Temple, check! Pretty beach, check! Museum, check! Volcano, check! You’re travelling and you want ‘to get the most out of it.’ You come back home. The SD card is full with photos. You squeezed in most sights from the guidebook. You have definitely seen a lot. Only you feel like you need a holiday from the holiday you just had. Sounds familiar? With travelling like this, I think we often miss the point. It’s is not a race about checking off as many sites as possible. This is exhausting, shallow, and costs an unnecessary high amount of money. It’s not rewarding for yourself, neither for the places you’re visiting.
Now, Imagine living for a week, or four, in a rental villa, buying fresh coconuts from the man around the corner, riding bicycles along the beach, sipping coffee in your new favourite coffee bar, having dinner with a local, spending little, while quality-timing with the people around you, increasing your understanding of the place. You haven’t seen less. You have only seen, felt and heard more of what’s happening around you.
Slow travel? What does it mean? My definition: To discover, experience and live a destination meaningfully and mindfully. I’m a big ambassadress of slow travel and this is why:
1. Adaptation takes time
Travelling in a different country, culture, and climate requires some adaptation. Usually it’ll take a day or two before you feel relaxed and comfortable in a new situation. If you sit back, relax and absorb what’s happening in the new place, you can easily process the new environment. Learn some local words and you can rock the rest of your stay.
2. To eat AND repeat
When arriving at a new place you can get overwhelmed by the unknown dishes, fruits, veggies, and street food you see. It’s cool to discover, try, and ask locals about it, instead of going with the comfortable club sandwich. Who knows what new favourite dish you’ll find! Food is one of the best parts of travel so better engage all your senses!
3. Unexpected things happen
When you’re not on an itinerary, you’ll be more open towards what’s happening around you. If you don’t plan and go with the flow, who knows what comes up! You may end of having diner with the first inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands, because you had no plans! If you’re really lucky you meet the countries’ bodybuild team on a deserted island. Or who knows you end up at Balinese temple ceremony.
4. Friendly for the (local) wallet
By staying longer in a place you can make a better deal on the accommodation price. A week in a hotel is about the same as a month in a rental villa. The local coconut man sells for friend prices because you repeat your visits. You can sort out the cheapest way to the next place whenever there is an offer. It’s not only friendlier for your wallet, also for the wallet of the locals. With slow travel, you don’t book all your stuff in advance but you’ll figure it on the way. It’s nice to pay directly to the end provider. The local will notice a dollar more or less! The bookings platform won’t.
By taking it slow, you experience more of the daily life, local habits, customs, language and cultural details that you may not see when you race through a place. The world is full with cool people with different believes, backgrounds and interests. Hearing new perspectives can be very eye opening! At the photo below I’m at a Tongan diner party where I learned so much about their culture!
6. Meeting people & friends
Slow travel allows for more than one good conversation to locals and travellers alike. It makes you get to know neighbour. If you stick around for months as I mostly do, these people become friends. Real friends.
7. Photo opportunities
Best photographs from travels follow from relationships with locals or other travellers, local events you encounter, or discoveries made when going by foot.
8. Personal growth
The best way to learn is through experience. By participating and interacting, instead of spectating you figure out how things work in a country. Why do people do things as they do? The unfamiliar, can be scary, confusing, and uncomfortable. But at the end it’s these experiences that make you wiser.
9. You see more beauty
Going from sight to sight to sight is stressful. Stress makes tired. Travelling at slow pace gives you more energy to enjoy the simple things. We often have this idea that if we do more, we achieve more and we feel better. Do we really? By slowing down, walking the scenic route instead of taking a taxi, we get to enjoy a whole lot of beauty which would miss when only checking off lists. Beauty is all around us!
10. Today is all we have
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow so we better make the most out of every moment. Slow travel makes you present and mindful. It’s appreciation in the little things make your day. We just need our senses to hear, feel or see it. Like watching the old friends playing chest on a main square, smelling the frangipani flower with its intriguing frangrance, feeling the sand scrubbing beneath our feet, or listening to the singing of the birds when waking up. When you take it slow, you’re automatically more aware, wherever you go. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Cliché but it is!
I LOVE how this video, narrated by Alan Watts, visualizes this. Watch and learn!
11. Easier on the environment
Less buses, less taxis, less airplanes for slow travellers. With your own two feet or a bicycle you travel much more eco- friendly! Also when sticking longer in a place you may discover that green restaurant or learn which fish is responsible to eat, like the Señor below has been teaching me in Tarifa. Here’s 70 more tips to travel with a positive impact.
12. Off the path expertise
Step out of the tourist bubble and explore the unknown! Make your own path. Go left instead of right. This is more challenging than hopping from sight to sight but these new experiences are most exciting and rewarding. What’s the worse that can happen? Get to know the area, wherever you are. You’ll surely discover some cool local spots and places.
13. Curiosity for the next visit!
It’s simply more rewarding to get to know a few places really well than to only see a little bit of many places. You gain a greater appreciation of the place and the place gains appreciation for you. And you’ll have something new to see on your next trip!
Ok. Great. You now know slow travel is and why you should. But how do you do this with the 20 days off I have per year? Stay tuned! In Part 2 I’ll share my best slow travel tips and tricks! It’s not about the travel time you have. It’s about the meaning you attach to the time you do have. You can try this at home too!
In the mean time. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ‘slow down’ song: