The Power of Slow Travel (How To Experience More By Slowing Down)
When was the last time you came home from traveling and didn’t immediately need a vacation? Ironic, isn’t it? Travel is supposed to renew and reenergize our spirit, yet we’re often surprised when it does just the opposite. The strenuous pace we set in the hopes of cramming it all in is exhausting, and can leave us feeling overwhelmed and disappointed.
Have you heard of Slow Travel? The term may be new to some but it’s been redefining the way more people travel for decades. Sometimes referred to as “deep travel” or “immersive travel”, more and more travelers of all ages are looking for opportunities for slow traveling — to make real connections with local people, the place itself, and the local culture when they travel, which generally leads to richer, more authentic travel experiences. And they’re doing it by slowing down. But honestly, I think the concept of slow travel has some people confused as to what exactly it means and how they can do or enjoy a slow travel experience. What’s more, the term itself suggests going slow, which flies in the face of the hectic pace which many of us keep today, with technology seeping into our subconscious making even the most old-school among us somewhat tied to our devices.
If you’ve been following along with us for a while now, you already know we love slow travel, blog about it, and encourage travelers to incorporate more of it whenever and wherever they can. But the thing is, we never knew there was such a term for it until a few years ago when we met our friends Arianna and Alessio, who invited us to come experience the slow travel Italy tours they run in Tuscany. Instead of seeing all of Italy in 10 days from a bus or cruise ship, they show travelers several unique places in as many days, all within the same general area of Tuscany. You might think slow travel is just for seasoned travelers who have seen their fair share of the world already, but not for the newbie traveler who’s looking to catch up on their bucket list. But slow traveling is for everyone…new or seasoned, young or old. And it may seem counter-intuitive that slowing down allows you to ultimately experience more, but that’s the beauty of it. Slow travel does exactly that. We’re not here to judge how others travel... the fact that people travel is what’s important. What we’d like to do here is to dispel some of the myths about what slow travel is or isn’t, share why we think it’s a great way to travel, and if this sounds interesting to you….how you can do the same thing too!
But first things first.
What is slow traveling?
Slow travel is pretty simple, really. It means taking time when you travel to experience one place for longer — experiencing more of the local culture first-hand, rather than in a quick tour. Slow travel involves first-hand interaction with people who live there by making personal connections with them rather than an interpretation of an experience through a third-party docent or guide. Slow travel highlights supporting the local economy, eating local foods and even staying overnight with or dining with local residents. Slow travel tends to be independent travel or in small-group slow travel tours, off-the-beaten path or away from heavily traveled tourist zones.
It may sound cliché but slow travel is more about the journey itself than the destination. It’s a mindset of slowing down the pace of your traveling and looking for a richer, more meaningful experience along the way rather than just having a whirlwind tour of an entire country in a short amount of time. Slow travel tends to incorporate one or more of the following elements into your travel:
“After backpacking through Southeast Asia for 5 months and changing location every 1-3 days, we were burned out. Traveling through 8 countries in a period of 5 months was both amazing and extremely overwhelming. We were changing up languages, customs, food, and lifestyle every couple of weeks. We knew that if we were going to continue traveling, we were going to have to change the way we approached it. That is why we decided the next travel destination we chose, we would rent an apartment for a minimum of 4 weeks and actually take the time to enjoy where we were at and get to know the place. After completing our slow travel stint, we are completely in love with this type of travel. It has given us the opportunity to actually develop friendships with like-minded people. We also can walk down the local market every day and enjoy having interactions with the shop keepers, because we know we will see them again!”
Text by Jess Drier, Unearth the Voyage
The History of Slow Travel
Slow travel is actually an offshoot from the slow food movement which began in Piedmont, Italy in the 1980s as a backlash against fast food. Local food producers rallied to call more attention to the local chefs, farmers and artisans that were already producing the best local food after a McDonalds was proposed to be built in Rome. What began as the slow food movement expanded to include travel as well, and today the term slow movement refers to both food and travel.
Europe has become a popular destination for slow travel experiences of all kinds including slow food tours, camping and glamping, slow wine tours, and other slow travel opportunities, though it’s catching on around the world. We believe in the benefits of slow travel, and as more travelers become aware of their impact on the destinations they visit and the planet, you’ll see more slow travel opportunities emerge. It’s important to remember that we as travelers can foster a pull-through effort of tourism marketing by demanding more slow food and travel experiences. The more we seek our travel and food experiences that support local producers and are easy on the environment, and are locally grown and sustainable, the better for everyone.
