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I was one of those travellers who maximize vacation time by squeezing in many activities in one trip. I used to plan my holiday with a colour-coded spreadsheet. And I would visit a city for a few days and move onto the next and would continue for the rest of the trip the same way.
Some of my best travel memories included my first solo trip where I visited Europe including Rome, Florence, Milan, Paris and London.
One time I used my frequent flyer points and got a (free) ticket to Sydney, Australia where I spent three weeks in Australia. I visited many places including Blue Mountains, Noosa, Brisbane, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach and the islands of the Great Barrier Reefs.
There was another trip where I practically ran through Scandinavia in three weeks. I started my journey in Copenhagen and worked my way through Scandinavia and saw Malmo, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Stavanger, Bergen, Geiranger, Alesund and Olso. Not only because I only had three weeks, but it is pretty expensive to travel in Scandinavia.
After all these trips, I felt I needed a vacation for my vacation. I was so tired and exhausted from all the moving around. Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t have photos to prove that I travelled, I wonder if I even remember any of it?
Do you ever feel that way?
Travelling is supposed to be fun, memorable and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed all of my past trips. But sometimes I wish I had more time to spend in each place and truly immerse in the experience. But like most people, time was a limiting factor, and I wanted to make the most of my time by seeing as much as I can.
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What is slow travel?
I’ve heard of the term “slow travel” a few times. I’m not sure when I stumbled on it but I quite like it. Perhaps it was from the sheer exhaustion after many multi-week trips.
So I looked up, “What is slow travel?”
Slow travel is derived from the slow food movement back in the 1980s. At the time, people in Italy were completely against putting a fast-food chain restaurant in Rome. The Italians were part of the slow food movement which promoted local communities who preserves their cuisine with local culture and traditional food preparation. While the movement became the way of life, it also evolved into other facets of life as well, which is where slow travel was born.
To have slow travel experience, it involves taking time at a destination and be fully present. It involves connecting with the local environment and local people. And it also means to be kind to the environment while you are travelling. Ultimately, the focus is on the journey itself.
As much as I am enjoying seeing so many new and exciting things, sometimes I felt rushed and wasn’t fully present. Slow travel allows you to take your time, do all the touristy things and non-touristy things while being present and enjoying the moment. Embracing every moment and focus on the journey is the quintessential key to slow travel.
Why I’ll never travel another way again
I no longer want to cram my holidays with activities, museums and other attractions. But instead, I would instead take leisurely strolls through different neighbourhoods, read a book on a park bench, and people watch as I slow travel through a new city.
I will forget all the paintings and sculptures I see in museums. I will forget the names of monuments, churches, cathedrals, neighbourhoods, etc. And unfortunately, I will forget all the delicious food I ate.
But I will never forget the feeling of peace and calmness during slow travelling through a new place. And interactions with people and being in the moment. Those memories will stay with me forever.
For me, it has never been about collecting cities or countries. To say I’ve been to those places is easy. But to indeed experience and being fully immersed in it is entirely different.
It is about quality and not quantity.
I take a minimalist approach when it comes to travelling. And it is about quality and not quantity.
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to take my time to travel the world, and at a pace that I enjoy. I can do “regular day things” (like grocery shopping, cooking, and anything that sustains my everyday life) in new cities as I travel the globe.
I came to realize that it is not possible to see every single site in a city. Instead, I let go of the need to do everything you are “supposed to do.” You are only supposed to enjoy your trip and make what you want out of it. For me, it is about taking the time, be in the space and entirely be present.
Benefits of slow travel
Slow travel is about being present, taking your time, enjoy the process, minimizing environmental impacts and immersing in local cultures.
You will experience many benefits while you slow travel. Some of these include:
Cheaper accommodation, food and transportation
When you are slow travelling through a new city, you may be staying in accommodation for more extended periods of time. This means you may be selecting an accommodation that is more likely to feel like a home than a hotel.
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And if you stay in a place where you have access to a kitchen, you can save a bit more money by making your own meals and supporting the local economy by buying food from local markets.
Furthermore, if you are staying for more extended periods of time, you may be spending less money on the actual transportation whether it is a plane or train ticket or other transportation costs.
Lower environmental impact
There is a substantial environmental benefit from slow travel. When you are slow travelling, you tend to stay put in the same place for a while. Which means you are minimizing the carbon footprint.
And if you have to travel from city to city, you may want to try alternative transportation modes like trains or buses. These two types of transportation have a smaller carbon footprint and align with the slow travel philosophy. By travelling via train or bus, you can take your time going to your destination and also enjoy the scenery. These are great options for solo travellers as well.
Connection with people
When you slow travel through a new city, it is easier to meet locals as you will have to settle in a neighbourhood. You will get to know the people at the grocery store or farmer’s market. You will see the same people going to the same coffee shops and restaurants. Perhaps you can even start a conversation and interact with the locals you see every day.
Some of my favourite travel memories involve interactions with the locals. For me, it means so much more to be around people who are open-minded, generous, and warm. Those are the types of things I will remember from all my travels.
Connection with myself
Another part about slow travel is connecting with yourself. As a solo traveller, you have a LOT of time by yourself. A LOT! Honestly, I just love it. I am one of those people who can just fill up all my time doing things I like and doing it all on my own. And I have no qualms about doing anything by myself.
I spend a lot of time reflecting on life, reading about different things (lately it is all about spiritual books) and just enjoying my own company. After all, the ability to enjoy your own company is a big part of travelling solo.
Why you should try slow travel too
Slow travel may not be for everyone, though. If you like fast-paced travel, by all means, go for it. I just find that I get burnt out really quickly if I’m moving around too much.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to see the ancient ruins, historical cathedrals and ancient civilization that were once our past.
But for me, travelling is about experiencing other cultures and see what other people are doing and how they live. I want to understand other languages, cultures and how their immediate surroundings shape who they are today.
Mostly, my favourite places are the places where I met great people and exchanged many stories. After all, isn’t that what we all strive for? To have better human interactions and connections?
How you can have your own slow travel experience?
Whether you are time-bound or you are free to travel as often as you wish, you should give slow travel a try.
Pick a destination and be mindful of your journey. It is about taking your time and being present. Less is more. Do something that you are excited to do and not because a travel guide told you to.
And if you travel for a longer period of time, stay in a place for a few more days than you normally would. And try not to plan too much because part of slow travel is going with the flow and enjoying the journey.
There are many other things you can do to experience slow travel. Perhaps start with one of these tips and add more when you are comfortable.
For me, slow travel is the best. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every trip I have ever taken, but my best trips were the ones where I really took my time and be immersed in the experience.
So what do you think of slow travel? Is it something that you can embrace? Let me know in the comments!
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