What Is Slow Travel?
One question I receive more of now that I talk about travel more is, what is slow travel?
Still relatively young, Slow Travel has been born out of a much older movement; The slow food movement. Founded by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in Italy in the 1989’s the slow food movement was a backlash against fast food chains in defence of regional traditions and a slow pace of life.
Slow travel on the other hand is often interpreted differently according to each person however, like the slow food movement has roots in the appreciation of a slower, more mindful approach to living.
You may also find Slow Travel being referred to as responsible, ethical, mindful, sustainable or low-impact travel.
The term ‘slow’ has such a negative connotation in todays world; a world that glorifies busyness, convenience and instantaneous gratification. Slow travel isn’t just about travelling physically slower or having to spend months in each destination. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about being mindful of how your choices are affecting the people and the environment of the places you’re travelling.
It’s about choosing meaningful experiences over that ‘tick box’ bucket list style of travel and big resort holidays. It’s about fully immersing yourself in a new place or culture, connecting to yourself and your surroundings and encouraging a more intentional and immersive travel experience.
Slow travel ensures that not only you get the most benefit out of your travels but also the local people and places you travel to.
The increasing affordability and ease of travel means that more people are able to travel the world than ever before. This is amazing and it means that travelling is no longer only attainable for those with wealth and privilege. This dramatic rise however does contribute to over-tourism and a travel culture based around a fear of missing out.
The slow travel movement was born after people started asking themselves;
How can we be kinder to the planet?
How can we avoid over tourism and exploitation?
How can we still have authentic travel experiences in a world that celebrates instagrammable locations and glossy filters?
Slow travel is:
- Asking ourselves how we can be kinder to the planet
- Avoiding over tourism and exploitation
- Valuing experiences
- Making genuine, real life connections
- Spending slightly longer in one location rather than fitting many destinations into one short trip
- Taking the time to learn about different cultures
- Being respectful of the locals and the area you’re visiting
Slow travel is not:
- Travelling for the sake of social media appeal
- Imposing your beliefs on other cultures
- A more expensive way of travelling
- An encouragement of FOMO
- A quick tick box experience
- Skimming the surface of a destination in a hurry to see the next place
Slow travel isn’t limited to travelling abroad, in fact it’s something you can put into practice in your own backyard. Spending time slow travelling in your home town is a fantastic way of introducing yourself to the slow travel movement.
I haven’t always travelled slowly, but I did as a child (although perhaps not through choice). Economically we weren’t in the position to travel abroad much and so spent our childhood on slow trips to the southern English coast. It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realised my travel experience was vastly different to those of my friends. When I started earning my own living I began to play a massive game of travel catch up.
With our limited annual leave we tend to cram our travel time into as short a time frame as possible. When planning my 6 months backpacking through Asia, I started by trying to cram as many cities into my itinerary as possible without paying any mind to how my plans would effect those cities.
There is of course nothing wrong with this way of travel if this is what you choose (and as long as your choices aren’t negatively impacting the people and places you’re travelling to). In this case it was something I realised I was participating in and was a culture I was deeply uncomfortable with. I started to ask myself, do I want to be contributing to the mass tourism I witnessed in South East Asia? Do I want to behave like the other privileged white backpackers I witnessed climbing over out of bound temples just to get an Instagram shot? The answer was a 100% resounding no.
I’m certainly not here to enforce my opinions on you and as a privileged, white British woman I recognise that the way I choose to travel is not going to be achievable for everyone. Slow travel isn’t about preaching or making others feel guilty but more about gently encouraging and educated others of the impact they have on the world.
It’s about providing small changes that others can action and hopefully put towards travelling more mindfully and responsibly.
Slow travel is still a learning process for me and is something I know I will never be perfect at, but that’s okay. I’m making a conscious effort to try and do better and right now that’s good enough for me!
I’d love to know if you’re currently working towards travelling slower – Drop me comment below and let me know if Slow Travel is something you’re on board with!
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