Planning Slower Travel: My First International Trip of 2018

In May 2018, I'm headed back to London, England for my fifth visit and counting. This likely comes as a surprise to no one, since London is my favorite city in the world and I haven’t been in over a year (withdrawals are in full swing currently). 

But I'm also going to Montreal, Canada. 

In the same 10 day trip.

From Nashville, Tennessee. 

So how in the world did this happen?

When Your Best Travel Buddies Choose Two Different Continents to Visit... In the Same Week

Last year, a former coworker of mine who also happens to be one of my best traveling friends made a decision to embark on her biggest adventure to date: she is getting married this June! True to form, she chose an international destination for her bachelorette festivities, so we are headed to Montreal in May to celebrate. After I’d penciled in the Montreal dates, I heard from another group of travel buddies who were headed to London and Scotland in May 2018…. and they were obviously planning their trip on the same dates I was headed to Canada.

I was originally planning to extend the long bachelorette weekend in Montreal to a week-long sojourn through either Canada or Iceland. But as soon as I heard the word “London”, my brain stopped being able to plan trips anywhere else. As I’ve written before here on the blog, sometimes, you just have to plan the trip you really want to go on... even if it doesn’t make sense.

Because sometimes, it works out. 

My First International Trip of 2018: Nashville to London to Montreal to Nashville

If your initial reaction when you read the route for this trip was “that flight can’t be cheap”, you are not wrong. Fortunately, I had some travel points saved on my credit card which I used to bring my out of pocket cost down to about the same amount I’d pay for a round trip flight to London on a really good day. Additionally, this particular multi-city flight happens to be an excellent flight (no 30+ hour, 2-stop flight legs on this one, which is a big deal when you are planning a trip to 2 continents in 10 days!) In fact, it is arguably my best flight ever to Europe… because up until this month, this flight didn’t exist.

Most readers know I have a love-hate relationship with Nashville, TN, and one of the major factors I’ll put in the “hate” column is the international flight situation. Up until now, flying to Europe always meant flying to Atlanta, NYC, Toronto or some other city with an airport that actually flies to Europe… then sometimes having a stop in Europe (Dublin, London, Paris, etc.) before finally landing wherever it was I was trying to go on that particular trip. I can’t say that convoluted flight path was a deal breaker for traveling, since I’ve been flying to Europe from Nashville for the past 10 years… but as you can imagine, I was BEYOND excited to learn that Nashville was finally getting a direct flight to London! It opened yesterday (Friday, May 4th) and I’ll be flying on it to London next week!

After landing in London on Saturday morning, I’ll stay there until Friday of the following week when I fly to Montreal (also direct, because London has been doing this direct-flights-to-international-countries thing for a long time thankfully). After the long weekend in Canada, I’ll be headed back to Nashville and back to work the very next day!

Six Days in London on My Fifth Visit?

When I was initially planning this trip, I fell hard into my old habits and immediately started trying to use my six days in the UK to go to London and Wales, London and the Cotswolds, London and Cornwall, etc. Then it hit me: I’ve been talking about wanting to travel slower forever, and here I have a golden opportunity to do just that. To not try to shove another city into this trip where I’m already visiting two continents. To not go to Wales, a country I’ve never even visited, for 48 hours just so I can add a 19th country to my list. 

Obviously, the travel buddies I’m meeting in London are planning a more typically fast-paced trip. They’ll be in London with me Saturday through Monday (a little over 48 hours total), then they are heading to several cities in Scotland. I certainly understand the conundrum, since it is one I’ve been dealing with for the past five years while working full-time and traveling: when you only have 10 days abroad every year, it is difficult to justify not going to as many cities and countries as you can. 

I just don’t want to do that type of traveling as much anymore. 

I can’t say it was an overnight change, but on my last few trips abroad I’ve been a bit fed up with the timeline. With having a list of 20 things I want to see and do in a city but only being able to do 3. With spending as much time on planes, trains and buses (and waiting on planes, trains and buses) between cities as I’m actually able to spend in the cities themselves. With running myself absolutely ragged on every trip, and generally coming back to the States and straight back to my cubicle sporting a massive sinus infection as a consequence of 10 days with no sleep. With barely scratching the surface of the places I visit, and never really feeling that I get to know them. 

So to Answer the Question “Is This Trip Efficient”, I’d Say it Depends on How You Define Efficient. 

If efficient travel means you set foot in as many cities and countries as you can in as short a time as possible, then this is my least efficient trip to date. 

But if you define efficient the way I’m coming to define it as I get older and travel more, and you prioritize spending time with the people you want to travel with, having enough time to get off the beaten tourist path so you can see the city from a local’s point of view, and getting to know the cities you visit on a deeper level… then this is probably the most efficient trip I’ve been on since I started working full time. 

While I may head out on a day trip from London for a few hours at some point (...old habits die hard), I’m planning to spend most of six days and nights in my favorite city in the world discovering markets and streets and attractions and restaurants and pubs I’ve never had the time to see before. I’ll be with friends for two days and nights and solo the rest of the time. And I’ll be doing the type of travel I want to do going forward: slower, more authentic travel.

And I couldn’t be happier. 

Suggestions for off-the-beaten-path places I need to see in London? Please feel free to share in the comments!