Slow travel is about experiences over sights. It’s the participation in ordinary daily activities to learn how people live: their food, culture, language, the quirky details that make a place unique, and the similarities that weave a common thread through humanity.
Slow travel is an in depth style of travel. It’s about getting to know one place well, focusing on quality rather than quantity, and connecting with a place and its people.
It’s about discovery. A new destination can be chaotic and confusing, but slow travel encourages you to see through the cultural haze and try to make sense of your surroundings; to develop an understanding of how things work, why they are the way they are.
It’s about taking the time to observe, to be in the moment and take pleasure from simple things.
It’s about pursuing personal growth and immersing yourself in new experiences; using travel to challenge yourself in the knowledge that the most uncomfortable encounters are often the most rewarding.
It’s about searching out the best of humanity—finding people who really care about what they do, are proud of their homes, their culture and their heritage.
It’s not that you can’t visit tourist attractions but go because you want to, not because you think you should. There are no such things as “must-sees”.
Who Is Slow Travel For?
Slow travel is for people who want to step out of the backpacker ghettos, chain hotels, and the well-worn trail of sights in order to discover their own paths. It doesn’t mean you have to visit a remote village in Burma; it can be done just as easily by strolling through a vegetable market in Rome or wandering down a random side street in Paris.
For digital nomads slow travel is essential. To really create and move your business forward, you need to slow down and have some semblance of a routine.
For long term travellers slow travel will preserve your energy. It’s too easy to get caught in the trap of trying to see everything there is to see; going through the motions but not really absorbing anything. Slow travel will keep things fresh and prevent the burnout that is inevitable when you are on the road for months.
But slow travel is for everyone, even if you only have a week’s holiday. We share some ideas below on how you can apply the slow travel philosophy to short trips.
Why Slow Travel?
- Meaningful Memories—you’ll likely remember these experiences longer than those where you visited the same tourist attractions as everyone else.
- Personal Growth—by getting out of your comfort zone you’ll become a more confident person. You may well learn new skills like languages too.
- Increased Awareness—by meeting people around the world and learning about new cultures you’ll be better able to challenge stereotypes.
- Social Consciousness—it’s a more sustainable way to travel as you use transport less and support local businesses.
- Save Money—it’s often possible to pay the same per night renting a comfortable apartment for a month as for a hostel room. Slow travel experiences are often free or cheap as well.
How to Slow Travel?
We’ve been travelling permanently for two years and eight months now and our pace has slowed dramatically but slow travel is not a measure of time, it’s a measure of impact.
Here are some things you can try on even the shortest trip.
- Stay in one place rather than trying to see as much of the country as possible. A week renting an apartment in the Italian countryside could well be a more enjoyable experience than a whirlwind tour of Venice, Florence and Rome.
- Visit local markets.
- Eat street food.
- Take a cooking class and try out the recipes afterwards.
- Learn the language. Even a few phrases can go a long way.
- Wander aimlessly. Turn down any side street that takes your fancy.
- Spend a morning people-watching in a local cafe.
- Have a picnic in a park.
- Seek out a local restaurant with no English menu, maybe even no menu at all. Order something you don’t recognise.
- Couchsurf or, if you don’t want to stay with strangers, attend a couchsurfing meetup.
- House sit.
- Take a course—painting, scuba diving, salsa dancing, whatever you are interested in.
- See a local band.
- Attend a gallery opening.
- Visit a festival no one’s heard of.
- Go to a football game (or the popular local sport).
- Cycle around different neighbourhoods or through villages in the countryside.
- Ask a local for their favourite restaurant.
Some of our favourite slow travel experiences this year have included:
- Renting an apartment for a month just outside Montecarlo in Tuscany, a tiny village that even most Italians haven’t heard of, and stumbling upon random local festivals every Sunday.
- The daily trip to the bakery through the hilly cobbled streets of Alfama during our month in Lisbon.
- Drinking passionfruit and mango smoothies from our favourite stand in Chiang Mai where we lived for five months (our longest stay yet).
- Developing a routine of work in the morning, pool in the afternoon and sunset walks along the beach in Koh Lanta.
- Regular visits to our favourite wine bar in the village of Spello in Umbria, discovering new cheeses and wines each time.
Next time you are planning your travels—whether it’s a week in Spain or six months in Asia—consider the slow travel philosophy and think how you could include slow travel experiences to make your trip more rewarding.
Do you struggle with packing for your travels? My book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, will help. For this week only you can save 80% and buy it for just $0.99 on Amazon. Get your copy here.