Slow travel

How not to travel / The benefits of slow travel

It is not a guide on how not to travel. Neither it is about how you should be travelling. If you’re considering a change in your travel style, however, look no further. There are many benefits of slow travel but I am not going to not tell what you should or shouldn’t do. I might be able to help you make that decision though.

Travel is an individual thing and you should do what ticks your fancy and makes you happy. Slow travel, fast travel. Who cares, if only you go out and travel, right?

Yet, like with everything in life, it’s a good idea to widen your horizons and open up to new ways of life. So let me tell you about why I’m breaking up with fast travel, about the benefits of slow travel and why you should try it too.

What if I told you that fast travel sucks?

That jumping from one destination to another to see as much as possible and tick all the sights of your list is draining and makes you come back even more tired than when you left.

If I told you that, you would possibly get annoyed and maybe disagree. And to be honest I would as well. How dare you telling me how I should travel and how I should manage my time!

So don’t worry, I won’t.

Not everyone has all the time in the world to just chill and stay in one place. The world is vast and amazing and you want to see as much of it as possible.

So do I.

And in all honesty – fast travel doesn’t suck. Any travel is a privilege and an amazing adventure. And, whichever way you decide to do it – it’s great. But there are a million ways to travel and I think I can convince you that slow travel is a revolutionary approach. At least for me.

I do a lot of things fast.

I eat fast, speak fast, I make decisions fast, I get emotional fast and I travel fast. And I used to love my fast way of travelling, don’t get me wrong. Until I decided I want to start writing about it.

The day I sat down and wanted to write about my Sicily trip, I realised I couldn’t. Why? Because as much as I really enjoyed my weekend getaway, I could not dig out enough of meaningful experiences that would be worth putting on paper.

How did this happen?

So, last year I took a short trip to Sicily

I was planning to see as much of the Sicilian East Coast as possible and then come back and write about it. The trip was 3 days long and I planned on visiting Catania, Siracusa and Taormina. Crazy, isn’t it? Who does that? Hmmm… I do.

But I went to all those places.

Probably around the third part of my trip, I spent on trains and busses. Or looking for places of interest, photo spots, interesting restaurants or trying to figure out how to get to my next location. All that is an order to see as much as possible.

I only slowed down on the last day, when I finally arrived at the Ortigia island, and this part of the trip is the most memorable for me. Knowing this is the end of my trip and nothing else can be done or seen – I relaxed.

I walked the streets of the Old Town, stopped for Aperol Spritz and listened to the street artists. Had the best restaurant experience and a chat with local architect whilst eating vegan carbonara (I know! But it was really nice!).

As I relaxed in Syracuse I actually managed to take some nice photographs

On my return, I realised I couldn’t write anything that would be useful for my readers apart from tips on how not to travel. I spend all the time rushing from location to location, trying to see it all, hoping that I will come back with a bag full of experiences and travel tips.

I hardly remember much of Catania, half of my day in Taormina was spent trying to figure out how to get to the beach from the town and then back and as a result, I spent a lot of the time sitting at the bus stop.

By trying to see everything, I have hardly seen anything at all. Because not a lot of these experiences were deep and meaningful enough. 

And the article? Was never written.

The typical fast travel consists of cramming as much as possible in a short period of time. You never really end up getting the true feel of the place. You just brush on the things. See all the museums, points of interests, visit random restaurants and explore the local beaches or nature spots. All in the space of seven days.

Travel for many became the checklist activity. Quest for best Instagram photos and locations.

‘I visited this many countries! Or this many cities!’

But did you really? Did I?

I don’t regret any of my previous travel experiences. Yet I think it’s time for a change.

I want to bring interesting photographs from my travels. Photographs of people, streets and life that cannot be discovered in one day. I want to meet the local folks, observe and feel the rhythm of their life, taste their real food. I want to relax into the place, find the hidden corners and soak in the nature that location has to offer. If this means seeing less, that’s fine. Sometimes less is more. And this is one of those ‘sometimes’.

By embracing slow travel we create stronger and more meaningful memories.  And memories are the best travel souvenirs.

So what exactly is slow travel?

It is, in simple words, travelling from one place to another slowly. Taking more time in one location whilst immersing yourself in the local culture and getting a real feel of the place. It’s basically, quality over quantity.

Slow travel is intentional travel. When we travel in order to connect with the world and feel like we are part of it.

So what are the benefits of slow travel? Here are just few of them:

SLOW TRAVEL IS ECO-FRIENDLY

Slow travel is better for the environment. More sustainable. Minimizing our input into climate crises became an essential part of our day to day life. And travel is no different.

Travelling by train, for example, is much more eco friendly than taking a plane or a car. Of course, the majority of the means of transport will contribute to pollution. Unless we bike, walk or sail 🙂 But if we want to travel, and most of us do, slow travel allows us to choose more climate-friendly options as the time restraints are not that pressing.

When travelling slowly, we move around less which means fewer flights. We have time to rent a bike and cycle around the tow – better for your health, environment and a pocket.

We need to get to the places regardless, and biking or walking is obviously not always an option. But the slower we travel, the more choice we have to pick a transport method with less environmental impact.

SLOW TRAVEL IS CHEAPER

Travel is expensive, you say. But staying for longer in one location while travelling can sometimes be cheaper than staying at home.

Accommodation is often cheaper long term. If staying for a month or longer you are more likely to rent an Airbnb or self-catering accommodation. You will not have a need to go out every day and will cook at home more often.

