Why do we travel?
To climb the steepest mountains.
Experience the most holy cities.
Photograph the most gorgeous beaches.
Taste delicious, authentic delicacies.
When we travel there is always the temptation do more. We try to fit in as many activities as humanly possible because there is so much to do, see, and experience. Slow travel has taught me that this isn’t always the best thing to do: taking my time allows more opportunities to soak up the culture, people, and atmosphere of the places I am visiting.
There are a few things I know to be true —
Fast food is always less tasty than a home cooked meal.
Driving fast is more dangerous than observing the speed limit.
The tortoise wins the race against the hare, even though the hare can sprint much faster. Slow and steady wins the race.
So why do we travel in double time, fitting in as much sightseeing as humanly possible? It’s because we don’t want to miss anything. But this leaves us a bit overbooked and feeling exhausted.
Slow travel means changing the entire experience so that travel becomes more relaxed, adventurous, and meaningful.
Slow Travel for me means that…
- I have an open-ended schedule. I try to travel with few time constraints so that I can feel relaxed, flexible, and open to whatever the world might throw at me.
- I don’t rush to the next destination. I try to design my trip so that I feel free to linger for a bit longer than a typical tourist. This gives me time for more exploring, talking to people, taking cool photos, and anything else I might feel like doing.
- There is room to be flexible. I can change my plans if I meet people I want to spend more time with (or even travel with!) I have time to walk around a new neighborhood for as long as I like without worrying if I will have enough time to do everything I wanted to do before the day is over.
- I can learn more. When I commit to slow travel, II have time to get involved in local life or learn new skills. I might take a yoga class, meet up with other backpackers on Couchsurfing, or join a local community group.
- There is openness and fluidity. This might sound a bit romantic and simplistic, but slow travel leaves more chances for the unexpected. Adventures, thoughts, feelings, and random cool stuff arises arise from having a few hours or even a couple days with nothing planned (yet!).
- I use my phone less. By making a conscious effort to have less screen time I feel more relaxed, a greater sense of connection with people, and I’m more curious about what’s going on in the world.
- I try to make conversation and ask questions. I make an effort to talk to the person making my coffee, the backpacker at hostel reception, or the couple on their computers in the common room. I ask people what they are doing, why they are traveling, where they are going or where’s their favorite spot in town for a beer. You never know what question might strike up an interesting conversation, and more time leaves more chances for that.
When I travel more slowly…
- I spend less money. By staying in one place for longer I pay less on transportation costs. I also save money by buying food in bulk and cooking more.
- I feel less pressure to do stuff. When I travel slowly I only do the activities and sightseeing spots that really interest me. I might skip an art museum if I’m just not feeling it, even if its a top attraction. In my own city I probably wouldn’t do something just because everyone else was doing it, so why do it when I’m traveling?
- I am more in the moment. I am more present when I travel slowly, and more likely to strike up a conversation with someone in my hostel. I am more appreciative of the activities I do and the food I’m eating. And I also do more things that I love (like reading).
- I meet travelers who like doing the same things that I do. When I decide to read in a park instead of zip-lining, I am more likely to meet people who are interested in the exact same thing. A lot of friendships I’ve made while traveling have occurred because I did something not in the local brochure but instead chose something that excited me.
- I meet more locals. With slow travel I get a better feel for the local culture. I discover new places to read or take photographs that are a bit secluded or on a quiet side street.
- I feel at home. When I was in New Zealand I chose to stay in a little town called Akaroa for about 3 weeks. I got into a slow routine – waking up, chatting with friends, maybe going for a hike. I slowed down and developed more attachments to the place and people.
- I have more interesting conversations. It’s a cliché to say that you meet amazing people on the road but slow travel often gives me a better insight into a country and the people who live there.
- I avoid travel burnout. I feel less stressed and have more energy when I take enough time to go through my day. I do things I enjoy and take time by myself – this conserves energy and helps me feel more peaceful during my travels.
- I feel more connected. One thing that sucks about traveling solo is being far away from the people I love. When I travel slowly it’s easier create meaningful experiences and feel sociable and connected. Of course there are times when I feel lonely but that is part of life’s ups and downs.
Traveling at a slow pace makes for a calmer and more meaningful travel experience. It doesn’t mean it’s not adventurous. This type of journey has changed my travel attitude and opened the door for so many unexpected and welcome experiences.
What do you think about slow travel ? Let me know in the comments!
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