What is Slow Travel?
What is Slow Travel?
For weeks I have been trying to write this post, not only because Slow Travel is a fundamental part of our lifestyle, but also because everything I come across online sounds like an extremely romantic version of slow travel. It is also usually far away from the budget style of travel that we do.
What I am trying to say is people usually associate slow travel with staying in a thatched stone cottage in the middle of nowhere, with a farm next door where you can get your veggies and a beautiful lake or beach nearby where you go for a swim. Well, I must say it sounds amazing, but also unrealistically expensive. So what is slow travel?
I believe slow travel goes beyond the Italian farm house in the hills of Tuscany. In my opinion it is about how you plan, how you get there, the choices you make while there, the friends you make and the stories you have to tell when you come home.
Okay, but you may ask me: how do these things make me a slow traveller?
How do you plan and how do you get there?
First of all, a slow traveller would consider visiting a place that is accessible via more sustainable methods of transport, rather than flying everywhere even if for a short period of time. As we mentioned in our post about train travel, a train journey is a much better option, especially if you live in Europe. If train is not an option for you there are always buses, car sharing, hitchhiking, cycling, horse or donkey riding and so on.
I can hear you saying: “Oh but it will take so much longer…” And what?? This is the main point of slow travel, to enjoy the journey itself and not only the destination. As mentioned in other posts, you may meet the girl of your dreams on the bus ride, or the funny lorry driver who does not speak a word in english. “Oh but I don’t have many holidays left to take…” Well then you could opt for something closer to home or perhaps book a flight, but then try to stay much longer, don’t do it so often and also try to help the environment in some other ways in order to make up for the CO2 you emitted!
A good example of how we try to apply that to our lifestyle is as Sophia told you, our journey to the TBU Conference in Nantes. We started to plan well ahead and managed to get a good deal on the Eurostar from London all the way there. The journey itself took a little longer than would have by plane, however as she mentions the convenience and comfort made the trip more enjoyable and we even had the chance to take some cheese and bread to snack on while we brainstormed about the conference and the future of Slow Spirit.
Accommodation is another point to consider, as normally when you buy all inclusive holidays or opt to stay in chain hotels very little of the money you pay actually stays in the community or town you are visiting. The majority tends to go to global corporations that manage them. So a good option is either to look for a small hotel or B&B preferably family run, or perhaps Airbnb could be an option. If you are like us and like to travel on a shoestring, the cost free options would be Couchsurfing or WWOOFing and I have no doubts that you would have an amazing experience.
The choices you make while there
The choices you make when there are also very important, most people when writing about slow travel just say to avoid touristic attractions, eat traditional dishes and interact with locals. And once again I hear you saying: What?? I am going all the way to India and you are telling me I can’t visit the Taj Mahal?? No…I am not saying that, actually I don’t think visiting main tourist attractions is that bad, especially if you always dreamed about being there. My point is much more related to how you go about doing it.
For instance, I met people who went to the Louvre and ran to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, took a picture and left. Nothing against doing that, but it is definitely not something I would have done and it is definitely not considered a slow way of travelling. When Greg and I went we spent almost 5 hours in there, taking in all the art, talking about it, watching the lucky school kids that had the opportunity to be there and seeing and learning about the different periods of history rather than just reading about it from books. We sat down and admired our favourite pieces and even joked about the amount of people squeezing in front of Mona lisa to get a picture (we also did that!!).
The friends you make and stories you have to tell
When travelling we also love to connect with locals, find out how life is in that city, town or village, the jobs that they do and the history of their country. Especially because locals are the best ones to recommend places to see, restaurants to eat, and depending on the situation they may invite you for a homemade meal at their house and you become friends for life.
The experience is even more intense if you do Couchsurfing, like when Gui and Sophia got to spend time with a lovely family visiting all the parks in Bratislava and playing with their kids in the park, while sharing travel stories. Throughout our travels we made a lot of good friends via Couchsurfing and have a number of nice stories to tell, not only from places we have stayed, but also from people that we have hosted.
Is it worth it?
Well if I haven’t convinced you with the points I have made so far that slow travel is an interesting and fulfilling way of travel, I would either say that you should maybe experience it first hand and see it for yourself, or perhaps it is just not your thing. Which to be honest is a fair point, we are all different. However I must say that we should consider the environment and understand that there are limits to what our planet can cope with, and if we want our kids and grandkids to have the chance to experience the wonderful world that we live in…we need to travel at a slower pace and be conscious of our actions.