Slow down for a day or two

Captain of the slow boat going from Huay-Xai in Thailand to Luang Prabang Laos.

We all find ourselves in times of serious doubt about where life it taking us. Think of those moments wherein the whole idea of being a business traveller seems the worst concept ever. Why would one leave his family and friends back home to find himself sitting in a co-working space on the other side of the world for eight hours a day, five days a week? When stress hits the fan, the joyful travel activities that should alternate with the strenuous working hours are the first to disappear from the daily schedule.

Many of us check our phones too often, and this is linked to higher levels of stress.

It seems like everyone is looking for the perfect work-life balance nowadays. And we all should because stress became a huge problem in recent years. When you’re travelling and working at the same time, finding some kind of balance can be even more challenging. Taking the slow boat from Thailand to Laos is an example of an activity that can bring you back to understanding the why of the lifestyle you chose.

Sleeping is another option on the boat if there aren’t too many passengers.

First of all, the boat doesn’t have a wifi connection. So spending two days, six hours a day, without an internet connection is in itself a healing experience. Many of us check our phones too often, and this is linked to higher levels of stress. Putting yourself in a situation where you won’t be distracted by incoming messages and notifications will bring the stress level down immediately.

Rather than bringing yourself in a constant state of doing things, you need to just be.

The word ‘stress’ incorrectly has a very negative connotation. Humans need stress to respond to dangerous situations. Stress is a good thing, when it’s temporarily, to get things done, to take action. The problem lies in the fact that the body needs to recover from those actions and when that doesn’t happen, you’ll reach a stage of chronic tension which influences directly your state of being. Worrying thoughts, anxious feelings, difficulty in changing bad habits and a depressive mood can all be signs of stress.

We know that we need to relax our minds and our bodies, because mindfulness courses and yogaclasses really took off the last few years. Although these activities are scientifically proven to help our wellbeing, they can become work in itself. Like one of the tasks to tackle from your to-do list. Which in the end possibly contributes to higher levels of stress, instead of diminishing it. Rather than bringing yourself in a constant state of doing things, you need to just be, to literally slow down. Detoxing from your mobile phone is a good first step to do so. From there let’s see if you can ‘be’ on the slow boat.

Tips to ‘Be’ on the boat

  • Observing the people on the boat, the locals on the riverside, the boat itself. Walk around and realize the captain lives with his family on the boat.
  • Using your senses: enjoy the awe-inspiring landscape from your seat by staring ahead. Take a moment to really listen to all the sounds, detect every smell and feel the hot breeze on your skin.
  • Enjoying the time as a luxury: the hours on the slow boat will feel longer than the hours in a coworking space.
  • Noticing the thoughts and new ideas popping into your head. If you’re really accustomed to writing, you could grab your notebook and write. But if you want to stay in a state of being, just observe what coming in and trust on the fact that you will remind the things that are beneficial to you once you’ve left the boat.
Breathe in the landscape, breathe out the bullshit.

If this is too challenging for you — which could definitely be the case because breaking the habit pattern of doing things takes more time than two days — try this:

  • Bring a notebook and start writing down all the things you see, feel, smell, taste (although please lower your food expectations on the boat).
  • Mingle with others and focus on listening carefully instead of talking yourself.
  • If you do talk, keep your phrases and sentences positive. It will add to a more positive image of yourself in your own mind and in the mind of others.
  • Read a book.

Boredom actually can benefit your mental health

Some people found the slow boat boring already after the first day. But boredom actually can benefit your mental health. Being aware of those feelings and not fighting them can change your whole mindset. Others took their laptops out of their bags and worked concentrated for two days, without digital absentmindedness. This can be a good alternative as well, using the time to finish a project or utilize the days as a pressure cooker to launch a new plan.

Whatever you do, it all starts by making the conscious decision to let yourself be instead of pushing yourself to get things done.

Sanne works remotely as a journalist and digital media strategist in South East Asia and is Tribe Theory’s Head of Content.




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Sanne Breimer

Sanne Breimer

Exploring the solutions to the lack of inclusion in journalism, focusing on decolonising journalism and discussing whiteness, Eurocentrism and objectivity.

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