As Digital Nomads and full-time travellers, we often get asked if we are fans of slow travel. I know that slow travel became a trendy buzz word a few years back, but I will confess that I’ve never really been sure what the phrase means exactly. So I’ve been wondering if we all have the same definition of slow travel. Or is it all about a personal perspective? What is slow travel? And why does it matter?
What is slow travel?
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”Bill Bryson
This quote summarises what slow travel means for me. Slow travel, for Lotus Eaters, is about integration, it’s about becoming intimate with your environment and finding a connection. But, it’s also about getting into the heart of a place and imagining what it feels to live there. Above all else, having the opportunity experience the every day things.
Here are five things we look for when we travel slowly:
- Learning something new
- Making connections with people
- Taking our time to explore and wander
- Not being attached to rigid plans
- Going beyond the “typical”, to try to find something unique
What slow travel is not?
Slow travel doesn’t always have to mean that you travel for a long period. We count ourselves to be extremely lucky that this is something we are able to do right now. But, if you can’t travel for a long time, you can still travel slowly. For example, if you have one week vacation, or even a long weekend somewhere, you can still take on the slow travel ethos.
You also don’t have to physically move, to be a slow traveller. Stay with me! For example, you can travel to Paris, stay there for a month and still be enjoying slow travel!
But, slow travel also doesn’t mean just sitting around! Spending a week in an all inclusive beach resort sitting on the beach, might feel like slow travel to you. For me, this probably doesn’t hit the mark of “slow travel”, in the way that I think about it. There’s no deep connection, or integration with the community. But, if this form of travel gets you what you need, that’s great!
What are the benefits of slow travel?
Why does this all matter? Here are the benefits of slow travel that we have identified through our experiences.
When we travel, we always like to find a chance to learn something new. Whether this is a revelation about ourselves, as reflected back by the environment we are in. Or, learning a skill such as cooking a local dish.
Taking the time to choose interesting experiences, that also give back to the community you are visiting is one benefit of slow travel. We felt this when we visited Jordan and walked the Jordan trail – instead of booking through a large agent, we found a way to book directly with a local tour guide. The same goes for taking time to find a local coffee shop or restaurant that you love, rather than buying at chains.
Rest and rejuvenate
Travelling fast, dashing about and ticking off a huge list of tourist attractions is exhausting. Slow travel, is the opposite. Even just taking a few days in the countryside in your own country can have a rejuvenating effect.
Slow Travel means you have the time to meet people and build connection. It’s impossible to develop a real relationship if you’re passing through a place quicker than roadrunner. Some of our favourite travel experiences have come about through people we’ve met when travelling.
The slower pace of travel inevitably means taking more sustainable forms of transport. Less airplanes, more public transport and more getting from A to B by your own steam. This can only be a good thing for the environment in the long term.
Visiting alternative places
When you consciously travel slowly, you have the chance to visit different places than you might otherwise. There’s a tendency when people travel to head to the most well known destinations. Often these are great, but sometimes the more interesting and simple pleasures can be found in farming communities, smaller cities or remote villages off the beaten track.
The most vivid and crazy stories that we have from travelling, are from our slow travel experiences. We love being able to bring these stories back home and amuse friends with tales that they haven’t otherwise heard.
Travelling slowly can be more cost effective. There are long stay discounts available on apartment rentals for example. Public transport costs less than private. And local neighbourhoods are cheaper than the tourist centre of cities.
5 amazing slow travel experiences that you can book now
#1 Take a multi-day hike
There couldn’t be anything much slower than hiking. We love taking our time to explore by foot – it’s our favourite thing to do when travelling. A multi-day or long distance hike has to be the best way to travel slowly. Taking one step in front of the other whilst being completely enthralled in nature with no distraction. An incredibly freeing feeling! Not only that, but hiking is a great way to enjoy budget travel too.
Here are our favourite long-distance hikes in Europe.
You can read more about the power of transformation from hiking here.
#2 Stay a while in one city
Many of us now can work remotely from anywhere in the world, this opens up opportunities to spend more time travelling. But travelling doesn’t have to mean jumping on overnight buses and hopping from one tourist attraction to another. It can also mean staying in one place and exploring that. As I write this, we are in Belgrade where we spent a blissful month.
The benefits of this experience are that you get to know a city, or a town, or even a village, really well. Rather than speeding around in 48 hours, which of course sometimes has it’s own benefits, you can take your time. For me, one of the simple pleasures of staying a while in one city, is finding my favourite coffee shop. Even better, is finding a yoga or pilates studio and taking a few classes – yoga is a great way for travellers to get involved in local community. And, if you find a restaurant you love, you can go back once or even twice!
The best way to get this experience, is to book an apartment through Airbnb or Vrbo. Both booking agents offer long-stay discounts for anyone booking a place for at least one week and even bigger discounts for stays of over month.
#3 Unique local experiences
Some of our favourite ways to find local experiences are through Airbnb or Viator. But of course you can also find experiences when you arrive in your destination through word of mouth. Most apartment, hostel and hotel hosts will be able to give you some tips about unique experiences.
What could you do? Here are a few random ideas:
- Slow food and story telling in the Scottish Highlands
- Learn to Dance Bulgarian folklore
- Attend a festival, like the Tarantella in Puglia
- Take a farm tour in Costa Rica
There are simply so many different unique experiences you can take and it’s never been easier to find them.
Where are you going next? Why not search for some unique experiences in your destination?
Homestays are a great opportunity to find out how locals live and to integrate. There are lots of different ways to enjoy homestays in whichever country you travel to.
Here are six incredible home stay options that you can book today:
You can read more about Homestays in Bali here. Or our experience of visiting a homestay in Vietnam here.
#5 Learn something new
Travel presents a great opportunity to learn something new that many people are now choosing to take advantage of. Learning something new whilst travelling slowly can provide insights into the community within which you are staying too.
Here are some ideas for ways in which you could learn next time you travel:
- Take a yoga course in Bali
- Learn to snorkel in Puerto Rico
- Learn to row a gondola in Venice
- Make macarons in Paris
- Learn Spanish in Columbia
Find some more ideas here.