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What is slow travel, and why do it?

Want to know the best way to travel? TRAVEL SLOWLY!  

I am huge fan of slow travel. It's been an absolute game-changer in my travel experience, and I'm dying to tell you more.

So read on, to hear what is slow travel, and why you should do it.

Woman sitting at a beach looking out at an island.

Slow travel benefits - Pausing. Taking it all in. Relaxing.

What is slow travel?

Slow travel is about travelling in a way that gives you time to take in your surroundings, the people, the culture, the food and sounds of a place or time. 

Slow travel is about pausing long enough to notice more and engage more. Plus it's a growing trend in travel.

Slow travel is about looking after yourself. Slowing down your travel pace allows you to relax, unwind, and simply breathe!

My slow travel story.

I used to be a 'one night here - move on - one night there' kind of traveller. And it was exhausting. Constantly unpacking and repacking bags. Constantly moving between places. And I was simply not giving places the time and energy they deserved. 

Looking back I could feel myself getting so wound up with being constantly on the go, with constant change, and the constant stress of moving around so much.

When I went for my solo and light trip in 2017 - without knowing anything about slow travel  - I designed a trip which gave me three to six days in each location. The location I stayed was carefully chosen as the centre, with locations of interest branching our from that central spot. A bit like a bike wheel with the central hub and the spokes to different spots I wanted to see.

I found this style of travel much more relaxing. It gave me a chance to explore an area in more depth. It gave me a chance to create connections with the people in the area - like the gelato man, the coffee lady, and my accommodation hosts. 

I was away for 30 days, and stayed in three regions - Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Islands, the Amalfi Coast, and the Cinque Terre. 

Beach on Hvar Island, Croatia

I relax every time I see this photo - one hour before I was due to catch a ferry on Hvar Island, Croatia.

Slow travel is about the journey, not just the destination.

My travel days were often short ferry, bus or train trips between locations within the region. Being only once or twice a week and shorter trips, they were very easy and low stress. It gave me a chance to take more of the journey in. 

I relished the van and bus rides with locals, with my bag either on my lap or between me feet. Chatting away with the people around me. Every bus stop gave me a chance to see the back streets, the communities where people live, and the lifestyles they had - their gardens, homes, beaches, hills.

Overlooking Lake Whakatipu in Queenstown, New Zealand

Pause. What do you see? The mountains? The lake? The late summer dried flowers?

Slow travel is rejuvenating travel.

Racing around, even the thought if it, gets my heart racing too. It's not calming in any way.

As travellers, we are naturally busy, seeing and doing as much as we can. We want to experience everything a place has to offer.

If you stay in a place for longer, you get the chance to see the same amount of things, but you can take more in. Plus, you also get to have some quieter times. Take longer with that coffee. Sit on that seat by the beach for 15 minutes. Rest on the church steps and watch the crowds, while you eat your gelato.

View over Cinque Terre town, Italy.

Resting on a dirt bank and watching the town below.

Slow travel is about engaging with this moment, right now.

Solo travel lends itself to slow travel. You have very few distractions. No one you need to entertain, or be entertained by.

Eating out or dining alone is one of the biggest fears of solo travellers. Yet this gives you the time to savour the flavours of food. To not be distracted by chatter. To explore every taste sensation.

But it takes practise. Slowing down enough to focus on your food is really important. 

At a hostel on the Cinque Terre, I was eating dinner with some fellow hikers. We were all talking non-stop, while eating our pasta. The chef came out and said, "Please. In Italy we eat, then we talk."  We ate our delicious meals in silence, taking notice of the ingredients and flavours and being respectful of the chef's time and energy. It was a great lesson.

Seafood pasta in Italy

One of my best food moments in Italy.

Slow travel is a great way to save money.

Travel days are expensive days. Reduce the number of days you travel, and you will reduce your costs. It's as simple as that.

My favourite money saving tip is to do some self-catering. Even being able to make yourself a cup of tea, or your breakfast each day will save you money.

In my planning spreadsheet, I would plan to go shopping for things that I couldn't carry with me the whole time. I would buy fresh fruit, yoghurt, and nuts to have for breakfast. If I had a toaster, I would buy bread and a small amount of butter. Plus I could buy snacks and leave them in my room.

I could buy ingredients for a packed lunch that kept well in the fridge in my room. Or I would buy a selection of deli food, that I could also refrigerate and eat over several evenings. 

By buying local ingredients I was still supporting local producers and businesses.


Woman eating breakfast on balcony in Korcula, Croatia.

Enjoying my home-made breakfast on my balcony in Korcula, Croatia.

Slow travel has a lower impact on the planet.

Travelling slower can help you to consume less. Primarily because it gives you more time.

The picture below is in Xingping in China. I had three days here before I went to my Tai Chi school. If I had been there for one day, I would have caught a taxi to this famous spot, but because I had time, I walked there. 

I also could have joined a tour and been driven all over the place to see the highlights of this incredible region. But it wasn't necessary, as I had time to catch the local buses, walk to places, and simply sit and watch - the cheapest activity of all! 

Consider hiring bikes when exploring a town. They get you round faster, plus you can sneak through smaller streets and lanes. I considered hiring a car on the Dalmatian Islands of Hvar and Korcula. Instead I hired e-bikes and what an adventure that turned out to be!

Often when we're trying to cram in as much as possible, the fastest way to get places often has the highest impact on the environment. Reconsider whether bunny-hopping around Europe, America or Australia on short flights could be done differently by travelling slower.

Woman by jagged kaarst mountains in China.

Do you want to give slow travel a go?

Slow travel really gives your holiday another dimension of enjoyment. It gives you such a great opportunity to see and experience a place more than if you were only overnighting there.

Slow travel is a lot easier on your body, with less stress  and more relaxing moments.

For your next trip, consider giving slow travel a go. 

Want to learn more? Read these blogs for more tips on how to travel light to save the planet.  Or this blog on how to further reduce your travel fatigue by travelling light.

With the world opening up, slow travel may just be a safer travel option as well. Think about it for your next trip.

Happy travel planning,

Katherine xo



 

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