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.

A Year of Living Slower, May: Slow Travel

Slow Travel in Toulouse

As the blossom trees fade and wisteria and lush green leaves take centre stage, nature tells us that we’ve reached May. A handful of sunnier days promise that winter will soon be a distant memory and it’s time to start planning our summer escapes. In this atmosphere of excitement for the thought of swapping multiple layers for sandals and alfresco evenings, we’re a third of the way through A Year of Living Slower, our year-long challenge in living better, not faster. In May, we focus on slow travel, a key part of the slow living movement.

To refresh your memory, we started the year focusing on getting a good night’s sleep – crucial for living and working to the best of our ability. In February, we aimed to put the self-care back into Sundays, reminding ourselves that there is value when we slow down and do less. March explored slow food, the origins of the slow movement. And finally, in April, we shared why the power of getting back to nature shouldn’t be underestimated and where to escape into green space in London.


Gaining More from Travel

A break from the grind, our trips promise new experiences and time to recharge. However, a YouGov survey revealed that 60% of British holidaymakers check their work emails when away, despite 80% saying that they’d rather switch off completely. Our always-on digital culture makes it more difficult to escape from work, while paradoxically we feel we must cram every sight and attraction into our precious and limited annual leave.

May’s theme of slow travel shares inspiration and ideas around how to better connect with the places you visit and return home feeling rested, rather than exhausted.

If you’re making summer travel plans, whether that’s at home or further afield, this month will be packed with useful tips. Share your experiences using #AYearOfLivingSlower on Instagram and let’s celebrate our fifth month of living better, not faster.

Nature and Nurture: Why Getting Outdoors is Good For You

Seascape in Devon - why nature makes up happier

We grew up being told that getting outside was “good for us”. The phrase “get some fresh air” implies we place importance on going outdoors to find mental clarity or resolve conflict. When you stop to reflect, there are numerous similar examples of our societal belief that being in nature is important for our well-being. Even in the 18th century, poet Samuel Johnson said, “Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.” 

In the face of culture, society and our gut telling us that getting outdoors is key for health and happiness, it seems strange that British adults spend 90% of their time indoors. Is it the Great British weather? Or, perhaps the sedentary tendency of many of us to work behind a computer screen? The following studies help remind us what we stand to gain by exploring green spaces on a more regular basis. After all, when we consider ‘work:life integration’ rather than ‘work:life balance’, we understand how our deliberate acts of well-being can positively impact what we spend the majority of time doing: working.

Science-Backed Reasons for Getting Outdoors

  • Going outdoors improves your focus: Researchers at the University of Michigan found that attention spans and memory performance was improved by 20% by spending an hour in nature. They also found that participants felt the same benefits, regardless of the temperature. This means that the temperamental British weather is no longer an excuse.
  • Nature reduces stress in the city: Research published in Frontiers in Psychology found that urban dwellers who were asked to spend at least ten minutes in nature three time a week reported reduced levels of stress. The greatest reductions were found when participants spent between twenty and thirty minutes in urban nature.
  • Switching off from technology and embracing nature improves creative problem solving: In the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that hikers who were disconnected from technology and immersed in a natural setting for four days had a 50% increased performance at a creative problem solving task.
  • Connecting with nature improves health and happiness: University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts launched ’30 Days Wild’ – an experiment that measured the impact of people doing something ‘wild’, such as feeding the birds, every day for 30 days. The researchers found that 30% more participants rated their health as ‘excellent’ after the month-long experiment, which they attributed to the increase in happiness.

Ways to Reconnect with Nature in the City

If you’re a city dweller, finding natural spaces requires more effort, although the research above suggests it pays off. In London, there are plenty of places to get back to nature, including Kew Gardens, city farms, Royal parks and nature reserves. For more simple ways to reconnect with nature, try these ideas:

  • Go for a walk along a canal or riverside
  • Plant a window box
  • Nurture some houseplants to create fresh oxygen at home
  • Walk, sit, meditate or picnic in a park
  • Eat more seasonally and visit farmers’ markets
  • Visit a nature-inspired exhibition (for example, Wildlife Photographer of the Year at London’s Natural History Museum)
  • Volunteer and help conserve the city’s wildlife (for example, London Wildlife Trust)

We know that nature can have many benefits on health and happiness, but perhaps we need a reminder that these benefits aren’t exclusive to living in the countryside. Recognising the reassuring pattern and pace of nature is a good way to find refreshing slowness in our hurried lifestyles. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”. To truly connect, we must adjust our pace.


