What is Slow Travel?

Rustic building in Pula Croatia: Slow Travel Tips

To escape the rat race, we travel, seeking new adventures and experiences. Yet, when we’re exploring, we’re still racing. Racing from sight to sight and from city to city. How much do we really ‘see’ when we travel? Rather, are we just ticking off destinations on our bucket lists like a game of international bingo? We visit new places to escape the grind, yet we often return more exhausted than before we set off. In fact, over half of Brits keep in touch with work during annual leave.

Carl Honoré, one of the key thinkers of the slow movement, summarises this paradox, “when we travel in roadrunner mode, we miss the small details that make each place thrilling and unique. We lose the joy of the journey. And at the end of it all, when every box on our To Do list has been checked, we return home even more exhausted than when we left.”

What is Slow Travel?

Slow travel, stemming from the slow food and wider slow living movement, aims to answer this contradiction. Many claim that slow travel is not a method or a means, rather a mindset. It replaces the desire to see as much as possible with the desire to experience as deeply as possible. That means connecting with the local people, their cuisine, culture and music.

Of course, if you’re embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip somewhere far flung, you may have limited time and wish to see as much as possible. In these cases, the slow travel motto of “there’s always another trip” may not apply. But in general, slow travellers promote staying in one place for as long as possible and getting off the beaten track. Whether that’s eating at local restaurants, visiting markets or taking a language or cooking class. In turn, helping to travel more sustainably and supporting local economies.

Advantages of Slow Travel

An increasingly popular way of travelling, slow travel boasts a range of advantages over traditional jam-packed travel itineraries:

  • Return home rested and revitalised
  • Escape your comfort zone
  • Expand your horizons and knowledge of other cultures first hand
  • Contribute more to the local economy
  • Make lasting, unique memories
  • Connect with locals
  • Save money (if opting for homestays over hotels, for example)

Experience More: Tips for Slow Travel

If you often feel more worn out after a holiday than before, the slow travel mindset might be one to adopt. These tips, including those from slow travel enthusiasts, will help you get started:

  • Franca from Slow Vegan Travel advises that you shouldn’t be scared of getting lost – “getting lost isn’t always a pleasant experience, but it might lead you to discover unexpected beauties and to meet interesting people.”
  • Remote Year encourages you ditch the guidebook for local recommendations – “talk to the people that you meet when you arrive at your destination and find out their favorite places to eat, relax, and learn.”
  • Slow Travel Magazine recommends travellers to “take a course – painting, cooking, salsa dancing, whatever you are interested in.”
  • Sloww encourages sustainability and living like a local – “good home habits should travel with you.”
  • It’s also worth allowing time for spontaneity and flexibility. A full itinerary leaves little time for exploration and creates the feeling of the need to rush from place to place.
  • A strict daily plan also limits wandering by foot. It may not always be the quickest way to get around, but slow travel fans often encourage travellers to walk as much as possible and away from the main sights. Plus, it’s an easy way to reduce your eco footprint.

Evidently, do research which neighbourhoods are advised to be safe and keep some way of navigating back to familiar territory should you stray into a situation that makes you uncomfortable.

In Nyssa P. Chopra’s words, “I travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.” For a more meaningful trip, ditch the list and embrace the slow.

This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. May’s theme is Slow Travel.

Let’s Escape: Luxury Glamping on Croatia’s Istrian Coast

Glamping tent Croatia

It might not be for camping purists, but glamping is rising in popularity and there are many reasons to give it a try. The opportunity to enjoy all your home comforts in a beautiful and remote setting, but without a tent peg in sight – what’s not to like? While cosy shepherd’s huts in the Brecon Beacons or beach huts by the Cornish coast may spring to mind, glamping doesn’t always have to be a staycation. If you’re in need of inspiration for your next slow-inspired escape, discover what’s to love at Arena One 99 Glamping in Pomer, situated along the rugged Istrian coast in northern Croatia.

Arena One 99 Glamping Tent

The Scenery

Croatia is experiencing increasing visitor numbers from the UK. In the first six months of 2018, the country welcomed around 1.4 million Brits – up from just over one million during the same period of 2017. The soaring popularity of Croatia could well have something to do with the beautiful scenery and clear blue-turquoise waters along its coastline, as well as its value for money. The glamping accommodation at Arena One 99 is nestled among a forest of pine trees on a small hill overlooking the Adriatic. You wake to the smell of pine and the sound of the birds – it’s idyllic, as long as you have good neighbours.

Glamping in Pula, Istria

The Spa

One of the highlights of the site is the alfresco spa and wellness area. At the top of the hill, the spa enjoys hot tubs, a sauna with a floor to ceiling forest window, multiple teepees for treatments and a yoga area. It’s an oasis of calm and a great place to recharge.

