Slow travel: definition and benefits

slow travel

You’ll probably agree with me when I say that holidays can sometimes be almost as stressful as daily life. There are many reasons to slow travel. 

It turns out there’s a different way to travel that can bring you more meaningful experiences while at the same time respecting the pace of your body, the environment and the local populations you come in contact with.

In this post, I will show you how slow travel can redefine the future of tourism and why you should seriously consider it for your next holidays.

What is slow travel?

Here’s what I answer when asked how to slow travel:

“Take your time, enjoy the unexpected. Don’t do too much, but rather choose to do what you really like. Connect with local people, try traditional food and discover local traditions. Immerse yourself in the destination you’re visiting and transform a simple holiday into a life-changing trip. This is slow travel.”

Slow travel: sharing lunch with local people
Enjoying lunch with local people

When you understand that by doing less you can actually experience more, then you become able to let things happen. By allowing the unexpected in your holidays, and leaving it time to happen, the magic of travel finally comes to you. You are now able to change what could have been a regular holiday for a life-changing trip.

Furthermore, this new mindset allows you to relax, take the time to do things you really like and ultimately have an overall richer experience of your trip.

The two types of slow travellers

We could categorise slow travellers, the individuals that slow travel, into 2 categories. There are those who try to slow down as much as possible the journey they take, and there are those who focus more on the destination they’re visiting.

1. Travel from one place to the next slowly

The first ones would, therefore, choose slower means of transport rather than fast ones. For example, they would prefer a train to a plane, a bike to a car, etc… By slowing down their journey, they get a closer contact with local populations and a deeper feeling of the atmosphere of the places they travel through.

And when the unexpected happens, being in a slow mindset allows them to be open to it. They let it become part of the trip rather than resisting it, and that makes up for much deeper experiences.

Taking it slow down the Mekong river
Taking it slow down the Mekong river

Think about it:

How many people would you meet if you travelled through a country by car? And how many would you meet if you would travel the same country by bicycle- or walking?

The slower you go, the smaller the distance with the local population, and the richer the experience you get out of it.

2. Immerse yourself in a destination

The second type of slow travellers, however, focuses on a destination. In that case, they could get to their destination straight away, but then adopt the slow travel ethos during their stay.

They’d choose carefully where to stay and would stick to it, rather than going from one accommodation to the next. Staying in the same neighbourhood, for example, allows you to get a deeper connection to it, get to know some places and often get to know some friendly people as well.

On top of that, they would not try to do as much as they could and hit all the must see’s of the area, but simply schedule a few things, and leave some time for themselves. That unscheduled time becomes very handy during the trip, as it allows them to do what they really want at each moment.

It could be to relax for a while, get lost in an area or discover local places. And of course, it would allow them to accept an invitation from a friendly local to discover something really authentic about the place they’re visiting!

Immerse yourself in local life
Immerse yourself in local life: this is slow travel

This aspect is often forgotten in articles about slow travel, but very important to mention. You do not need to have plenty of time for a trip, or in a place. Ideally the more time the better, but you can also slow travel even if you just have a few days.

Note that…

I’ve openly categorised slow travellers into two kinds to make it easy to understand the distinction between the two ways in which slow travel could be reflected. Please do not attach to one or the other, as they are both complementary.

I often myself am the second type of slow traveller because it is much more compatible with my lifestyle. You need less time, less preparation and it could fit any weekend trip you’re undertaking. But I have been twice in my life the first type of slow traveller, and those were the richest and most memorable travel experiences. It is more difficult, but if ever life gives you the opportunity, seize it! I guarantee you won’t regret it.

5 good reasons you should adopt slow travel now

 

1. Relax, recharge your batteries and improve your health

Have you had enough of those trips that leave you more tired than you were before taking them? By putting the emphasis on slowing down a trip, slow travel allows you to relax, reconnect with yourself and finally get some real time off doing anything.

Taking a nap during a slow trip
Taking a nap during a slow trip

And that is a necessary step to recover all your power and to be able to get back to your daily life with fresh energies. We all suspect travel can have long-lasting effects on our health by lowering down the stress levels, it has now been proven by several studies.

2. Empower local economy, wherever you travel

When you go slow, you go local! Flee from multinational chains and go discover small, local and family run businesses. By staying in just one area, wandering around and communicating with locals, you can easily find local businesses wherever you are.

And as every place and every person is different, they will always have something new for you to discover.

Local artisan in Barcelona, Spain

And the best thing?

It is often cheaper than big companies and it has a major impact on the local economy of the place you’re visiting.

3. Leave a positive footprint and contribute to preserving the environment

A funny thing you may not have considered until now is that the slower a mean of transport is, the greener it would be.

Think about it:

Walking, cycling, riding a train, a bus, a car, taking a plane… Speed seems to be highly correlated with pollution. Therefore the slower you travel, the less you pollute. And the more you preserve the destination you visit.

Slow travel often takes you off the beaten path
Slow travel often takes you off the beaten path

4. Slow travel to become part of the local life

Slowing down the pace of your travel creates a bigger connection with the local cultures of the places you travel to.

Similarly, making the conscious choice to do less – picking out what you really like over a long checklist of must do’s- and focus on entering in contact with the local life will definitely let you immerse more in the destination you visit.

Mixing with the locals
Mixing with the locals

5. Get unique memories and even often life-changing experiences

When you adopt a relaxed mindset and do not have too many plans, you’re more eager to accept the unexpected whenever it appears.

And this unexpected, often if not always, becomes the thing that will change a simple trip to a lifelong memory.

Slow traveller immerse himself in local life
Harvesting organic rice in Thailand

Conclusion

We have seen in this article the numerous reasons to travel slow, how they can positively impact not only a traveller’s journey but also his health and the destination visited.

We believe slow travel is a win-win for everyone, and that is why we created Barcelona Slow Travel. Through our slow travel experiences, we offer an easy and authentic way to become part of the Catalan local life, while respecting it at the same time.

So, what’s your opinion about slow travel? Is it something you do already? If not, are you considering it now? Let us know your opinion in the comments!

 

About Author

Guillaume Jaques
Guillaume Jaques
Barcelona Slow travel's founder and marketing manager. Slow travel and Asian coconut addict, sustainable and healthy living fan. Check out my full profile and subscribe to Barcelona Slow Travel's newsletter to get my latest posts.

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16 November, 2017
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