What on earth is slow travel? It’s a question I get asked and one I realise I’ve never explicitly answered in a blog post before. I write about slow travel because it’s had such a positive impact on my travels, and I wanted to create a beginners guide for anyone who isn’t sure of its meaning. Slow travel is a term that was born out of the slow living movement. If I could sum up slow living in one definition it would be that used in Kinfolk:
‘Slow living is an ethos that encourages us to reclaim time for what we value most. It’s about identifying the things and people we can’t live without and cultivating spaces devoted to whatever brings us joy and meaning’.
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s all the joys of minimalism tied up in a much prettier and less intimidating bow. Applying this ethos to travel wasn’t easy for me being the regimented itinerary queen I naturally am, but I feel like I’ve made real progress during my last few trips. Let me outline how you can apply this ethos to your own travel and give you some practical advice on how to slow down and enjoy some slow travel.
Forget the itinerary
I love an itinerary as much as every other Monica from friends out there. I’m a huge planner and it wasn’t unusual for me to have an entire trip neatly planned out on paper – yep, really. The problem with an itinerary is that it restricts you and takes away any spontaneity, which is often where the magic happens on your trip. I find it’s those unplanned moments, like stumbling across a picture perfect flower market to wander, that make your trip most memorable. Allowing time for these moments to happen will mean more of them do. Give yourself permission to step away from the itinerary.
Do less but better
Less but better is a phrase I learned from one of my favourite books ‘essentialism’ and it’s something I say over and over again. That’s because it results in maximum output with minimum input. I know that sounds a little scientific when we’re supposed to be talking about travel, but it still applies. Think of it this way, go to fewer places but explore each one in more detail so you feel like you’ve seen everything it has to offer. Fliting from one place to the next isn’t nearly as satisfying as exploring somewhere at a slow pace, in its entirety. The point here isn’t to have the traditional trip where you tick off all the sights you’ve seen but to make time to take in what a place really has to offer. You’ll develop a stronger connection with a place by taking this approach.
Absorb the experience
Take a moment to notice the smell of the food that’s cooking, the way the locals talk and the gestures they use or the sounds around you. These are memories you can recall later that will bring you right back into the moment, the same way hearing your wedding song does. Sprinkle these moments throughout your trip to add a little more meaning and magic. The key is to slow down and be truly present in the moment, not sat next to the nearest socket charging your phone while you scroll social media. In fact, dare I say it, sometimes it’s worth leaving your phone in the room so you can really appreciate what’s going on around you, instead of trying to capture every moment you feel might be Instagram worthy.
Forget those must get Instagram shots
You know the ones, there are even Pinterest posts dedicated to the most instagrammable places in any top destination and everyone flocks there just for the photo. Before you spend precious hours trekking to that must get shot you’ve seen on your favourite Instagram feed, ask yourself if you even want to visit this place? Do you even feel like cupcakes and donuts right now? Put that fear of missing out to one side and stop doing those things that don’t align with your values. It’s a total waste of time and you’ll only exhaust yourself with it.
The times I hear, I’d love to travel more but it’s so stressful! If that’s the case perhaps you need to try a different approach. Slowing things down will help. One of Gretchen Rubin’s secrets of adulthood is that we’re very good at making life harder than it has to be. I can’t think of a more appropriate situation than travel for us to do this. We over-pack, over-plan, over-drink, have unrealistic expectations and we ruin what should be precious memories in the process. We return home exhausted wondering why we’d been so excited in the first place. Think about what you can live without and leave it at home, mindset included.
Do things your own way
If you love to lie in your hotel room watching films in the evenings instead of drinking at the hotel bar (raises hand) – do that! Don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else is doing to make your trip status worthy. Traveling is the perfect time for you to give yourself the opportunity to do whatever it is that recharges you and makes you happy. Embrace that time and give yourself permission to indulge. Eat the crisps in bed, order room service instead of going out, lay in the shade if you hate sunbathing. Think about what it is that makes you feel happiest on holiday and do more of that.
I talk about traveling light a lot because the benefits are endless. Ditching the oversized suitcase and two outfits per day is a great way to eliminate distractions and tone down the stress travel can inflict. Surrounding ourselves with too much stuff, makes us feel stressed. There are never enough hangers in the wardrobe anyway, so leave the excess at home. I’ve been traveling with a carry on case only for over a year now and I’d never go back. The less time spent organising your messy hotel room and trying to decide what to wear and more time soaking up the experience of traveling, the better. You’ll be amazed what a difference it can make.
So, how does slow travel sound? Does it appeal to you, or do you think I’ve gone all hippy? Let me know in the comments below.
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