Unique Examples of Slow Travel
If you’re looking for specific ways to incorporate more slow travel into your itinerary, here are some examples to help get your started. Once you get into the groove, you’ll find your own way, which could be doing one of these, or nothing at all.
There’s nothing like a leisurely road trip to let your hair down, roll down the windows and enjoy the ride. A good road trip forces you to slow down, take the road less traveled more (to avoid traffic) and actually enjoy the experience of driving to your destination. Road trips were the norm when I was young — and are for many families — and my favorite childhood memories are of me and my 3 older sisters piling into the back and way back of our Ford Country Squire station wagon and off we’d go to Florida or Virginia Beach. I still love road trips as an adult — in fact, our road trip along the US Gulf Coast was one of our favorite trips in recent years.
Local Producer and Slow Travel Tours
We have always traveled slow, sort of naturally. But we first learned about the Slow Travel movement from our friends at Km Zero Tours in Tuscany, Italy. They are slow travel experts and committed to supporting local producers. They can show you around a local vineyard in Chianti, introduce you to a Tuscan woodworker, show you around a local cashmere goat farm, take you hiking at sunset through a vineyard, or prepare a lunch under the Tuscan sun. Km Zero literally means “zero kilometers” and refers to staying close to the source to experience the best local food, wine (it’s Tuscany after all), and artisan-crafted goods. They offer amazing slow travel tours whether you have one day or a week to spend in Tuscany. If you love trying the local foods and drinks when you travel, or seeing what local artists are crafting, baking, weaving, or creating, meeting the chefs, farmers, and producers is a great experience. Food and beer, wine, and spirits tours are always a good way to find what’s fresh and locally made and give you a glimpse into the production process of anything from making local wine and local spirits to crafting traditional balsamic vinegar or artisan jewelry.
Windjammer or Barge Cruises
Before our first windjammer cruise experience, I would have been hard-pressed to say this, but our Maine windjammer cruise on the wooden schooner the J. & E. Riggin in Rockland, Maine was an excellent example of slow travel. Windjammer cruises take you where the wind and tides dictate so every destination may be different than the next cruise. Our Captains had an enviable “take only photos, leave only footprints’ eco-friendly and sustainable philosophy. And when it came to getting anywhere quickly, well that’s not what a windjammer cruise is all about. For 4 amazing days we sailed onboard the old-time schooner through the Penobscot Bay, spending time taking photos, exploring secluded islands, reading a good book, and getting to know our fellow passengers. Likewise, European-style river barge cruises can also be a form of slow travel. Barge cruises are less impactful on the environment and emphasize local foods and exploration. Want to know more? This first timers guide to barge cruises may help.
Cycling tours through any destination is a great way to slow down and experience a place, peddling from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, or out in the countryside. It not only connects you to nature for a while, but it puts you in a much better position to meet some locals, maybe chat a while, or just see them going about their day. We cycled on the Venetian island of Santerasmo on a slow travel tour, and it was the most unique way to see Venice, one of the most overtouristed places in the world.
“One of my favorite experiences include cycling the highest motorable road in the world in India. In a place where tour operators work overtime just to offer deals on the “highest passes”, the slow life and the traditions of these remote cultures are often forgotten and sped past. When riding in the Himalayas, I used cycling as a means to traverse the long meditative roads. Road journeys in the Indian Himalayas need not be one with motorized vehicles. Instead with a curious mind and sense of intrepidness, a bicycle is a great way to remove that barricade between you and the surroundings.
You don’t need to be an avid cyclist to enjoy these trips, you just need to be moderately fit and know how to ride a bike; the rest will follow.”
Pashmina Binwani, The Gone Goat
Eating with Locals
The idea of going local is catching on so much that many cities around the world have programs that let you meet up with locals, hang out with locals, dine with locals, and stay overnight in their homes. Hello, can you say Airbnb? We loved the dinner experience we had in Venice with a local Chef and his wife, a Venetian mask artisan. Not only was their home delightfully artsy and funky, but the dinner they served in the back garden of their Venice canal home was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m still dreaming of the cake, but the conversation was priceless.
