An article on the Independent Traveler once defined the term ‘Slow Travel’ as ‘a grassroots movement that has quietly emerged as a solution to tourist burnout’, and stresses that is ‘not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mindset.’ It proceeded to comment on the tendency nowadays to come back from holidays more tired and stressed than before leaving, because of travellers’ insistence on packing as much as possible within a short space of time.
I have always been a slow traveller, long before I read this article which explains the phenomenon in such detail. My first attempt at Slow Travelling was when I spent a month in South Korea and based myself in the capital. While many would say something along the lines of ‘1 month in one location is a waste of time’, it was exactly what I wanted and needed. I wanted time to get to know the city, to fall in love with it, and to get a good sense of what it means to be a Seoulite.
The Independent Traveler article describes the benefits of Slow Travel as being the following:
“Traveling more slowly allows you to form a stronger connection to the place you’re visiting, and you’ll feel much less rushed. With a “slow” itinerary, you won’t experience the stress of attempting to knock out every site in your guidebook. Instead, you’ll stay in one place long enough to recognize your neighbors, shop in the local markets and pick a favorite coffeehouse.”
More significantly, it is important to understand that you can practise Slow Travel whatever your income and situation in life, but to do so, you need to make some lifestyle changes and realise that you have to set your goals in relation to the real opportunities you have at your disposal. While this will necessarily need you to compromise on some issues, it can often lead you to places you might have not even considered in the first place, but which end up being very precious life experiences.
So how can you practise the art of Slow Travel?
- Slow Travel is not necessarily a RTW trip
One-year-long, country-binging round the world trips are NOT slow travel. It is sad how often you come across future round-the-world trippers posting on forums and mentioning itineraries which consist of so many countries that you wonder why they are even bothering. Having said that, there are people out there who are doing it right, my favourite example being The Road Forks, who are, step by step, travelling the world (with regular breaks), and who know that to truly connect with the local culture and experience the place you are in, you cannot live on 40 dollars a day (unless it’s a developing country).
Photo by veeandseven.
- Slow Travel is spending more time in less places
So you have four weeks paid leave holiday this year, but do you really have to squeeze a ‘European tour’ into such a short space of time? Ok, so you’ll see the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum and Buckingham Palace, but haven’t you already seen them a million times on pictures? Slow Travel is about doing and experiencing things rather than just seeing them.
- Slow Travel can be the decision to live and work in a foreign country
There are some careers which have the advantage of allowing for international movement, and if you’re a young ambitious person longing to travel, looking into such careers and seeking to achieve the required qualifications can be a the investment of a lifetime. But in truth, retraining and preparing yourself to work abroad can be done at any age.
- Slow Travel is about creating some sort of routine, as routine is comforting and relaxing
When I was studying in London and didn’t have an internet connection at my accommodation, I picked an Internet Cafe next to the British Library and went there daily for an hour or two. Soon the proprietor got used to my order of ‘cookie and hot chocolate’ and I didn’t even have to ask for it anymore. The minute you develop some sort of routine in a foreign country, you are suddenly more than just a tourist, no matter how insignificant this ‘element of routine’ might seem to you.
- Slow Travel is about making travel special again
There was a time when travel was so exclusive or it took so long to reach a particular destination that it was the highlight of one’s life. Now, unfortunately, many travel because ‘that’s the cool thing to do’, and take very little back home other than a camera full of low quality, slightly blurred pictures of them standing in front of some famous landmark or other. Slow Travel is about making travelling and journeys meaningful again.
- Slow Travel is about understanding that the world is big and varied enough to make travelling a life-long endeavour
However much you feel like you are tied to your job or responsibilities back home, the truth is that there is time for you to travel. There is no rush. You don’t have to see the world in one year and then settle down for the rest of your life to pay the bills and mortgage. And after all, if you ‘see’ the ‘whole’ world in a rush during your gap year or year off, what will you do for the rest of your life?
Travel is the endeavour of a lifetime.
If you want to know more about how to practise the art of Slow travel, join me, Denise, on The Art of Slow Travel.com, as I bring you stories of how I, and people from around the world with different lifestyles and backgrounds, are taking it slow and experiencing the world in all its beauty.
-Unless otherwise stated, photos are by Denise Pulis and may not be used without permission.