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What is slow travel? The new travel movement explained

Recently, a new movement has started in the travel community: slow travel. A mindset that is pretty much the exact opposite of the way of traveling that’s so widespread these days. Recently, I quickly explained what slow travel is in my tips for more responsible travel. Today, we’re going more in-depth and I’m sharing all the ins & outs about this movement. Here’s everything you want to know about slow travel!

Let’s begin with some basics. Slow travel is a new travel idea, created as a response to the slow food movement. The slow food movement originated in the 1980s in Italy, advocating against the upcoming fast food production. Instead, it focuses on a slower, cleaner and most of all more local food system.

Slow travel is comparable. It’s in contrast with the fast, constant-gratification travel habits that most of us have become so used to. No more only appreciating highlights, snapping the best pics for social media and jam-packing your travel itinerary (because, you know, FOMO).

Instead, slow travel focuses on connection. Connection to the local people, culture and food. Going off the beaten path and immersing yourself in the new place. Taking it easy and enjoying the simple things that really make a country.

Slow travel is a new mindset!

Why should you care about it?

There are lots of benefits to slow travel that are explained later in this post. But to start off with, I think a lot of us will have personal experiences that kind of illustrate why we should care. This definitely was the case for me. It’s what first made me become interested in researching this new way of travel.

Here are a few personal examples:

  • When traveling in New Zealand, I noticed I was just hitting highlight after highlight, checking them off my list without fully being able to enjoy the experiences.
  • When visiting Antelope Canyon (Arizona, US), a place that had been on my bucket list forever, I was amazed to see that visitors were just focused on taking photos, instead of enjoying the beautiful canyon to its fullest. And I was no different!
  • On my trip to Laos, I felt I didn’t properly visit the country because I didn’t see ‘enough’ different places. (Instead, I saw fewer places but experienced them much more fully).

Recognizable? I bet you can recollect some memory where you felt rushed, exhausted or unappreciative. With that in mind, let’s take a look slow travel in more detail.

Slow travel

Gimme some details! How exactly is it different from ‘regular’ travel?

Here’s a little overview of some important aspects that set slow travel apart, as compared to the kind of ways of traveling we’re used to seeing.

‘Regular’ travel

  • Quick trips to see as much as possible
  • Rapidly checking highlights off your bucket list
  • Visiting places for quick photographs and social media likes
  • Experiencing a place through the lens of your camera
  • Tourist burnout (coming home more tired than you were when leaving)
  • Massive FOMO if you don’t see every single highlight

Slow travel

  • Immersing yourself and connecting with everything local
  • Going off the beaten path
  • Focusing on the journey, not the destination
  • Eating and shopping locally
  • Knowing you can’t see everything in a country or city, and that’s okay.
  • Being in the moment
  • Realizing it’s more than fine to take it easy and even have a ‘rest day’ every now and then.

Of course, it’s very possible that you’re not 100% in one of the categories, but fall somewhere in the middle. For me, I’m naturally conscious about some things while others take a bit more effort. I’ve particularly been focusing on not getting lost in seeing all the highlights and only taking photographs when I’m there, but to take it easy, allow myself some rest and enjoy being in the moment.

slow travel

My best tips for slow travel

  1. Live like a local. Stay in a local Airbnb instead of a hotel, eat in the locals’ favorite restaurants and cafes, shop in local stores and immerse yourself in the culture.
  2. Don’t jam-pack your itinerary. Allow for some extra days and hours, so plans can change and spontaneous things can happen.
  3. Take your time & don’t rush. No, you don’t have to move slowly or stay in the same place for a certain number of days, necessarily. Just fully immerse yourself in whatever it is you’re doing. Stop to take in the view instead of ‘completing’ a hike as quickly as possible, for example.
  4. Enjoy the journey. Some of my favorite memories have been made on the road, getting from one destination to the next. In slow travel, the journey is just as valuable as the destination. So breathe, relax and take it all in.
  5. Don’t live through your phone/camera. Whatever you’re doing, be present and don’t experience the moment through your camera (literally) or just think about posting it on social media.

Doing these things myself has made a real and important impact on the way I experience my travels!

Finally, here are two things to remember:

Not all trips may be perfect for slow travel. You don’t have to follow each tip perfectly all the time. If you want to spend a week in an all-inclusive resort and never even leave the place, dot it. Visiting Dubai for two days and want to see all the famous landmarks? Go for it! Just take these tips as a way to better your trips overall. I strongly believe life’s about balance.

It’s perfectly okay to use your phone/camera/social media. Slow travel isn’t about never using any electronics ever again. But there’s a difference between using them to improve your experience and letting them take over your journey – and life.

slow travel

Benefits of slow travel

Finally, let’s talk about some benefits of this way of travel.

  • You save money. Local and small-scale accommodation, food, shops, ways of transport and experiences are usually cheaper. That’s a nice little added bonus!
  • You gain deeper experiences and memories. Instead of 100 pictures of a building you only vaguely remember, you’ll connect the locals and culture, and create memories you’ll never forget.
  • It’s a more responsible way to travel. Not only does it leave less of an impact on the planet, the local community will also profit (economically).
  • It forces you to try new things. Talking to new people, trying different kinds of foods and doing things you’ve never done before. Leaving your comfort zone like this can seem intimidating, but in most cases will leave you with great new positive experiences. It’s like the week I rode a motorcycle through the mountains in Vietnam: scary AF, but one of my favorite memories now!
  • It’s fun! Trust me, once you try it, you’ll want more of it.

I hope you give slow travel a try! With this guide explaining what slow travel is and how you can do it, hopefully you’ll have new ways to enrich your travel experiences. Remember: it’s not about doing anything perfectly, but about the little things you do to improve your own experience and have a bit of a better impact while doing so. Let me know what you think about slow travel and if you’ve tried it!

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