“I love getting into the local food culture because each food bite tells you a story of the people who live there. My most memorable experience was when we discovered a village called Nako in the Indian Himalayan highlands, next to the Tibet border. We took the arduous, but beautiful, road trip and stayed with locals. They grow their own green peas and barley. We were invited to their homes for a homemade meal, which included potato green peas momo dumplings and a homemade barley beer. I had the feeling I was traveling back in time because life there was so slow. If you want to get into more slow travel, I recommend visiting the lesser known places — they will bring you closer to the art of slow travel.”
Helene Dsouza, Masala Herb
Several years ago we stayed overnight with a local family on Amantani, a remote island in the middle of Lake Titicaca, Peru. The family was indigenous Quechua and didn’t speak Spanish, let alone English, and our Spanish was rusty at best. We stayed overnight with them, had dinner with our host Martina and her family, drawing stick figures in the dirt and using rustic sign language. In the process we gained such an amazing insight into the local food they ate and what their daily lives are like. A cultural homestay is a great way to be creative with your accommodations for a slower travel experience.
“A fascinating slow travel experience is visiting the farming community of Llaguepulli near Lago Budi, one of Chile’s most under-the-radar tourist attractions. Here you can stay with an indigenous Mapuche family, take cookery classes, learn about herbal medicine and their cosmovision and spiritual beliefs and even stay in a traditional ruka, a wooden yurt-like hut. Organize your trip by contacting the community directly via their website.”
Steph Dyson, Worldly Adventurer
Really? Did you know it’s possible to travel around the world without utilizing air travel, cars, ferries, or commercial cruise ships? Yep, freighter travel is a thing, and a much less crowded alternative for crossing oceans to see the world. The upside to freighter travel is you can book a regularly scheduled passage to most parts of the world. The downside? Well, conditions aren’t the best, service is unreliable and schedules can change without warning, and you probably would have to bring your own food. But if you do have time on our hands and a slim budget, it can be an interesting alternative way to go.
One of the hallmarks of slow travel is exploring the local culture more in-depth and learning more about where the local food and drink come from. Farm-to-table experiences are so much fun and a great way to travel slow. Not sure what we mean?
Imagine going scalloping in Florida, snorkeling in the warm Gulf of Mexico and gathering up buckets full of fresh Florida bay scallops, and then having a local Cook-Your-Catch restaurant sauté them for your dinner! Is that not a cool — and delicious — sea-to-table experience? Or learning about a new way of farming boutique Gulf Coast oysters on a boat in Alabama and then eating some for lunch. How about going on a truffle-hunting tour, an organic Chianti winery tour, a farm tour in Tuscany where you can do a cheese-tasting from sheep’s milk produced on the farm, or try the farm-fresh charcuterie? The possibilities for foodies are endless.
How Can You Travel Slow?
1. Leave Gaps in Your Travel Planning
It may take some practice, but leaving gaps in your itinerary leaves more room for spontaneity, which often makes for the most interesting travel experiences. Try planning your itinerary with a starting point (getting there), an ending point (getting home), and maybe a few tours or activities in between. Make it up as you go along. Ask locals for recommendations for what to see and do. They may even go a step further and help you plan a surprising day.
“Thanks to 2 unplanned days while we were in Edinburgh, we booked a last minute tour to go looking for the Loch Ness Monster and loved our guide so much we went back the next day to Alnwick, for some Harry Potter experiences.
The best memory of our Southern France trip was when we went looking for lavender in Sault. Early July is really the best time to visit lavender fields in Provence. It was beginning of August when we were there which was well beyond lavender season. But one of the vendors who owns some lavender fields told us that there were a few unharvested fields near Sault in August, so we decided to drive forego a day in Nice, France extended our stay in Aix-en-Provence by a day and went on a spontaneous trip looking for lavender.”
Priya Vin, Outside Suburbia
“Allow yourself to have days without anything planned. Let the day happen, ask locals for their recommendations or their favorite things to do and see in the area. Slow travel is more rewarding than rushing through places without even stopping for a while and allowing yourself to feel the place.”
