I’m an avid fan of slow travel, travel speak for, well, traveling slowly. I’d much rather stay in one destination for a long period of time and really get to know the place and its people, than change locations every other day and “see more.” Sure, you may be physically viewing more, but in my mind that equates to experiencing less. Moreover, traveling slowly helps you avoid travel fatigue, save money and travel in a more eco-friendly way (less movement means less carbon emissions).
That being said, most people have limited vacation time, or may have a number of places they’re really hoping to see on one trip. In those cases, you’ll need to turn slow travel not just into something you do, but into a mindset. I’ve done it plenty of times myself. Here’s how:
1. Do Less
Just because you’re traveling from place to place at a mile a minute doesn’t mean you need to spend your days running around like a marathon racer. Choose the activities you’re most wanting to do and really enjoy experiencing those fully. You’ll have a more relaxed and focused mindset when you’re not racing from one place to the next.
2. Go uber local
One of the biggest benefits of slow travel is immersing yourself in local culture. Just because you’re traveling quickly doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle uber local experiences into your itinerary — especially with all of the great sharing economy tools for travelers that exist today. Have a meal in a local home, stay with a local, hire a local guide, plan meetups with locals via Couchsurfing forums, peruse local markets, see a local band, take a local cooking or artisan class. The possibilities are endless.
3. Plant a tree
Or opt for walking and cycling over cars and buses. Or shut off all electricity when you leave your hotel room. Or opt for an eco-hotel. Or save your leftovers for later instead of throwing them away. While there’s no need to beat yourself up over traveling in a less sustainable manner, it’s a nice gesture to make up for the extra expended Co2.
4. Make your trip special
One major idea of slow travel is that it makes travel feel more like a transformative journey than a quick vacation. Get out of your comfort zone. Face a fear. Try something you’ve never done — better yet, never thought you’d have the courage or option to do. Take part in an ethical volunteer project (hint: they’re not all created equal). Make sure you plan at least one thing that can potentially change your perspective.
5. Talk With People
I love the blog AlyssaWrites.com, and on it she has a simple yet effective tip about slow travel: talk with people. She says, “Get to know their experience and opinions; ask how they see the place they live in or are from. Some of my deepest insights have come from people telling me what they thought about a place, their responses to questions, and learning about their personal challenges in their own homes.”
For me, this goes back to truly getting to know a place (not to mention locals have the best travel tips). The longer you’re in a place, just relaxing at its coffee shops, spending lazy afternoons in parks or doing normal daily activities, the easier it is to get to know its personality and community. Alyssa’s tip can help you do this even on a fast trip.
Which leads me to my next point…
6. Assimilate Into Daily Life
While a short trip means you likely won’t have a ton of down time, spending at least a few hours enjoying the city from a local point of view can really enhance your trip. Not sure what to do? Think about how you’d spend a Saturday at home and tailor that itinerary to the place you’re in.
7. Choose As Few Homebases As Possible
If possible, stick with one homebase and explore from there. For example, if you have a week to spare and want to go to Paris, really get to know Paris for that week, taking a day trip or two to neighboring cities. Don’t try to backpack Europe in such a short time; wait until you can take the time needed to complete that kind of trip.
8. Move From City To City Using Your Own Energy
If you must travel from city to city on a short trip, choose a slower mode of transportation. For example, when I had two weeks to travel a large portion of Kerala, India, I decided to explore by bike. In China, I hiked from village to village, getting invited into local homes for food and tea along the way. Sure, I was covering a lot of ground each day, but I still felt like I had a culturally immersive experience — not to mention calmed my mind and kept my body active.
How do you slow travel on a fast trip? Would love to hear your tips in the comments below.
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