The Never Ending Voyage Slow Travel Manifesto

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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.

Jetty near Kheng Hock Keong, Yangon, Burma

Commuters at the end of the day at a busy Yangon jetty, Burma

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?

Us taking part in the Yee Peng lantern festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Us taking part in the Yee Peng lantern festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand

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?

Simon chatting to a local in Bagan, Burma

Simon chatting to a local in Bagan, Burma

  • 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?

Simon toasting a successful Japanese cooking class

Simon toasting a successful Japanese cooking class

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.
  • Volunteer.
  • 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.
Our street in Alfama, Lisbon

Our street in Alfama, 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.

Read more of our favourite slow travel experiences and see the Slow Travel Pinterest Board.

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.

Are you planning your next travel adventure? See our Travel Resources page for our favourite tools and gear to help you plan the perfect trip. 

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71 Comments (25 pingbacks)

  1. You’re giving me some great ideas! I’m taking early retirement next summer, and the plan is to put everything in storage and just go for as long as money and health permit. I love the idea of spending a few months in one place to explore regionally instead of taking on the major cities to rush through another museum/cathedral/tourist site. I still have memories of my first trip to Paris and Florence, where after two weeks it was – oh yeah, another fountain – another statue – another painting. We were so burned out we couldn’t appreciate how fabulous everything was. This time, I want to take it all in a little at a time.


    • Joyce, you’ve articulated what most on-the-go travelers finally end up realizing: slow travel is, in fact, the most enjoyable and authentic of all travel experiences. And what better way to spend your years in retirement…? Hopefully, you’ll make your way to my country, India, too, where slow travel, fortunately, remains the norm, rather than the exception. Never Ending Voyage is serving a great purpose in bringing like-minded people from across the world together on a common platform to promote slow travel in different parts of the world.


  2. Great article! Based on my own experiences, I totally agree!! 11 months ago I sold everything & left the U.S. to make a yearlong trip around the world & found myself wanting to stay longer & longer in each place. I just finished my 3rd house/dog sit – what a great way to slow down & really get to know a place. Where did you stay in Chang Mai? Did you rent an apartment? I spent a couple of months there but am headed back in a few weeks, hopefully for 3-6 months


  3. Great. This is exactly how we travel. We stay 6 month at at a time in each places and move on. This way we got to live like locals and learn about a lot you might have missed if you stayed a week. Keep up the great work.


  4. Greg, the description of your own slow travel is surely an inspiration to other travelers to opt for slow travel. Nothing is more envigorating mentally, spiritually and physically, than slow travel. Slow travel is a panacea for all present-day urban ills. Slow travel makes you so grateful, every day of your slow travel, for the precious gift of Life that you’ve been given.
    I’m grateful for this forum offered by Erin and Simon for the sharing of slow travel experiences, and for its promotion. Wish more visitors would stop by to share their views here.


  5. I realize that I began thinking in many of the terms you describe in your “slow traveling” philosophy when I was five years old and looking at a picture book of the different kinds of houses people around the world lived in and wondering very deeply what their lives were like. When I began traveling in the 1970s (as a guest of the US Navy), I was in heaven. I soaked up every place I went. I would leave the ship (often alone) and walk inland from the waterfront until there were no more signs in English. Then I would find a place to eat that was simply a mystery. I have found it’s a great asset to have friends, acquaintances, or other personal contacts in the places I go. I have not spent long periods traveling, but quite a few shorter experiences. I always get off the beaten path. (If I see another American, I go the other way.) We will move to Thailand next year, and I am excited about the extensive travels we’ll pursue in and from our home in Chiang Mai.


  6. Hey :)

    We’re just starting and plan to travel slowly but I’m getting really frustrated with visa issues.

    How do you overcome these on the road?


    • Hi Claire,
      It really depends on the country.
      We tend to get a 3 months visa in a place and rarely stay longer than that. If we do we’ll either look into extending the visa or leave the country and come back again (some places allow that).


  7. Slow travel is what I myself promote in India through eco cultural homestay tours on the outskirts of New Delhi. India is an IDEAL destination for slow travel (including slow modes of transport). Come, try it out! You’ll go back thrilled (in slow motion!).


  8. I’m learning to apply this concept to my own travels as a new digital nomad. Routine is a MUST! It’s hard to buckle down for work when there are so many (fun!) distractions. Slowing down is the best of both worlds (working for yourself and enjoying your travels). Thanks for this post!


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