Why you should plan a slow travel trip this year
Want to see the world and really experience new destinations? Forget weekend city breaks and short-hop holidays. The new trend is slow travel — the art of exploring the world at a more leisurely pace.
Traveling ‘slowly’ can be better for the environment and for the communities you visit, and it can also be a much more enriching experience for you.
Okay, I’m intrigued. What is slow travel?
Slow travel doesn’t just mean traveling by train or bus (although, that’s part of it). It’s about taking the time to really get under the skin of the place you’re visiting — a travel style that has heaps of benefits. Instead of rushing to tick off the area’s touristic highlights, slow travelers connect with new cultures through embracing the region’s history, music, food or traditions.
Traveling slow could be spending a few weeks in one place, or taking several months to explore just a few areas. The key is finding out what the locals love to do — from their favorite hidden cafés or parks, to the quirky museums and unusual adventures that the tourists usually miss. Whether you’re taking a cookery course to master the art of making fresh pasta in Italy, volunteering on a humanitarian project, or working a summer job in a new city, you’ll have time to get to know the people around you and gain a much deeper, authentic connection with the place you visit.
Wait, does studying abroad count as slow travel?
It totally counts. A multi-week study abroad program is a great opportunity to travel somewhere new and appreciate a different culture. In fact, lots of the things that make slow travel a more enriching way to see the world also make it great for learning a language. Slow travel allows for much more cultural exchange than quick visits, and being immersed in the language you’re learning has been proven to help you secure strong language skills. Regularly interacting with the community can help you improve your accent, grow your vocabulary and understanding of colloquialisms, and build your confidence when speaking.
Did you say that slow travel can also be better for the environment?
The slow travel concept also prioritizes sustainability. This can influence how you arrive, where you stay and the things that you do. Train and bus journeys take longer than flights, but they do have a smaller environmental footprint. Make sure you sit by a window, too; you’ll see far more of the country’s landscapes than by plane.
Slow travelers often opt to stay with a host family or book a locally-owned guesthouse instead of choosing an international hotel chain, too. Spending your money with local businesses supports the community and can help eco-tourism to grow sustainably. Plus, this way you are more likely to meet people to improve your language skills, learn more about the culture, and hear about the region’s authentic experiences. Local restaurants too are generally the greener and more cultural option — dishes often use ingredients grown nearby, and have less environmental impact.
Sounds like slow travel might be good for me, too.
In our busy modern lives, more and more of us experience anxiety. So, when you reach for your passport, channel your inner sloth! Travel can be a tonic, and avoiding rushing around can help you avoid burnout. Slow travel is supposed to leave you feeling refreshed and inspired, not exhausted.
By being present and savoring the experience, many slow travelers find the unhurried approach super rewarding. Focusing on forming connections with communities and cultures encourages a more meaningful, emotional and enriching experience. It can also give you the freedom to try things that are out of your comfort zone (hello, personal growth).
Why not spend a whole afternoon thinking about what the paintings in art galleries mean? Or walk slowly through a market so that you can look at everything that interests you, and have conversations with people you’re staying with. The memories and friendships you make this way are more likely to be long-lasting and worthwhile.
Finally, the slowed-down adventure attitude also gives you more time to connect with nature, and spending time outdoors is great for our wellbeing. For example, reading a city book in the park for an afternoon. Or, spend a few nights camping with friends in a national park; you’ll see the local plant and animal life, breathe fresh air, watch the sun set over a new landscape, aaaand *exhale* relax.