Daniela Koleva, Ipanema Travels
2. Stay Local
Staying with locals — whether in an Airbnb, agriturismo, locally-owned B&B or apartment, couchsurfing, or on a cultural homestay — is a great way to bring a local feel to your slow travel by giving you time to get to know people. Our stay in an original (unrenovated) colonial Mexican hacienda in the Yucatan was a prime example of slow travel. We were the only ones in the entire hacienda for the evening (not even an on-site staff was there) and it was one of the coolest places we’ve ever stayed.
“I like CouchSurfing, not because it's free accommodation, but because I can share a lifestyle of the local people, even if just for one night.”
Tereza Letalove, Czick on the Road
“For a 2-4 week trip, we like to focus on having a fixed ‘base’ and book an apartment or guesthouse to stay in. This already will offer a more local and authentic experience. But in addition, this allows us to take trips from that base as day trips or extended weekend trips, and is far more effective in getting a real flavor of the local life. During our month long trip in Colombia, we chose Medellin as our home base and rented an apartment for this period. We used the weekends to take trips to see the coffee region or cheap flights to places like Cartagena, and during the week were able to connect with LGBTQ locals. In doing so we made many friends and got a deeper understanding of gay life in Colombia from their perspective. This was more rewarding than anything else we did in Colombia! For us, slow traveling is one of the best ways to go. While it’s very tempting to ‘pack’ in as much as you can into a trip, we’ve learned the hard way, this is counter-productive as you end up rushing from one place to another, exhausting yourself and not really getting the most out of your trip.”
Stefan and Sebastien, The Nomadic Boys
3. Stay longer in one place
Instead of seeing 5 different places in a 10-day trip, back it down to 2 or 3. Do your research on what there is to see and do in the places you don’t want to miss, and ignore when someone says “there’s not much to see there”. Don’t assume the popular day trips aren’t worth a longer stay — some of the most special travel experiences we’ve ever had were spent in places most tourists wouldn’t stay in very long… San Gimignano and the Cinque Terre in Italy are perfect examples. We would never recommend a day trip to either since both are worth much more time, and they are at their most beautiful when the crowds go home. Staying longer in one place is at the core of slow travel, and this is especially helpful when traveling with kids:
“New places, people and cultures can be a sensory overload for little minds. Don’t try and cram too much into your day. Otherwise you end up with grouchy, stroppy, overtired kids… and parents. We take our time wherever we travel, spending three nights where we would have stayed 1 night pre-kids, and we always allow downtime in the middle of the day. The last thing you want to do when travelling with kids is rush them, and everything always takes longer with kids, right?”
Jenny Lynn, TraveLynn Family
3. Ask Locals for Recommendations
What better way to get some great recommendations on what to see and do than from those who live there. Locals will generally give you the best places to see local life and eat local food. Occasionally you’ll get a local’s recommendation for the new chain restaurant that’s just opened, but when you explain you want to eat what they themselves would eat, they’ll understand. They may even invite you to dinner!
“While backpacking Colombia, I asked my Couchsurfing hosts for their favorite destinations within the country. From there, I came up with a list of potential destinations for my trip. Since I never pre-plan my entire itinerary, I tend to purchase tickets to the next destination when I feel like I'm ready to move on. Because of this, I was able to add Salento, a last minute stop to my trip. This charming town quickly became one of my favorites. I enjoyed a stay at an eco-friendly farm, went on a coffee tour, enjoyed an adventurous undertaking at the Cocora Valley, and spent some time speaking with local farmers. I ended up staying days longer than my original plan and wouldn’t have changed it for the world.”
Daisy Li, Beyond My Border
4. Avoid the Tourist Attractions
There are just some places that you’ll always want to see — the places that are just so iconic and unlike any place else in the world. Places like Venice, Disney World, or the great wall of China. But there are also some places where a picture says a thousand words, and that’s more than you’ll ever get by seeing it in person, struggling amongst thousands of other tourists traveling for the Instagram. These tourist traps are often not worth spending your time or money on, or braving the crowds to see.
So where does a slow traveler go instead? Choose the alternative destinations for a more-than-alternative travel experience. Head to Lucca instead of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Rather than Bali, head to Lombok or Flores. Instead of Disney, visit Florida’s nature coast and swim with manatees. Instead of Venice, explore Sant’Erasmo, the lagoon island right next door.
