We live in a world where speed is at the heart of pretty much everything. There is constant expectation where maximising one’s time equals overload, burnout and a pressure to perform. We feel guilty when we say “no” to new responsibility and when we even forget to reset when we take a break. This busyness has made it hard for most us to enjoy life in the slow lane. Slow travel
The race is on even when we travel. Holidays increasingly seem to be turning into “to do” lists where we run around ticking off sights for likes. Would you remember your last travel if it weren’t for the thousands of photos you took? You might grow your online presence but what about personal growth? Slow travel has the answer to both those questions.
What exactly is slow travel?
The concept of ‘slow’ travel is an offshoot of the slow food movement that originated in Italy in the 80’s. The idea gained a lot of interest in recent years being part of the wider Slow movement. The cultural shift towards a more balanced and conscious way of life or a deceleration in the pace of modern living. As technology has become embedded in every aspect of our lives, finding downtime in the digital era is the new luxury.
Slow travel is a celebration of time spent in one place, allowing yourself to experience the journey, the culture and the environment.
Slow travel lesson 1: Embrace quality over quantity
Still tired after a vacation? We’ve all been vacationing the wrong way at some point in our lives. It’s pretty common to want to make the most of a trip, go on every tour and tick off as many sights as possible from that “99 things to see in…” guide that you found online.
Instead of racing around why not embrace quality over quantity. A more spontaneous attitude might bring about new adventures and reveal hidden gems. You’ll get to know a place beyond its tourist attractions.
One way of doing this is by spending more time in one place. Get to know it, shop in its local markets, experience it in the morning and in the evening. If time and your finances allow it, go back in a different season and again, keep your itinerary flexible and start exploring. Seasons change a place as much as they change us.
This was one of my biggest regrets during some of my trips. I got carried away and lost a day or two visiting cities or popular places that didn’t meet my expectations. For example, I spent a day in busy Dubrovnik missing the chance of visiting smaller towns on the Dalmatian coast. In Indonesia too, I chose to spend 3 days in Bali instead of exploring the wild Komodo National Park.
Lesson 2: Get a taste of the local
I’m not talking only about local cuisine but everyday life. This can mean staying in an AirBnB or asking locals for recommendations. Slow travel is after all a manifesto against holiday packages that strip away “localness”. A street art tour in Paris or pottery class in Porto can reveal much more (history, art, culture, language) than a photo taken by a famous landmark.
Walking can give you a good idea of the local scene. Go through different neighbourhoods, enjoy busy markets and familiarise yourself with the place by getting to know its scale, social strata or cultural identity. Embrace the art of getting lost and you’ll be rewarded with memorable travel tales. Sweet, sweet serendipity.
Tip: Your croissant or pizza will taste better if you ask for it in the local language.
Lesson 3: Sit back and relax
Slow travel is about allowing yourself time to enjoy the simple pleasures that come with spontaneity. Let your own pace dictate the itinerary and avoid rushing around set schedules. This will take away the challenge of having to see everything which ultimately is a source of stress. Do yourself a favour and surrender to whatever the world has in store for you.
Slow travel lesson 4: The journey counts
Often, the anticipation of arrival takes away the joys of being in transit. The journey can be much more revealing of a place than the destination. Landscape, architecture or public roads can uncover cultural values or a country’s prosperity/ hardship. Trains, boats, walking or horse riding, they all offer a platform to appreciate the environment as you go. More than a series of choices, slow travel is a mindset. It’s about reclaiming the journey and connecting to a place not just at the surface but in a more meaningful manner.
Lesson 5: Be a traveller not a tourist
Ultimately, slow travel teaches you how not to be a tourist. Rather than a rushed, consumer oriented, photo heavy vacation, slow travel helps you discover the soul of a place. Be spontaneous, embrace the local scene, learn some local language, support local businesses and go off the beaten track.
Benefits of Slow Travel:
- prevent “tourist burnout”- The last thing you want at the end of a holiday is to feel more tired than when you arrived. Instead of quantity embrace the quality of a place and make your experience an opportunity for personal growth.
- become more focused- Slow travel teaches you how to be in the present moment and ultimately pay more attention to your surroundings. We could all use a bit more mental discipline to tame the mind.
- it’s more sustainable- Taking trains instead of planes or staying and buying locally can ultimately make your travel experience more sustainable. After all, we need to make choices that have positive long-term effects on natural and cultural environments.
- it can be cheap- Traveling around from A to B in a short time span can quickly add up to your travel expenses. Money spent on popular attractions or hotels, yet another expenditure that can be easily avoided.
- know yourself- Getting out of your comfort zone and embracing the unfamiliar is an opportunity to learn about yourself. New adventures mean new perspectives.