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

7 Places to Get Back to Nature in London

Pink cherry blossom in London - where to get back to nature

London’s parks make up 18% of the city. In fact, they cover more land than railways and roads combined. Surprising, right? Mayor Sadiq Khan is even striving for London to become the world’s first National Park City by 2050. That means a target of 50% of the city covered in green space.

But luckily, we don’t need to wait until 2050 to get back to nature. If you’re desperate to swap the manmade for the evergreen, discover below some of London’s best parks and wildlife reserves that offer escapism when you need it most.

1. Richmond Park

Richmond Park is London’s largest royal park and has earned protected status for its wildlife. The Isabella Plantation within the park is a 40 acre woodland garden that was planted in the 1830s and has become known for its stream, ponds and vibrant pink azaleas. This popular park for weekend dog walking is also home to around 630 free-roaming Red and Fallow deer.


2. Hackney City Farm

Established in 1984, Hackney City Farm helps to burst the ‘London bubble’ and remind us where our food comes from. Animals include sheep, chickens, goats and donkeys, among others. The livestock has its own country retreat – rotating between the city and a working farm in Kent. Aside from fresh eggs and honey, there is also a packaging-free shop onsite for dry goods.


3. London Wetland Centre

Located in SW13, ten minutes from Hammersmith, London Wetland Centre ‘brings the countryside to the capital’. The site makes use of four redundant reservoirs and is home to 180 different species, including water voles, dragonflies, lizards and kingfishers. There are also meadows and gardens to explore.


4. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

With more than 30,000 plant species, it’s difficult not to connect with nature during a trip to Kew Gardens. Climb the Victorian spiral staircases in the Palm House and you’ll be transported to a steamy jungle oasis, far from Central London and commuting chaos. Kew is also one of the best places in London to see blossom in the Spring.

The roof of the Palm House, Kew Gardens

5. The Barbican Conservatory

Yearning for some green scenes but stuck in the city? The Barbican Conservatory is a quick pick-me-up for plant lovers – there are over 2,000 species growing here. It’s open on selected Sundays and even better, it’s free.


6. Hill Gardens and Pergola, Hampstead

The Pergola is an Edwardian raised walkway, commissioned by the wealthy
Lord Leverhulme in the early 20th century. Often described as ‘faded grandeur’, the once lavish Pergola is now overgrown with vines and plants, creating a fairytale escape overlooking the Hill Garden.


7. Parkland Walk, Haringey

The Parkland Walk follows the former railway line that once connected Finsbury Park and Alexander Palace. Around 4 km in length, the route made up of wooded areas and meadows is the longest linear nature reserve in London. It’s home to wildflowers, foxes, butterflies and birds.

There are plenty of places to slow down in London and find a better connection with the great outdoors. And aside from designated parks and gardens, London’s tree-lined streets in areas such as Notting Hill also offer a glimpse of nature, especially during Spring when #wisteriahysteria and the cherry blossom season is in full swing. Though, you’ll probably have to wait your turn for that Insta-worthy shot.


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

Thought-Provoking and Inspiring Slow Living Quotes

Go with the slow quote

These carefully curated simple and slow living quotes inspire us to live better not faster in the modern era. They include key thinkers on the slow movement, such as Carl Honoré and the man attributed to the birth of the slow food movement, Carlo Petrini.


“The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections–with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds” 

Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed


Go with the slow

Unknown, but appeared in Flow Magazine


“Slow living is all about creating time and space and energy for the things that matter most to us in life, so ask yourself what you stand to gain.” 

Brooke McAlary, quoted in Stylist


There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi


” …slow living is not about living your life in slow motion; it’s about doing everything at the right speed and pacing instead of rushing. By that same logic, slow living is not about losing time by going slowly; it’s about gaining time by doing the things that are most important to you.”

Kayleigh Dray, Stylist


“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

Lily Tomlin


“Slowing down is sometimes the best way to speed up.” 

Mike Vance


“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.”

Plato


“In the 1980s, simplicity was seen primarily as “downshifting” or pulling back from the rat race of consumer society. Several decades later, there is a growing recognition of simplicity as “upshifting”—or moving beyond the rat race to the human race.”

Duane Elgin, quoted by Eco Walk the Talk


“Slow living is a curious mix of being prepared and being prepared to let go. Caring more and caring less. Saying yes and saying no. Being present and walking away. Doing the important things and forgetting those that aren’t.” 

Brooke McAlarySlow


“The idea of the modern has been superseded; the challenge today is to return to the small scale, the hand made, to local distribution – because today what we call ‘modern’ is out of date.”

Carlo Petrini, quoted in The Independent


“Urban life itself acts as a giant particle accelerator. When people move to the city, they start to do everything faster.” 

Carl Honoré, In Praise Of Slow


Discover more about what slow living means.