“I used to be that typical traveller with a long to-do list, rushing from one place to another. If I didn't go to all must-see places, I felt like I didn't deserve to visit. But all the trips in this tempo led to one thing only – I was exhausted. I came to the hotel room after a long day of sightseeing and dropped dead on my bed. So I decided to change.
When I travel now, no matter if it's for a week or longer, I take it slow. I still make a to-do list, but I only pick a few places I really want to see and most of the time I avoid the main tourist attractions that are overcrowded and only stress me out. I prefer to pick one region of a country and spend more time there, rather than rushing from one end of the country to another to see it all. I enjoy sleeping in the morning, rather than waking up at the sunrise to avoid tourist crowds. I like sitting in the cafes watching people passing by. And I like hiking in the mountains, because that's where I've learned, that slow tempo while enjoying the views is in the end much more rewarding, then rushing to the top.”
Tereza Letalova, Czick on the Road
5. Buy Locally Made Souvenirs
We all love bringing home a tangible reminder or two of your travels, the reminders of the adventures we’ve had and the chances we’ve taken. But did you know slow travel even extends to the souvenirs you choose? Buying locally-produced products and other items to take home is part of being a slow traveler. I was reminded of this in a big way when we visited Florence, Italy for the first time. Florence is known for their exquisite leather goods they’ve produced for centuries, and I was immediately drawn to the leather vendors in the popular San Lorenzo market. Little did I know at the time of the difference between these vendors and the Florentine leather craftsmen who produce the finest quality leather in the country. There is value in handcrafted items, and supporting the local artisans and producers, versus the imported and mass-produced items that have no connection to the local economy.
6. Be Flexible
Traveling can be stressful but some stresses can turn into opportunities. Transportation delays, cancellations, and other factors can lead to amazing experiences if you have the right perspective. I know, I know… that’s easier said than done. But when you’ve built more open time into your itinerary than scheduled, missing a train or connection here and there is easier to handle. It’s when we try and schedule every available minute that we run into trouble.
7. Mind Your Transportation
As you set your itinerary, be mindful of how you’re getting from place to place. Are you catching quick plane hops or using local transportation. Can you walk versus catching a cab? There’s no best way, but remember… speed disrupts the connection you have with the landscape around you. Therefore slowing your mindset, as well as your transportation, can really impact your travel experience.
Benefits of Slow Travel
Enriched Travel Experiences
Slow travel gives you better access to the local people and opportunities to see the world through their eyes. You’re more likely to see parts of town where locals actually live when you travel slow. Interacting with people at the market, on their way home from work or school, or simply strolling quieter neighborhoods offer glimpses into the way people really live. One of the big benefits of slow traveling is seeing, experiencing — or even participating in (if you’re lucky) — local traditions, customs, and rites of passage. Like…
“Slow travel encourages you to be a more mindful and responsible traveller. With more time in one place, you can go beyond the high-profile attractions of a country and instead find those that are still under-the-radar. By doing this, you’ll be rewarded with community-led tourism projects where you not only learn far more about the culture than you would have otherwise, but your money goes directly to the local people.”
Steph Dyson, Worldly Adventurer
Slow Travel Supports the Local Economy
Perhaps the most important benefit of slow travel is that your choices for food, lodging, transportation, goods, and services all benefit the local community, not just the locally-based hospitality groups or corporations. By supporting the local economy, you’re helping to create a sustainable tourism product for the locals which other travelers will be able to enjoy in the future.
Slow Travel is Often Cheaper
Staying in one place longer is a perfect way to help reduce your travel costs. You’ll often get better lodging rates for staying a week or month versus a few days, and you may even be able to prepare a few meals at ‘home’. And cutting back on transportation means your budget will go much further.
“Slow travel has not only helped curtail travel burnout and felt more like a vacation, it’s also proven to be meaningful and economical (monthly/weekly rentals are cheaper than daily prices) which in the end allows me to keep traveling more.”
Gerry Isabelle, Dominican Abroad
“Opting to spend all your time in one place makes your budget go much further. Flights, whether intra-country or cross-border, are often very expensive.”
Steph Dyson, Worldly Adventurer
Slow Travel is Easier on the Environment
The nature of slow travel is inherently easier on the environment with modes of transportation that lean more toward walking, cycling, or taking local public transportation. Slow travelers tend to consume less of the local resources, and contribute less to over-tourism by traveling off-the-beaten-path to less-visited destinations.
