7 in the morning. You wake up on a sudden alarm, thinking where you are, and why so early. Oh, yes, you are on holiday! A quick shower and you run downstairs to grab some breakfast. No time for coffee, you will grab Starbucks, though there is so much to do today. Museums, instagrammable spots, and the famous Modern Art Gallery. Not that the art is something you like, but it’s in the top X places to see, so what will you tell your friends? Most of the time you use Uber, there is no time to walk, the schedule is really tight. You come back to your hotel in the evening, completely tired. Lying in bed, you start to think how nice would it be to go back home, to rest a bit from this holiday.
“I need a vacation after this vacation” – who never said that, cast the first stone. Before, I thought that exhausting traveling is a standard. Though I am a traveler but not a random tourist, staying in all-inclusive hotels. Today I know it’s not about forcing myself to get to another ‘must-see,’ ‘must-do’ or ‘not to miss.’
Usually, at the beginning of any adventure with traveling, we intend to collect as many experiences as we can. The first foreign country you have visited amazed you the most, so you wanted to see as much as you could in a short period. But the thirty-first visited place adds less new moments to your life. I have seen so many beautiful beaches, in the Maldives, Madagascar or Zanzibar. The next turquoise water and white sand paradise will still make me feel happy but will not amaze me anymore as it did a few years ago.
Sometimes when you are running from one place to another, you feel suddenly more connected to the spot. Thinking: I love this place, I wish I could stay here for a week. But there is already the next plan in your schedule. So what if we delete some of them and decide to live a beautiful moment? There comes the idea of slow traveling.
What does actually ‘slow travel’ mean?
Slow travel is the opposite of the busy, sometimes stressful way of traveling. Skipping some must-sees to benefit from things we are really interested in. Immersing more into the culture, taking time to experience the place. Going out of the tourist bubble by connecting with people, local culture, food, and music. Making conscious choices. Prioritizing quality over quantity.
Slow travel is more staying in cottages or Airbnb’s rather than hotels. It’s sometimes cooking your lunch at home, going to the local bazaar, and discovering small places around. Exploring without the pressure of “leaving tomorrow.” Enjoying the moment much more and being wherever you want to be.
My slow travel journey – when did I decide to take a breath?
Not that long time ago, I was really proud of my super busy schedule. I used to consider visiting 5 cities in 10 days as my travel achievement. Packing and unpacking, moving from a hotel to another, checking the place superficially, and moving to another one. There was never an opportunity to know the area deeply. My lifestyle of a flight attendant also had an influence. Sometimes I had only 24 hours to rest after a flight, have a drink with colleagues, do some shopping and go sightseeing. Usually, I had to compromise it with sleeping, so often, I come back home tired. At some point, I felt that my free time must look different, and I needed to relax.
Why is it worth trying?
- Slow travel can be less exhausting for the environment. Though if you have more time you can move by bike or boat, walk or just stay in one place.
- Fast travel is costly. Less time pushes you to take cabs, choose expensive hotels in the city center instead of a vibrant neighborhood.
- You become more relaxed, so the quality of your journey and life will rise.
- Connections with people are deeper. Friendships can last longer as you have time to get to know people better.
- You can discover and see things you could never know about when you travel fast. Noticing a small next-door bakery with delicious and fresh bread in the morning. Or a little local cafe in the neighborhood. You have a chance to discover a shortcut to your temporary home, and you start to say hello to your neighbors.
Everything starts from small steps. How to embrace the slow travel mode? My tips:
- Slow travel can start from your home too. Do you remember that small cafe you always wanted to visit? Or the art gallery which you always pass by but never have time to come in? Taking a trip outside of the city to enjoy nature?
- Do research before you travel. Ask people around how many days is enough to stay in that particular place – and double the time. The more you know before you go somewhere, the more you will blend into the culture, and you will spend less time to get used to it. Make the list of things that you really want to see and the ones you can skip with no regrets. Be selective! I love as well to check Youtube and Netflix if there are interesting documentaries about any place. You will notice much more if you have an idea about the history of the country or the culture you deal with. Get some knowledge about Che Guevara before going to Cuba. Watch a movie about Hinduism before coming to India. Read a book about the history of slavery before you visit Jamaica.