Spa teepees Arena One 99

Tips for Glamping at Arena One 99

  • If you’re looking for complete solitude, this isn’t the glamping spot for you. While it’s relaxing and well-organised, it is a fairly big glamping site and there is a fairly busy road on the other side of the bay. For a quieter trip, go off season, avoid peak summer, or invest in ear plugs.
  • Bring mosquito spray. Although the tents come with nets, mozzies will always be around, particularly at dusk.
  • Try the truffle dishes and the Italian fusion cuisine. The on-site restaurant and Epulon Food and Wine in Pula are well worth a try.
  • If you can hire a car, do it. Going off-peak has its positives, but abundant public transport is not one of them. This is a fairly remote location and it is doable by taxi, occasional buses and Ubers, but to really explore the region at your leisure, a car (or boat!) would be useful. Having said that, there is something refreshing about working around a bus timetable and getting back to basics; Google hasn’t mapped it yet, so visit Pula Promet.
  • Download the app for the site. It still feels like a work-in-progress, but the ability to check all info you may need in-app and message reception, the spa etc. with any query or question is a really great feature.

If you fancy getting back to nature in sunnier climes, Arena One 99 might just be place for you. If you can’t forego a bathroom and like the idea of on-site bars and restaurants, a larger, luxury glamping experience is a great way to unwind without the hassle of pitching a tent.

3 Guilt-Free Reasons To Enjoy Glamping

Glamping safari tent with deckchairs

A yurt nestled in a valley, a wooden pod in the forest, or a hut by the beach. This is glamping; a hybrid word that blends ‘glamour’ and ‘camping’. It’s a concept that offers visitors a retreat into nature without the effort of pitching a tent, getting cold and worrying about said tent blowing away. It combines the benefits of traditional camping; escaping daily life and embracing the wild world, while not forgoing the home comforts. Over the past five years, Google trends data shows a steady rise in search interest around ‘glamping’ in the UK. And, during the past 12 months, this equates to 49,500 average Google searches each month. Even our taste in TV programmes has started to reflect our appetite for escaping into nature. George Clark’s Amazing Spaces – recently reaching seven series – and Dick Strawbridge’s Cabins in Wild, highlight not just popularity for visiting alternative accommodation, but building these places ourselves.

Camping purists would argue that glamping is cheating. A real toilet, a wood burning stove and a proper bed? That’s not real camping, they’d say. Is it really mandatory to suffer the hardships in order to fully experience nature? Of course not! In fact, the benefits of glamping are very much the same as those of camping, but with the added bonus of comfortable, stress-free surroundings.

Discover slow living inspired reasons to try glamping and find out why unplugging in the wild isn’t mutually exclusive with pitching a tent.


Glamping safari tent

3 Guilt-Free Benefits of Glamping

1. Enjoying Slow Travel

Glamping is a great way to experience slow travel. Often, we try to pack in as many sites as possible into short breaks, to ‘make the most’ of our annual leave. Carl Honore, speaker, writer, and at the forefront of the slow living moment, summarises: When we travel in roadrunner mode, we miss the small details that make each place thrilling and unique. We lose the joy of the journey. And at the end of it all, when every box on our To Do list has been checked, we return home even more exhausted than when we left.”

Glamping spots are often rural and remote, encouraging you to take in the sights, smells and sounds around you. After all, just because there are no sites to visit, doesn’t mean there is nothing to see.

2. Experiencing Boredom

“The concept of staying and being somewhere beautiful will always be popular and we believe that in modern life it has never been more important,” says Tom Dixon, managing director of Canopy & Stars, in an article for The Telegraph.

In the digital era, it’s not always easy to find downtime, or even realise that we need to. With an increasing number of apps and devices craving our attention, both at home and at work, it’s more challenging than ever to unplug. Discourse around how smartphone and tech overuse affects us is increasing (Forbes even called 2018 the year of digital detox), and there’s one particular consequence of our screen habit that glamping offers a great antidote for; our diminishing ability to experience boredom.

When was the last time you felt truly bored? Chances are that for most of us our phones are our go-to during awkward or quiet moments. In her TEDTalk ‘How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas’, Manoush Zomorodi explains that when we’re bored we ignite the ‘default mode’ in our body. This is when we do ‘auto-biographical planning’. In other words, we reflect on the big moments in our lives, take note, create a personal narrative, set goals and we decide how to reach them. Sounds quite important, right? To put this into perspective, Zomorodi asked the listeners of her podcast to take part in her project ‘Bored and Brilliant’, which challenged them to cut down their screen time over the course of a week. Of the 20,000 participants, 70% said they had experienced more time to think. She explains, “By doing nothing, you are actually being your most productive and creative self”. And CEO of digital detox app Space, Georgie Powell, confirms in a Guardian article: “It’s so powerful to be truly bored: nothing in your head and nothing in your hands, so you can daydream. I really think that’s when great ideas come.”