Slow Traveling Can Make Life Long Connections
It’s good to make friends wherever you travel. It makes everything about the experience more fun. And you also never know what those connections might lead to. We’ve made friends for life in our travels with whom we’ve stayed in touch for many years. And these connections can multiply over time, offering new opportunities for travel, creative partnerships, and even professional opportunities.
Slow Travel FAQ
1. How can I slow travel with a 9-to-5 job?
It’s possible to slow travel with a day job, in fact most people we know who are traveling this way do. Don’t confuse slow traveling with a gap year, sabbatical, or being independently wealthy. Sure, it might help if you have some extra time at some point in your life — if you suddenly lose your job, your kids leave the house, or you just scrap everything you own to travel the world. But slow travel is for the everyday traveler with the day job too.
“Let’s put it straight — with a 9-to-5 job you can’t see the whole world. When you come to terms with this and stop stressing about ticking off a bucket list, you will start enjoying your travels more. You’ll discover that slow travel is all about appreciating your surroundings and even immersing in them for a short while. ‘Less is more’ and ‘quality over quantity’ are also true for traveling: less destinations with more quality time spent there, instead of a fast-food approach where you are ‘consuming’ places and activities instead of enjoying and experiencing them.
How to travel then slowly? Here are my tips for slow traveling with a full-time job: If you have, let’s say, 10 days of holidays, choose one or max two places as a home base and make day trips from there to explore the area. By switching hotels and moving from place to place, you are losing precious time. Holidays are meant to recharge your batteries and if you are on a tight traveling schedule, you’ll get even more stressed than before your vacation.”
Daniela Koleva, Ipanema Travels
2. Does slow travel mean we walk everywhere, or ride bikes?
The term slow travel doesn’t necessarily refer to the speed at which you travel, though you’re much more likely to connect more with people and your surroundings when you slow your pace. Hopefully, you’ll turn off your phone (except for your camera, of course), step away from technology and social media, and allow yourself to just be in the moment wherever you are. Realizing where you are and what you’re doing helps you relax. It’s a very mindful way of traveling.
3. No slow travel for us - we have kids!
We hear this so often. Parents (and grandparents) often think slow travel doesn’t pertain to them because they’re traveling with kids, when in fact many parents are already traveling slow with their families, and just don’t know it. But if you’re thinking kids have to be occupied 24/7 then maybe you could stand a bit more slow travel in your lives! Slow travel can involve visits to natural places, and incorporates things like picnics, day hikes, farm tours, and other activities that teach and educate, or highlight the lifestyle of the place. We get it…school breaks and summer vacations are limited on time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slow down your travel and explore just one place.
In fact, many Mums like Jenny and Priya think slow travel is essential for families with young kids!
“I'm a travel-addicted Mum to two boys who are now 3 and 5 years old. As a family, we have travelled extensively and aim to dispel the myth that adventure should wait until the kids are older. So far, my boys have visited 23 countries to date and had the most amazing adventures, including trekking the Himalayas, riding sleeper trains across India, and overlanding Africa in Land Rover for 101 days. However, I appreciate that for many parents, the thought of travelling with their little ones is out of the question. Kids can be hard work and, if they’re also away from familiar surroundings, won’t it just be too difficult? I often receive messages from parents wanting to know our 'secret', and the answer is always - slow travel.”
Jenny Lynn, TraveLynn Family
“We are a family with young adults and we love to travel together - which means we juggle work, college and school schedules to find that sweet spot where a vacation timeframe works for all of us. Typically, our vacations are for two weeks and we like to do two big trips a year and a few weekend trips if we can manage it. I like to have a planned itinerary when we travel, but we allow for 2 or 3 days of slow and spontaneous travel. Not that we don’t be doing anything those days, just that there is no set plan. We might choose to visit a museum we didn’t know about, visit a place that was not in the guide books, or just sleep in, do laundry, may be do a spontaneous day trip... choices are endless right?! Also it is good to have a plan but be open to let it go. When you plan every day of your trip with activities and have a set schedule it is difficult to really discover hidden gems.”
