What is Slow Travel?

What is Slow Travel?

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.

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