Why slow travel isn’t about travelling for months

Lizet Wesselman - 16/01/2024

Why slow travel isn’t about travelling for months

Lizet Wesselman - 16/01/2024

I often hear people complain about not having enough time for slow travel. Slow travel, pretty much just as sustainable travel, responsible tourism and local experiences, has a different definition for everybody. For me, slow travel means taking more time to actually take in a place. And this is more in the small things, than taking months to explore. Let me explain.

Stop to enjoy the view

“Slow” is such a weird concept. What’s slow? Someone who savours a meal in between 2 breaths, will say that a one-hour meal is very slow. While in some cultures, an hour is very short for a meal. Someone who runs a marathon in an hour, might say that a 5 hour hike is slow. While other people love doing 5-day hiking trails.

Slow is personal, and so is slow travel. But all it comes down to, is that you take a little more time than you’re used to. And this differs. Do you usually cross off all the highlights in a city in 2 days? Add a day, sit down for a coffee and watch life pass by. Or get some local pastries at a bakery and have a picnic where the locals are. Slow travel is in the small things. It’s about taking a littlebit of extra time, to enjoy a place.

Slow travel is something you need to learn. Most of us (based on countries that most of my readers are from) come from a rushed environment. We take that with us on our trips. We want to see and do as much as possible on our trips. Result: we come back completely exhausted, in need of another holiday.

Sounds familiar?

Yeah. But your objection to slow travel, was the fact that you didn’t have enough time for more holidays, right? So, what exactly is the meaning of a rushed holiday? To cross off a bucketlist and get home so exhausted you probably forget about half of what you experienced? Or to come home relaxed, with great memories and maybe even new friends?

Why is slow travel, sustainable travel?

Slow travel is fun. I love watching life pass by and I love taking trains for that exact reason. Slowly, while the train rolls from A to B, I get more and more excited about my next destination. You make room for that excitement and with that, you get to enjoy places more deeply.

And, with that, you’re more conscious about your trip. Conscious travel, sounds familiar? Yes, it’s just one of many words used for sustainable travel. Conscious travel is exactly that, being conscious about your surroundings and the places you’re visiting.

And guess what, the more conscious you are about your surroundings, the more small things you’ll notice. Like, that small town the train just passed, the small family bakery in the alley, and the hidden gems you found because you ended up chatting to a local in a restaurant, who gave you insider tips.

And next time, you’ll remember this experience. And instead of staying at a big chain hotel, you might search for a local B&B, because they sure have those same sort of insider tips the person at the restaurant gave you. And you might even look at the route the train goes, and plan a lunch in a small town, because you remember how cute the towns you passed on your last trip looked.

Like I said, slow travel is something you need to learn, and step by step, we learn to slow down and enjoy the little things. Trust me, in 30 years you’re not going to remember Paris for the Eiffel Tower. As amazing as it is, and as much as I’d recommend everybody to visit! What you’ll remember is the fact that you decided to go to the Eiffel Tower for a sunset picnic.

What I remember about Paris is the sunset at Sacre Coeur, where locals played music, other locals sold cold beers and we all had a blast. I met people and we went for a bite after. For a night, it felt like I lived in Paris.

How do you slow travel?

Slow travel is different for everybody and it might even change over time for you as well. But the key is to squeeze in some flexibility and small moments.

  • Don’t make a full schedule. Plan a few highlights for the day, and go with the flow for the rest of the day
  • Plan “options”, places you could visit if you have time, but could be skipped if something else comes along
  • Plan extra time, 4 days in a city instead of 3. Count on things to take longer than they probably do, so you have unexpected free time for a coffee, walk, something extra
  • Look for small experiences, a wine tasting, food tour, river cruise, local market or even something like a karaoke bar
  • Look into things to do in the area, especially on citytrips. There’s a big lake just outside of Berlin and Rome is pretty close to the beach.
  • Take a detour. We took a few days to go from Florence to Rome, which would be a 4 hour drive if you take the highway. We found waterfalls, vineyards, small towns and lots of stunning views. We literally jumped out of the car to run to the harbour for this sunset. No need to take days for it, but take a whole day, instead of the 4 hours, and make stops.

Allow yourself to slow down. Life is about the little things.