Priya Vin, Outside Suburbia
4. Isn’t slow travel just for older people?
Well, that depends on what you consider older, I guess. Gerry doesn’t look old to us, and her travel portfolio is anything but! Slow travel has nothing to do with age, income, marital or parental status — and everything to do with wanting more from traveling. More connection, more understanding, more appreciation. More time and less burnout.
“Zooming from one destination to the next and checking items off my bucket list as I moved through different destinations was one of my favorite ways to travel. *Snap* I’d often take a photo and happily carry on to the next attraction. At 19, it was perfect. But as I got older and began to appreciate the details between places, the different histories, and especially the cultural insights, I realized the value in forgoing half of my bucket list items to see less and slowing down to savor more. I connected with the local people better and better immersed myself in the different aspects of their culture. As a multicultural Dominican-American, this made me better reflect on the layers of my of own cultural influences.
Today, slow has helped me curtail travel burnout and it’s also proven to be more economical which in the end allows me to keep traveling more. Now if you ask me about the 1 day tour I took to Nicaragua, I can’t recall much. However, if you ask me about my 3 weeks in Zimbabwe, I can go on and on for days about my profound connection to the country where I slowly got to know it and connect with its people. And guess what? I'm dying to go back and slowly see more of it again!”
Gerry Isabelle, Dominican Abroad
5. I’m more of a Luxury Traveler. Isn’t slow travel just backpacking?
Since it’s really about slowing the pace and spending more time in one place, slow travel exists in every style and price range, from backpacking to luxury travel. We’ve had many slow travel experiences on minimal budgets, like our first trip to Patagonia, where we ate inexpensively and stayed in Airbnbs. Camping and glamping (glamourous camping) is also a great way to slow travel and one of our favorite things to do though these days it’s more glamping, like we did in Slovenia and Chile. But slow travel experiences can also lean toward curated slow travel experiences and overnight stays in luxurious settings, like this experience in Montserrat:
“Is travel about seeing things or about digging your toes in? When we travel fast we can view the sights, tick a place off our bucket list and put a visual face to a destination name. Slowing down means you can go a little deeper, take in the scents and notice the details. It also means you can tap into your inner journey as much as your exterior one.
Most people travel to the sacred mountain of Montserrat, Spain, for example, on a day trip from Barcelona. It's only an hour's train ride and a cable car ride away, but even staying an extra day can be meaningful. Staying at the monastery hotel means you can see the stars from the mountain’s edge, wander around this remote spot without the crowds and absorb the energy of the famous ‘serrated mountain,’ one of the most sacred sites in Spain. My pace slowed even further when my group left at dawn on a tough day-long hike, but I went my own way. I knew a contemplative solo hike would let me tap into the spirit of a mountain that had attracted pilgrims for centuries. Spain, as much as any country I’ve visited, is a place to take your time, to linger over a glass of Rioja, and soak in the culture as much as the sights.”
Carol Perehudoff, Wandering Carol
6. We love cruising. Is that slow travel?
That’s an interesting question. Traditionally, large cruise lines haven’t been so friendly to the environment and revenues generally don’t benefit the local port-of-call communities like visiting on your own would, although local municipalities can make a lot in taxes. More and more cruise companies seem to be looking for ways to provide slow travel experiences to their passengers whether it’s through limited-capacity small-ship experiences, cruising with a purpose (for volunteer opportunities or humanitarian efforts that benefit the local communities you’re visiting), or simply offering slow travel-like onboard experiences like eating local foods. There is quite a range and some are more locally-oriented and have less of a carbon footprint than others.
7. What’s the difference between slow travel, sustainable travel, and authentic travel?
The term slow travel refers to spending more time exploring a place. Sustainable travel refers to how well tourism activity can be maintained long-term in a place without harming the natural and cultural environment. The term authentic travel generally refers to having as close to an authentic cultural experience in a particular place as possible. How well you can do that depends on many factors, such as where you go and how you get there, but one thing is certain. Slow travel and spending more time in one place leads to a more authentic experience.
8. Is slow travel… well, boring?
Not at all. If anything, spending more time in one place leaves you feeling like you know a place much better than if you stayed just a short time. Slowing down renews your mind and spirit in ways you might not expect and enriches the experience you have. In fact, all the photos included in this post were taken while slow traveling.
Now tell us… does that really look boring to you? ;-)