In a fast-paced world, every concept with a word “slow” in it naturally suggests more mindfulness, a better understanding and a pursuit to enjoy this very moment we are in right now. Just like “slow food” or “slow living”, “slow travelling” emerged as an opposition for a mainstream approach to travelling. Let’s explore slow travelling in this article!
The slow movement
The slow movement has its roots in the 80s, when an Italian activist riles against the presence of McDonald’s in Rome. The introduction of fast food was a sign of the times, where everyone and everything was speeding up, and life was becoming an all-out race — only no one seemed to know what the finish line looked like. In 1999, a guy called Geir Berthelsen created The World Institute of Slowness which was a collective of minds trying to embrace the ability and the desire to slow down. In 2004, Carl Honore publishes a book entitled In Praise Of Slowness: Challenging The Cult Of Speed, and a movement is born, precipitating this cultural tilt, where people begin to approach a quality over quantity approach to life.
What is slow travelling?
As we speak about slow travel, the concept is not difficult at all. It is, by definition, taking the road less travelled. It’s about embracing individual experience versus culture-led holidays and trends. To slow travel is to soak in everything that both a place and the road leading there have to offer. It’s about taking the time to reflect and engage with the now, not rushing, not taking for granted, and not doing anything unless you want to.
Slow travelling is all about you, and about moulding a travel experience to your way of enjoying, instead of acquiescing to society’s expectations of it.People no longer want to do itineraries and tours but would want to travel at their own pace, live there a little, have a taste of the local culture and work while they can. A big part of travel is to really feel the local flow of life.
Thanks to… COVID?
Could be so. People developed a habit for looking to avoid crowded tourist locations. There’s been a lot of conversation, too, around sustainable lifestyle over the past 18 months. When the media was reporting on fish returning to the Venice canals and a drop in carbon emissions due to the halting of planes and cars, it gave people the opportunity to think about how we can continue this trend on the other side of the pandemic. Also, there’s been a huge emphasis on the importance of supporting small and local businesses during the pandemic. We’ve seen too many go under in the wake of COVID – now, people are ready to give back.
Can slow travelling put more meaning into your experience?
People are picking up on the power of the slow travel movement. Slow traveling isn’t about sleeping in, sitting in a cafe for hours on end, or sunbathing at the beach all day (although there’s nothing wrong with indulging in any of these activities in moderation). Slow travel is about being mindful, expecting the unexpected, and not burning yourself out. It’s about getting to know the locals, and giving yourself the time to take their advice.
It’s about getting outside of capital cities, going to lesser-known locales, and not cramming your entire bucket list into one trip. Of course, you want to see everything the world has to offer—that’s why you’re here, but rushing through your wishlist, following a rigid itinerary jam-packed with famous landmarks, and only eating at restaurants with the highest Trip Advisor ratings are surefire ways to fall into the tourist trap.
How much time do you need to slow travel?
A common misconception is that if you want to travel slow, you need a lot of time to do it. You can be a slow traveler whether you have a week, a month, or a lifetime to do it. This is all about a way you do it. No matter what kind of time frame you have, make a list of your priorities in order of importance, then remove the bottom half of that list. If you have seven days to travel, don’t plan on visiting four cities. Keep in mind that getting from one place to another during your trip can also be time consuming.
Orienting yourself to each place is a process in itself. If you have a driver’s license, why not to rent a car for a couple of days and explore the less accessible areas around the city you are staying in? Or otherwise, you can drive to another city, visiting little landmarks along the way. Chances are that when you make a wrong turn you’ll end up finding a gorgeous park, or an awesome art gallery, or meet the craziest people you’ve ever seen (crazy in a good way, of course).
How much money do you need to slow travel?
This is also up to you! There are lots of techniques for reducing your travel expenses or even making money on the road. Taking advantage of opportunities like working, interning, or volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to travel slowly and meaningfully. While you may sometimes find that these experiences leave you more in the company of other foreigners than locals, teaching abroad is an excellent way to engage with the community and have a more synergistic slow travel experience.
You can even use tools like Skyscanner and Google Flights to search for the least expensive flights to anywhere in your allotted time frame, and let destiny pick your destination. So much about slow travel is about leaving things up to chance, so picking a place based on the price is right on brand.
How do you find the best places “off the beaten path?”
While researching ahead is definitely useful, the most tried and true travel hack is to talk to locals once you get there—a technique reliant on keeping your plans flexible. If the best restaurant in town is a “best kept secret,” you’re probably not going to find it listed online.
Locals can sometimes seem intimidating, but they can usually spot a tourist from a meaningful traveler, and are happy to talk to the latter. If you are genuinely curious about who they are and how they live, they’ll usually want you to experience the parts of their home that makes them most proud, and send you on your way accordingly. If you’d like an experience in Vilnius – we have a blog post on this topic with a beautiful route.
As we have talked in the begging, slow traveling is truly for everyone, it lies in the concept itself. Slow travelling moulds around your authentic values and all you have to do is take a deep breath and then take it slow. Don’t worry, enjoy the process and you may have an experience of your life!