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Today we are going to talk about slow travel & why travelling slowly can benefit yourself, and the places that you visit.
You may have heard the phrase before, but what exactly is slow travel?
Slow travel is the act of really immersing yourself in the culture of the places you visit, in a way that is also sustainable for the local environments. A way to rebel against the common overpopulation of tourist destinations that can actually do more harm than good.
Slow travel is a way of travelling over a longer period of time, spending longer at each destination and lowering your carbon footprint by not using transport as regularly. By spending more time in each place you are really able to appreciate each destination you visit and genuinely connect with the local culture and their way of life.
But that’s not to say you can only travel slowly on a long trip, many people are trying to adapt to this lesser-known form of travelling to really make the most of their adventure. Even on short 1 or 2-week trips.
I travelled slowly during my 4-month trip through southeast Asia. Probably one of my favourite trips to date.
Where did this movement begin?
Italy is well known for its delicious food, and for having a culture of people who love nothing more than to make sure everyone is well-fed. So when the rise of fast food companies (McDonald’s, KFC etc) started taking the world by storm and growing bigger by the year, it ruffled a few feathers of people who preferred the original way of enjoying food.
Why was everyone in a rush all of a sudden?
Why do you need your food that quickly?
Surely if the food is prepared that quickly, some corners are being cut?
This started the new wave of the slow-food movement in Italy by a man named Carlo Petrini. He believed that fast food was actually doing more harm than good, so he made it his mission to spread the word about slow food from 1989 onwards.
That’s where slow travel eventually came from.
Slow travel was born sometime later in the early 2000s as a rebellious way to do the opposite of the crowds. At a time when many tour companies would offer to visit 5 cities in 2 weeks or 13 cities in one month, this became a fast-paced phenomenon that took off really quickly.
Everyone wanted to see more, do more, and experience more, but only had a few short weeks to do it in.
This leads to people visiting places, but not really experiencing these places. I’ve been guilty of it myself, assuming this is my only opportunity to visit a particular destination so I must fit in as much as possible and sleep only when I’m exhausted. But then I never really felt connected to these places because – well, I didn’t actually do as much as it looked like I did.
I know for a fact I’m not the only person who has had at least one trip like that. Yes, it’s cool to say you’ve visited x amount of countries, but if you’re not really experiencing these places, does it really count?
This is why I often prefer to do working holiday visas to spend longer in each place. I was able to spend 18 months in New Zealand, 2 years in Canada and 1 year in Australia with this visa type.
Did you know British citizens can visit 8 countries on a working holiday visa?
Why is travelling slowly beneficial?
Coming from the bustling city of London, I grew up believing everyone should live a fast-paced life. Because, well, that’s how everyone around me lived their life. I was always in a rush because that’s the general vibe I felt growing up in London.
Even when visiting other major cities around the world while slowly travelling, I don’t always feel the need to rush around. It is so much easier to understand a local lifestyle when you slow down and actually pay attention.
When you travel slowly you don’t have to lead the same lifestyle as back home. It’s often encouraged not to. You can take each day as it comes and simply live in the here and now. Live in the moment if you will. Let’s dive into more reasons why everyone should try it:
Immerse into local culture
When you spend more time in one place you can really involve yourself in the culture and “live like a local”. This will give you experiences that a regular tourist just wouldn’t have & give you unique memories of that part of the trip.
Stay in unique accommodations
If you are trying to live locally and really experience the off-the-beaten-track destinations then you’re probably not staying in a huge busy holiday resort. You’ll have more opportunities to stay in residential properties like homestays and guest houses which can be cheaper than an all-inclusive hotel, but also more homely.
Can actually be cheaper
If you are staying in a quiet suburb instead of right by the tourist hotspots, not only will your accommodation be cheaper, but oftentimes everything else is cheaper too! You could opt to eat where the locals eat, their favourite restaurants and their grocery stores rather than the pricey tourist trap restaurants in every guidebook.
Easier to connect with locals
When you’re surrounding yourself with residents and people that know the area, it’s so easy to make meaningful connections. This is much nicer than just meeting endless people for a few days when your resort holiday dates only slightly overlap.
Lower your carbon footprint
When you stay in one place for longer you automatically lower your carbon footprint by not using transport as often. Not to mention how horrible planes are for our environment! When you start to travel slowly and join in the slow travel movement, you tend to walk or take public transport instead of running to the airport each time.
Your money helps the economy
When you buy local (not just during slow travel but at home too) your money helps a small business owner instead of the 1%. By opting to put your money into smaller communities instead of that fancy super resort you’re helping a parent send their child to music lessons instead of helping the hotel CEO buy his 5th yacht.
Easier to avoid tourists
Ok, well technically you’re a tourist too, but nobody really enjoys being crammed in like a sardine with a million people in every photo you take. When you travel slowly you can be strategic about when you visit certain places, and you learn what days and times hotspots are quieter. Or better yet, you can visit places that 99% of tourists don’t even know about so you have a unique experience.
Easier to reflect
When you spend longer in one place or visit fewer places during your travels you have more chance to actually remember everything you’ve seen. This makes it easier to appreciate and reminisce about the things you’ve learned along the way.
Can live a minimalist lifestyle
You don’t need a mountain of clothes or electronics to live an interesting life. All you need to do is pay attention to a new place and live in the present rather than chasing the “next destination”. Sit down and watch the world go by. Take a walk through a new place. You don’t need tons of gadgets to fulfil your trip.
But these are not the only benefits..
The aim of slow travel is to dig deep into these new and different cultures with an open mind, focusing on trying to immerse yourself in new experiences rather than simply hitting popular tourist spots just because they’re the “thing” to do. It’s travelling against the grain and trying something new while still making the most of your journey.
People tend to rush during their travels and want to see anything and everything available to them on a trip. This can lead to sensory overload and not being able to take in everything you have seen. When this happens it increases your chances of burnout which is exhausting and leads to serious holiday blues when it’s all over.
Like a spoilt child who gets everything they ever ask for, they won’t appreciate earning things with hard work. Travelling too fast can have the same effect.
If you see too many things in a short space of time you never really get below the surface of a local living style or culture. And this is why more people should travel slowly, so you don’t end up being tired from your holiday (in the wrong way).
Don’t just follow the crowd and the rush with fast food. Slow down, take it all in, and appreciate the little things.