Savouring the journey: 4 Slow travel tips for your next getaway
‘Slow travel’ is about taking your time to soak in the spirit of a place, rather than rushing from one sight to the next just to tick things off your list. It’s an opportunity to travel more mindfully, foster human connections and savour experiences in depth.
When it comes to sustainability, slow travel is one of the most effective ways to minimise your impact while still experiencing all the world has to offer. Here are a few key tips for incorporating slow travel into your next getaway.
Take your time getting to know a place
Don’t rush from one place to another just to check things off your list. Wander through neighbourhoods, admire the architecture, stop in cafés and shops — truly explore how the locals live their daily lives. Visit the fruit markets, bakeries, schools and community centres; chat with shop owners and residents, not just other travellers. Slow down and get a genuine feel for the place, rather than just seeking the iconic tourist attractions. Move through cities and towns at an unhurried pace that allows you to notice details, have spontaneous encounters, and stumble upon hidden gems.
A great way to get a feel for a destination is to head to one of the local parks and observe how people interact and spend their time. Or maybe you want to soak up the culture — pop into small museums and galleries off the main tourist track. There is something new to appreciate during each excursion through neighbourhoods, but you need to take the time to wander them properly in order to really know a destination inside out. Immersing yourself in the rhythms of daily life allows you to experience the essence of a place, rather than just checking off the top sights.
Skip the souvenirs in favour of meaningful memories
Rather than collecting trinkets and souvenirs that clutter up our homes and contribute to plastic waste, consider documenting your slow travel through mindful photography or journal entries that will be far more personal and meaningful to you years later. Snapping images of significant moments and personal encounters creates more lasting and heartfelt mementos.
Instead of thoughtlessly buying magnets and coffee mugs that will languish at the back of a cupboard, be intentional about the snapshots you take of a location, from the people you meet along the way to the local wildlife that’s unique to the area. Train your eye to notice charming details and artistic inspiration and curate albums or galleries of your most impactful images to share, rather than snapshots of basic attractions.
Reflect on how certain photos evoke treasured memories and deep connections much more than any material goods could. A slower form of travel is about forging personal experiences that stick with you long after a trip ends. Thoughtful photography preserves the moments and relationships that touched you, transporting you back.
Opt for walking, biking or public transport
Choosing to walk, bike or take public transport allows you to better experience the sights, sounds and smells of a place in an immersive way. Strolling through city streets or meandering along country roads offers a tactile sense of the surroundings, and you can stop whenever something piques your interest. Cycling provides a more active but still slower-paced option for covering ground at a leisurely rate, while riding public buses and taking trains are eco-friendly ways to travel further. Such options also immerse you with locals and give a glimpse into their daily commutes.
Likewise, public transport allows for opportunities to chat with residents and get insider tips on what they recommend to see and do. When planning a trip, consider visiting multiple destinations within a country or region by rail rather than limiting yourself to just the capital or major hubs. Travelling by train allows you to truly experience the breadth of a place and appreciate how diverse each area can be, and stopping in smaller cities and towns along the route introduces you to local life beyond the crowds of tourist hotspots.
Opting for these slower forms of transport, particularly if you’re conscious of who you travel with, provides a more sensory, intimate experience of a place. Slow travel means embracing the journey, not just the destination, and the way you get around is every bit as important as what you choose to see and do.
Travel during the off-season
Aim to visit destinations during their less busy periods, known as the off-season. This allows you to avoid crowds and other tourists, and instead enjoy more authentic, local experiences. With fewer visitors, popular sites take on a different vibe. Rather than shuffling through packed attractions and dealing with long lines, you’ll have breathing room to wander peacefully.
Travelling in the off-season often translates to lower costs on accommodations, flights and activities as well. Slow travellers don’t need perfect weather or peak conditions to explore a place meaningfully. In some cases, the off-season provides opportunities that don’t exist other times of year, like winter sports or whale watching, that you might miss out on during busier or more popular times of the year.
The off-season tends to offer travellers more opportunities for unstructured time and serendipitous encounters. Local business owners are less rushed and may be willing to share insider tips. There’s greater flexibility to change plans spontaneously, as attractions are less crowded. Slow travel is about connecting deeply with a destination, which the off-season enables.
In this fast-paced modern world, slow travel offers a way to press pause and be intentional about soaking in the spirit of a place, while also travelling in a way that’s sustainable and environmentally friendly. Choosing to meander rather than rushing provides an antidote to the stresses of everyday life. As you plan upcoming trips and getaways, consider how applying principles of slow travel can enrich your experiences. Discover the delight in taking it slow, making new discoveries and deepening your connection to lands and communities, near and far. By focusing on the journey, you’ll learn to cherish the small moments that make travel meaningful.