Why slow travel? The case for leisurely-paced adventures
The slow travel movement is taking the world by storm. But what exactly is slow travel and what's so great about it? Here's why slow travel is so important and how you can practice it on your next trip!
If you've ever experienced travel burnout and have returned home from a trip completely exhausted, you probably didn't travel slowly enough! Travelers are often so excited to explore a new destination that they forget to pace themselves along the way.
If you only have a short time to dedicate to your trip, then you might try and fill your itinerary chock-full of exciting experiences you'll always remember. However, this style of traveling almost always leads to burnout.
That's why slow travel is the key to traveling better, smarter, and more passionately. Pacing yourself and giving yourself time to live like a local in the country you're visiting is vital if you want a truly immersive, deeply moving travel experience.
Defining slow travel
Slow travel is the way to go, but what is slow travel exactly?
To travel slowly is to reject conventional tourism and be more open to experiences that are unique and immersive.
Rather than squeezing in a million activities into your busy travel schedule, slow travel is about adopting a mindset that focuses on connection. It reminds us of why we travel and helps us offset the travel fatigue that happens at the end of an exhausting trip.
Sure, traveling slowly makes sense, but when did the slow travel movement start?
We can trace a similar movement all the way back to Piedmont, Italy in the 1980's. The slow food movement took shape in Italy in response to the rise of fast food.
Local food artisans, farmers, and chefs rallied together to protest a new McDonald's that was to be built in Rome. They refused to embrace the rise of fast food and instead supported regional cuisine and traditional food preparation as a means to preserve their culture.
After all, food plays a big role in every country and is something natives pride themselves on. Simply put, food brings people together.
This sparked the beginning of the slow movement, which not only celebrates locally-grown and produced food, but applies to the way we travel as well. You've likely come across slow food and wine tours, slow wilderness retreats, and other similar immersive tours. They are catching on all over the world!
The benefits of slow travel are immense, and travelers are reaping those benefits more and more as they opt to support local businesses and slow travel. By doing so, travelers are taking part in more environmentally-friendly, sustainable food and travel experiences that have a positive impact on the world.
How to embrace the slow travel mindset
A few other names you may recognize from the slow travel movement are sustainable travel, mindful travel, and low-impact travel.
The first step is deciding that you want to live like a local instead of a tourist. Maintaining a balanced itinerary will give you the best of both worlds — a loose plan to see the sights that gives you room to pace yourself and make spontaneous decisions.
Becoming a slow traveler is all about traveling with intention. Each decision is conscious and unscripted, opening the floodgates for unique and authentic experiences to fall right in your lap.
The slow travel mindset is one that will eventually help you learn how to choose experiences that immerse you as you explore the unknown. By slowing down, you are allowing those experiences to educate, inspire, and alter you.
Instead of reaching for your phone to snap that Instagram-worthy photo, take a step back to understand the local customs and embrace cultural differences and the local community. Replace simply "seeing" the many different sights on your to-do list with "being" there instead.
You'll connect much more easily to the world and the beautiful people in it this way, which will last longer than rushed sightseeing memories.
Travel is one of the most rewarding, eye-opening, and challenging experiences available to us. That's why it's so important to not only see, but to discover and grow.
Slow travel encourages independence and values off-the-beaten-path experiences over touristy, heavily trafficked ones. When we are able to immerse in local culture and experience a country this way, we are gathering up meaningful, rich experiences as if they were precious treasures. Travel is more about your personal journey within a new area than it is about the destination itself.
When thinking of the slow travel experiences you'd like to have, quality matters over quantity. Don't race to get it all done, and know that it's okay to book another trip in the future if you decide you absolutely love it! Choose to wake up on some days without plans, allowing your path to be guided by the spirit of adventure.
How to put slow travel into practice
Before booking that fast-paced 10-day guided tour through Europe, strive to make time to plan an itinerary that lets you linger. Choose a destination and choose to be there longer, experiencing the local culture, cuisine, music, and way of life firsthand.
Let your experience with a new country be your own rather than have it regurgitated to you by a tour guide. Slow travel helps you experience more, retain what you learn, and take it to heart.
Follow your nose through a street lined with food trucks as you venture to try the local delicacies.
Meander through an art museum with purpose as you analyze and appreciate the influential art that surrounds you.
Forge real connections with the friendly locals and they just might lead you to a hidden gem within their city.
Wander through a national park as you connect with nature.
Try something adventurous every so often to invigorate your senses and make you feel alive.
Having a slow travel mindset will help you thrive in an unfamiliar country and give you the courage to be more involved in the local lifestyle.
Another great example of slow travel is taking road trips! You get to set your own pace, let your hair down, and enjoy the ride. This is a great way to see the sights like a local would and go wherever you set your heart on.
Cultural home stays are another unique way to get to know the local community. The families you get the opportunity to stay with will most likely prepare you a deliciously authentic, home-cooked meal, tell exciting stories about their family and culture, and give you some helpful insights on how to experience their city.
In order to travel slowly, be sure to:
- Leave room in your itinerary for spontaneous, interesting travel experiences to fit into your day. This will help you learn to step out of your comfort zone as you travel.
- Stay in your destination longer before moving on to a new area.
- See the famous spots, but steer clear of tourist traps and find new ways to see a popular landmark.
- Be flexible with your itinerary to avoid the stress of racing to each activity.
- Ask locals for travel recommendations. You never know what fun event you might be invited to!
- Try different methods of transportation. Rather than taking a crowded bus tour through the city, hop on a bike or scooter or take a free walking tour to see more at your own speed.
- Stay with locals. Booking your accommodation through Airbnb, Couchsurfing, and Worldpackers will be wildly cheaper and provide you with a better experience overall than if you were to stay at a boring, generic hotel. Meeting your host is sometimes one of the most beneficial parts of a trip!
Why you should slow travel with Worldpackers
Worldpackers believes in and fully supports the benefits of slow travel! Slow travel completely aligns with our mission as we seek to provide travelers with enriching experiences that benefit both parties involved.
As you search through the wide array of Worldpackers work exchange, social impact, and eco programs, you will notice that the time you'll spend helping your host each week is balanced out by all the extra time you'll have each day to explore that location more fully.
Worldpackers opportunities are the perfect work and travel experiences to sign up for if you're planning to stay in your destination of choice for a long period of time. Free accommodation and meals will cut down on daily living expenses and will help better fund your travels.
Slow travel is especially important to Worldpackers because we value people. We love sharing unique volunteering experiences that connect people all over the globe, and we believe this type of cultural immersion is what makes each corner of the world special and worth seeing.
By exchanging your skills with the locals and living with them for an extended stay, you are actively joining their community and doing your part to impact their lives in a positive way.
Worldpackers travel stimulates inner growth, cultivates a love of learning and support, and fuels the traveler's desire to keep volunteering around the world.