one could reproduce your photo.
8. Try some local specialties
In Bieszczady you can try any typical Polish food, like pierogi or pancakes. Some people still take care of sheep, goats, and cows and collect their milk to make cheese. You have to try oscypki, bundz, bryndza and many more. Another delicious meal to try is definitely a trout. Fish restaurants are in every village. To bring some flavor of Bieszczady home, you can get a jar of honey. Its quality is really good, because of the exceptionally clean air and water in this area.
9. Have a picnic on top of the mountain
People sometimes pay a lot of money just to eat in a restaurant on top of a skyscraper. You can prepare some nice food at home, pack it in your rucksack and eat it on top of the mountain. It’s not only way cheaper, you also get a fresh air and a stunning view as a bonus. Wooden benches sometimes even with tables can be found at most of the trails in Bieszczady.
10. Read local legends
To better understand where you actually are, where names of the villages, mountains or streams come from you may need to read a bit. Read a book with local legends, which are full of interesting stories. They are also a great entertainment for kids.
11. Collect stamps from every trip
Whenever you enter the National Park you can get a stamp as a confirmation. You can collect them in a notebook, on postcards or in a specially designated album from PTTK (Polish Tourist and Sightseeing Society). Some mountain shelters also have their own special stamps.
12. Spend an afternoon in a mountain shelter
Hot chocolate, tea with rum, warm apple pie and board games – sounds good? On a rainy, cloudy days mountain shelters provide a cozy atmosphere. People can hide from bad weather and wait for the sun to come back. They rest before next parts of the walk, eat and dry their clothes. If you stay a bit longer you can sit by the fireplace and play games or guitar. Maps on the walls and books on shelves are common decorative elements of typically wooden interiors.
13. Go on a muddy path
To feel more adventurous put on good shoes and go on a path slippery with mud. Splash through the puddles. It will make you dirty and tired, but you will never forget that day.
14. Learn to distinguish new plant species
Traveling is a great opportunity to learn something new. Buy a plant lexicon and look for the ones you have never seen before. Bieszczady is full of herbs which you can collect and process to prepare tea, medicines, and cosmetics. Do some research on when to harvest, how to dry them how beneficial they may be to your health.
15. Create: paint, draw, write.
Get creative and try something new. Maybe you lost the faith in your drawing skills already in kindergarten. Don’t worry – it is never too late to start again. Look for new shapes, interesting colors, and compositions. Experiment with techniques. Start a diary and write about what you see, hear and smell. All those details will bring back memories whenever you read it. You can write a poem or even a song. Let your creativity flourish.
16. Get lost in a fog
Early in the morning fields are covered with a thick fog. Sometimes it stays the whole day long. Gradually it covers also mountain picks. Although it covers wonderful panoramic views, it makes you look better at what is much closer around you.
17. Look for stones by the stream
Make a picnic by the stream. Bring a blanket, a good book, and some snacks. Listen to the sound of water. Collect some stones and built a tower or a castle. Choose the prettiest one and bring it home.
18. Go for a Nordic walking training
Maybe it is not exactly “slow” travel idea because it will make you walk faster. However, matching sport with sightseeing could increase the intensity of impressions.
19. Get yourself a funny raincoat and enjoy the rain
The climate in the mountains makes the weather unpredictable. In your house, it might be sunny, but then you meet a storm on top of the mountain. You always need to be prepared for any possibility. But what if there is no sun at all. How to still enjoy the time? Get yourself a funny raincoat – with a silly pattern or fluorescent color. Match it with equally silly wellingtons and sing “I am dancing in the rain”.
20. Find some wild animals
If you don’t live in a countryside the probability you see wild animals in their natural habitat on regular bases is pretty low. Instead of going to the zoo, take an opportunity to observe animals in their real environment. Some like bears or wolf might be dangerous, so be careful. But start with something smaller like a snail, lizard or squirrel. Iconic animals of Bieszczady are also Hucul ponies and bison. If you are interested check for specially designated horse trails as an alternative to hiking.
21. Talk to local people
To find places which are not described in the travel book guides you need someone who knows the area way better. Ask workers in shelters about interesting, less popular hiking trails. How do they get to work every day? How do they bring water to the shelter? Talk to shepherd about their sheep: How many do they have? Which type of cheese do they make? Interview icon writer about his technique. Get friendly with farmers and they make take you to haymaking on their tractor. Colliers are almost extinct in this area, so it is the last chance to get to know about this profession.
22. Go on a choo-choo train
Choo-choo trains sound a bit childish. But kids enjoy everything more intense than adults, so why not learning from them? Bieszczady has its own special forest railway with the main station in Majdan. Little wooden wagons don’t have glass windows, so you can feel the wind in your hair. Wave to other tourists who you are passing by and they give you a smile back. If you are interested in a history of this railway visit also a museum with interesting exhibitions.
23. Visit churches
For more spiritual experience visit one of the wooden orthodox or Greek Catholic churches, which are a characteristic architecture type of the region. Some of them are a bit more popular among tourists than others, but still are a good place for contemplation and calming down.
24. Eat potatoes from a bonfire
When it gets dark, go outside and look at the stars. Both in summer and winter, you can make a bonfire. Prepare some sausages and potatoes to bake. Get nice drinks that will make you feel warm too. Bring a guitar and sing with friends.
What is your traveling style? I hope I made you feel inspired to try traveling slow.