The more you move around the more you spend. Moving from place to place frequently will hurt your pocket as transportation can make up a big portion of your travel budget.

Yes, we are all tempted. See 5 countries in 2 weeks? (slight exaggeration, I know!) Not only it will be very expensive due to flights and short term accommodation but also exhausting. Take your time. The world is not going anywhere. Stay for longer, make memories and safe some money. Take that night bus to the next city. You will safe on airfare and one-night accommodation. 

And lastly, when you stay longer it’s more likely that by speaking to locals and sometimes even becoming one – you will get better deals on local experiences and attraction. 

Lack of time restriction brings more flexibility. With that in mind, you will be able to choose cheaper air faires, choose slower but less expensive transport means or visit places during cheaper, off-peak hours. Also, a lot of museums offer a free entrance day once a week. There are so many perks of staying in one place for a little bit longer.

SLOW TRAVEL WILL ALLOW YOU TO CONNECT BETTER WITH YOUR DESTINATION …

This is one of the biggest benefits of slow travel. Have you heard of the concept of ‘being there’ rather than ‘seeing there’?

Slow travel allows us to take our time to be in the place. To be with ourselves and connect to the destination at the same time. Travel is building us and reshaping as people. How is this not one of the best benefits of slow travel?

Photo credit: zibik from Pixabay

Whilst taking the time to discover the destination we can choose to see the ‘off the beaten path’ parts of it. Get a bit lost and allow some spontaneity.

Spend an evening in a local tavern or restaurant, listen or even take part in discussions with locals. Check the less known (if safe of course) districts of the city. Get groceries from local markets not mentioned in the travel guides but your B&B or hostel host recommended as the best place to get the fresh veggies.

Take local transport and observe the day to day life of people. This is truly the travelling experience.

Learn more about the language. By travelling slowly you’ll have all the time to practice it and engage more deeply in the culture. And you will learn something new!

Slow travel is a mindset. And as much as it will save you money and stress it will mostly enrich you with greater and more meaningful memories.

… AND WILL ALLOW YOU TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY

Giving back to local communities and putting them first is extremely important. Now more than ever.

Local, tourism-dependent businesses suffered the most recently. So by choosing to spend your hard earnt bucks in a local shop or craft market instead of a large shopping mall can make a lot of difference to someone’s life and communities overall. This is regardless of whether you decide to travel slow or fast.

But slow travel allows us to connect with those communities better an make wiser choices.

Often we forget that our destination is someone’s home. That our choices might either help or handicap local people. Treat the place like you would like tourists to treat yours.

The recent mass-tourism destroyed many local communities and their environment. We have a chance to start everything from the beginning, better this time.

Shop locally, leave your money where it is most impactful. Stay with locals by choosing locally owned hotels, BnB’s or private accommodation.

What’s more, by staying in places for longer we will be able to understand it more from firsthand experience and help deconstruct stereotypes, fake assumptions, and prejudices of the places we go to and the people we meet.

We have an obligation to consider their livelihood and support it as much as we can. We are their guests at the end of the day. I believe we are entering an era of conscious and responsible travel where giving is more important than taking. I hope, at least.

SLOW TRAVEL IS LESS STRESSFUL

Have you ever came back from the holiday more tired then you were before the trip? This has also happened to me.

I did get stressed when rushing to take that train or bus knowing that if I don’t make it I will lose a whole day or few precious hours. How many times I got annoyed when I got lost and didn’t manage to get to the sight I was planning to visit. And then stress crept in as I knew I only had this much time to make it.

Rushing around is stressful. Travelling is not meant to be like running errands.

One of the benefits of slow travel in the elimination of stressful situations.

That trained got cancelled? No problem you can stay one more day and come back to that restaurant you visited yesterday and had the best grilled fish.

Got lost? Oh well, let’s see where this path is going to take me. I can try again tomorrow to find what I was looking for today.

Whilst spending more time in one place we are more likely to create a routine. Have a morning run, get a nice cup of coffee in the morning. This is definitely less stressful than waking up at 5 am and running to the airport.

When travelling slowly you can allow spontaneity into your life. Fancy a hike today? Or maybe feel like spending a day on the beach and catch up on reading? Why not! We are travelling to reduce stress levels. Slow travel will allow you to do just that.

SLOW TRAVEL WILL HELP YOU LEARN MORE ABOUT YOURSELF

This is one of the main reasons why I am switching from fast to slow travel. And sometimes overlooked benefit of slow travel.

Travel experience can allow you to be more with yourself and take time to discover who you really are. By removing the veil of rushed life and day to day issues and by going outside of your comfort zone you might learn things about yourself that you didn’t know existed. Not only see the world with different and new eyes but also yourself.

Travel in general can and will change your life. But by taking your time and allowing yourself to be in a moment you might get surprised how mindful experience this can be. You will have time not only to discover the world but also to discover yourself.

In the end, it is your travel and your choice. I pass no judgment on how people prefer to travel.

I understand the slow travel is not always possible. But for me, after rushing through so many destinations in the past, the time came to slow down. 

Whilst I truly want to enjoy my trips I also want to share those experience with you. Tell the stories, project the feel and ambience of the place. And I can’t do it if I only brushed on the location.

Our preferences change as we grow. I guess my change of heart could be coming from the fact that I am looking to slow down in many other areas of my life as well. Life is precious and slips through the fingers and the older we get the more we realise it. Living fast makes us miss so many opportunities to embrace and enjoy the everyday. With so many benefits of slow travel, I think its really worth giving it a try.

Enjoy your travels however you decide to do it! I will see you there!

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