- Walk. Walk rather than taking a taxi or uber. You will discover so many places on the way. Or take a subway. I remember my time in Tokyo when I saw two old and cute ladies traveling casually in kimonos. That was a perfect opportunity to see the local raw culture. Travel slow – take a car, bus, or boat. You will not miss a small village, beautiful view, conversation with locals, or a small stall with fresh fruits on the way.
- No more FOMO. Never feel guilty that you missed out on something. Who said that you will never go back? You can’t see everything in this world. Instead, live in a moment and relax. It’s ok to come back to the same spot! There are many places which I have visited, and I feel that it’s enough. But some of them I can come back over and over again. I’m never enough of Andalucia in Spain or Chefchouaen in Morroco.
- Don’t waste the day – wake up early. Start with a good breakfast or sports to feel energetic for a full day.
- Celebrate the unexpected. Delayed trains or missed connections create new opportunities, new ways, and new adventures.
- Choose the place with the character. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling on a low budget or you can spend more. If you plan a city break, search for a loft or traditionally decorated apartment. You can stay with a conventional family that cooks regional meals. While going for a tropical trip, search for a beautiful beach hut. Make an effort and try to find cute small boutique hotels rather than expensive chains. Don’t be afraid of hostels. We live in amazing times when staying in a hostel doesn’t mean staying in a cheap and dirty room with 10 strangers. I go for nicely designed boutique places, or hostels with the best vibe to mix with people who share a similar mindset as mine.
8. Don’t follow the guidebooks blindly. Do what the locals do. I’m still a big fan of Lonely Planet, but let’s face it – the moment when the restaurant or ‘best-kept secret’ lands in there, it will already be changed. It will become crowded and, most likely, a commercialized place.
9. Take the risk and travel during the offseason. The places are less crowded and cheaper. It’s easier to be spontaneous, and you don’t have to book everything in advance.
10. Disconnect yourself sometimes from the world. Switch off your phone, and don’t do drama over a poor wifi connection. Even if You can’t do a full digital detox, give it a try for one afternoon. And if you are in a group, try to go out for dinner without smartphones. At first, it might feel weird, but then you will enjoy deep conversation without posting your dinner on your instastory 🙂
11. Make a theme for your travel. Adjust it to your hobby. I love photography, and my Bali trip was all about shooting. If you like food, take cooking classes, visit local markets. If you love nature and sports, choose active travel. Party lover? Go for a festival or find a unique event around. Take classes or volunteer if you want to learn something new. Traveling is a pleasure, not an obligation. Don’t choose the places, because they look great on the picture, but they will make a great memory for you.
12. You don’t have to plan your trip entirely, day by day. Plan arrival and leave a few days for spontaneity. Maybe you will fall in love in a small village on the way, or the vibe of the hotel, and decide to stay a couple of days more. Leave some time for the magic of the unexpected.
13. Don’t give up on your daily routines. If you are into meditation, keep doing it while traveling. You might discover the whole new meaning for you. Drinking a smoothie every morning? Find local versions of it. Look for a gym, and don’t forget to take your book to the beach if you are a bookworm.
14. Don’t seek to stay only with tourists. Though you don’t need to leave your country if you want to meet people from there. Use websites like Airbnb Experiences. They help you to find a local to show you around. You can as well try couchsurfing.org to meet someone for a coffee and spend the afternoon with. Ask people – not only locals but expats living there for a while. And if you have an invitation from a local family to their house, don’t miss the opportunity.
15. Sit and observe. Be at the place. Find a busy square, take a snack, and watch it like a cinema movie. Relax at cafes and parks. Imagine you live there for a while.
16. Try to shop locally, supporting the local community. You can discover unique stuff and bring something more original than a cheap souvenir made in China. Take a walk to the fresh local market or a small grocery store.
17. Search for local events and activities. Maybe a small movie festival or a local rock music event?
18. Choose alternative travel destinations. Take off beaten paths.
19. Don’t forget your experience. After you go back home, stay in touch with amazing people you met on your way. Bring new tastes and lifestyle into your life. Research more about the things which made you interested. Though:
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
Slow travel is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to happen every time you take a journey. But it’s getting popular as a remedy for a fast lifestyle. Remember, there is no correct or wrong way of traveling. It depends on you and how you will make it right for you.
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