They say that ‘there’s no Wi-Fi in the forest, but you’ll find a better connection’. While many glamping spots do offer Wi-Fi, choosing to experience boredom, or just solitude, could help you reconnect and dream up big ideas.

3. Reconnecting with Nature

One of the biggest draws to camping and glamping alike is the promise of a tranquil setting. Be it by the coast, in a meadow, in the woods, or alongside a stream, glamping allows a closer connection to the natural world and all its scents and sounds. It’s no secret that getting some fresh air is good for us – it’s what our parents have been telling us since we were kids. But, for urbanites in need of a reminder, the Wildlife Trusts and the University of Derby conducted a ’30 Days Wild’ challenge where participants were asked to ‘do something wild’ everyday for a month. Participants describing their health as ‘Excellent’ increased by 30% after the 30 days were up, which adds to increasing research that nature is important for wellbeing, happiness and life satisfaction. Plus, glamping in beautiful scenery lends itself to walking and hiking, or in other words, free feel-good exercise.

For those who like the idea of getting back to nature, unplugging and getting a little headspace, but need a decent loo and bed, glamping is a great way to escape. It comes in many shapes and sizes, and ranges from sites to fully secluded spots, so it’s likely you’ll find your perfect pitch. Be it shepherd’s hut or pod, why not give glamping a try for you next adventure? Let’s ditch the glamping guilt!

A Slow Day Spent at Hitchin Lavender Farm

Bunch of dried lavender

Have you ever realised how living in London or another big city changes your perception of distance? You type in where you’re going in Citymapper and off you go – even if it’s over an hour away by tube and bus, you’re likely to go the distance as a Londoner. 50 minutes for a drink with a friend? Doable. But before moving to the capital, travelling 50 minutes for a casual drink in the evening would have felt ridiculous. Sound familiar? This probably means that your perceptions of day trips have also changed. Travel for an hour and you can swap city for countryside? Great idea. 

Fields of Lavender, Hitchin

If you’re searching for day trips from London that provide real escapism, the beautiful British lavender fields that have been popping up on Instagram over the past few years should top your list. Bonus if you live in North London, Hitchin Lavender Farm in Hertfordshire is practically on your doorstep. Here’s why it makes a great slow escape from the city.

Stop and Smell the… Lavender

Hitchin Lavender is an assault on the senses. First, you stand in awe of the swathes of purple trailing down the hill as you queue to pay. Then, as you’re given your scissors and bag and eagerly enter the cutting field, the aroma hits you. It’s intensified every time you push past the sprawling bushes. After a while spent taking photos and taking in the view, you quietly make your way up to the top of the field, snipping as you go. After a while you’ll slowly begin to hear a deep hum as thousands of friendly bees dance around the bushes. 

Picking Lavender
Walking through Hitchin Lavender

Although Hitchin Lavender can be busy, the experience is relaxing, encouraging a little spontaneous mindfulness even. After all, to fill one of their bags to the brim takes quite a lot of snipping. Once the obligatory photos are out of the way, all you’re thinking is: “how can I fit more lavender in my bag?” and “what can I make with my lavender?” When you’re done picturing yourself in a farmhouse kitchen making lavender biscuits, there are sunflowers to visit. 

As well as taking home your carefully picked stems, there is a rustic shop with flower-infused gifts. It’s beautifully presented in a 17th-century barn, alongside the cafe which has indoor and outdoor seating. The lavender raspberry jam is delicious.

This family-run farm is nothing short of Country Living-chic. In fact, there are signs advertising out-of-hours events, such as yoga, meditation and a sundown cinema. Sounds like bliss, right? And in case you were wondering, yes, they do weddings.

Field of sunflowers in summer

Lavender Logistics

Prices: £6 per adult, £3 for 5-14 year-olds and free for under 5s. This includes filling a bag full of lavender with their borrowed scissors. When the sunflowers are ready to be cut, they’re priced at 50p a stem. Check their social feeds for sunflower news.

Opening Times: 10am to 5pm everyday until the end of August with late openings on Tuesday and Friday.

Getting There: There’s ample parking and it’s not far from the A1M. If you’re getting the train, they recommend Kings Cross or St Pancras to Hitchin and then taking an Uber or taxi, though do keep an eye out for any buses or coaches as this is a popular destination.

In short, Hitchin Lavender is a perfect rural escape from London. It’s great for all ages, it’s good value and uplifting. If you feel that your £6 bag of lavender isn’t quite enough and your boot is begging to be filled to the brim, extra bags are £4. After all, what could be better than being surrounded by flowers? This slow activity really doesn’t finish when you leave the farm; there are so many ways to use your cut flowers. Lavender is also a natural sleep aid making a great addition to your own calming bedtime ritual.