When Solo Travel is Slow Travel: Greece at my Pace

Ancient Greek statue of a woman in Athens National Archeological Museum
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There are many benefits to traveling solo, once you get up the courage: the chance to meet more people, to nab a spot at a crowded restaurant or bar, and freedom to do whatever you want, at whatever speed you want to do it.

Ancient Cycladic figurines from Greek islands in the National Archeological Museum
Like peep some amazing Cycladic sculptures.

The trap of busy

We live in a fast-paced world that tells us constantly we should be doing more, seeing more, and moving faster and faster. On this year-long trip of mine, I’ve thought hard about how I want to spend it and what I want to experience. Do I want to scramble to get to as many places as possible? Should I hop on a bus every day to get to the next city, site, or country?

No. That’s not the pace I want, that feeling that you’re grazing the surface of places and people and then getting on the next plane. I’m going slowly. That means I’ll visit fewer places, but feel them more.

So many of us (myself included!) rush through hours, through days, and we stay on the track of busyness we have decided makes us feel valued or productive or safe. But, to quote Annie Dillard, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

Akrotiri wall fresco in National Archeological Museum in Athens Greece
So I spent my day seeking beauty and tragedy.

The freedom to go slow

Of course, many times in life we truly have a lot on our plates. Currently, I have the wonderful privilege to have very little (I do still have to do laundry constantly thanks to my tiny suitcase).

So I’m using all this wonderful, valuable, irreplaceable time to do something I’ve never had the chance to do: travel slowly.

That means:

  • Spending a whole decadent month in Paris, living like a local
  • Taking an hour on my quick Genève stopover to just sit on a dock on the beautiful lake and watch the moon rise and the swans feed
  • Today, discovering the National Archeological Museum in Athens and spending five blissful hours going through the whole thing

That’s right, today I spent five full hours in one museum. I went through the whole goddamn thing. I couldn’t leave! Another room, another exhibit kept beckoning to me with whispers of the ancient past.

Doing what makes you happy

I’ve always had not-so-mainstream interests, at least for someone raised in American suburbia. I despise team sports, either playing or watching. I love reading and adore museums. I’m outdoorsy in that I like drinking on patios. Fast food is something I categorically refuse (except Dunkin’ which is life because I am a New Englander).

So often when I travel with others, they get bored of what I want to do quickly. No long museum visits, no hours laying on the beach reading quietly, and sometimes they tease you for your library-going habits (heyyy former coworkers).

But when I’m alone, it’s all my decisions. I’ve been obsessed with everything Ancient Greek since college: I studied the philosophy and literature and architecture and art and even the language there (yes, this made me very popular and cool at the time). This museum today was all the beautiful things I knew from books, but in real life, right in front of my wonder-filled eyes.

It was a heaven all my own. I’m grateful to have had the freedom to enjoy it, and the courage to do what I truly love.

Solo female traveler on Lycabettus Hill in Athens Greece
Me, on top of the world (or at least Athens).

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  1. Darlene

    Hi Kathleen,

    The moment I read the title, I already knew I’d love this post. So much freedom in solo travel! I agree, life can get so busy that we miss all the beautiful stuff sometimes, so you make a good point about slowing down. It’s inspiring that you’ve made the deliberate choice to travel, yet remain humble and also be so generous to share your experiences with all of us!

    I love this: “I’m outdoorsy in that I like drinking on patios.” Same. 🙂

    Thanks for this beautiful post!


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