Slow travel is becoming a popular buzz word. But what does it really mean? For years, I have slowly traveled around the world and never labeled it as such, until I realized the importance of it. By talking about slow travel and what that implies, hopefully, more people can become aware of its significance and how it can impact you as a traveler and responsible tourist, impact the diverse cultures you explore and also impact the environment around you.
What Is Slow Travel?
Slow travel, for me, combines aspects of sustainability, mindfulness, awareness, and responsible travel to foster deeper connections with a place and its people.
On the one hand, slow travel means connecting with a place on a deeper level. By slow traveling, you can soak up rich and exciting cultures and take away a more comprehensive understanding of the people, place, and particulars of a way of life different than your own.
On the other hand, slow travel implies physical slow travel. Slowing down your pace to be present with where you are, instead of rushing around to see the top-recommended attractions and calling it a day. Slow travel by this regard can also imply slow traveling through a country for more periods of time than a 2-week vacation. Not everyone has the opportunity to slow travel for a couple of months in one place, but that’s why slow travel doesn’t have a time limit, necessarily, either. You can slow travel even if your vacay is limited to a few days or one week.
Finally, slow travel usually implies a sense of responsible tourism coupled with sustainability. Sometimes I call this slow travel, mindful travel, responsible travel, or sustainable travel. Not everyone will mush together these terms like this, but for me, they all touch upon similar aspects. It means being more aware of your impact while you travel. And I don’t just mean the carbon output difference of whether you hire a personal taxi or whether you take the bus or carpool. I also mean how you interact with others, how you consume, and how ethical you choose to be along your travels (i.e. not paying to see captive wildlife, buying fairtrade and supporting local, etc.,).
7 Reasons Why You Should Become A Slow Traveler (& Why You’ll Love It)
So to break this down further, here are 7 reasons why you should slow travel!
Living in Mexico for a year opened us up to experience a Mexican Temazcal (steam bath) Ceremony.
1. Slow Travel Opens You Up…
…to new cultural experiences, to a deeper understanding of those experiences, and to learn more about yourself and others. Simply, you “broaden your horizons” – a term commonly used to say you’ve learned more about the world and your place in it! Stretching your mind can be beneficial by adopting a more open mind. Even if that simply opens your heart to different ways of living, or opens your mind to worlds that are totally opposite to your own. Slow travel is the best way to chip away at pre-conceived biases and judgment.
2. It Brings More Meaning to Your Travels
It’s those nitty-gritty moments during travel, the ones where you’re lost, pushed outside your comfort zone, or in a deep conversation with a stranger, that bring more sustenance and life-long lessons to your travels. Connecting with a place and its people will ultimately be more rewarding than if you were to spend your travel days just chilling out pool-side at your all-inclusive resort.
3. Slow Travel Rejuvenates, Not Exhausts You
Feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation? Yeah, I’ve said that before too! Sometimes traveling can be exhausting. And I often notice that I’m more exhausted when I’m traveling in a hurry. Slow travel can take that away by forcing you to slow down and travel in the present moment. Often, when we’re practicing mindfulness – being present – we can notice more things around us, observe at a deeper level, and therefore not be pushed around by the constant rat race that seems to consume our society.
4. Your Sense of Awareness Spikes
With that said, slow travel increases your awareness. Whether its awareness about yourself, your failures or successes, awareness about the state of the world, its interlinked processes in politics or environment, or awareness about a social issue or belief system that’s unfamiliar to you. Slowing down and traveling with a purpose increases awareness. And awareness of something is hardly ever a bad thing.
Slow traveling in Nepal for a year raised our awareness about many social issues while exposing us to diverse cultures and belief systems. Here’s Paul receiving festive Holi powder from a small child.
5. Slow Travel Has a Lower Environmental Impact
People who practice slow travel (responsible travel, mindful travel, etc.,) tend to be passionate about the environment and its well-being. It’s hard not to be! Once you slow travel and open your eyes to the state of the world, it’s hard to deny that tourism can have negative impacts on people, wildlife, and the natural world. For example, heavily-visited parks result in trampled soil and trails which results in loss of biodiversity and local fauna and flora. By slow traveling, you can mitigate, where possible, your impact.
Being a more mindful traveler might mean you don’t buy single-use plastic when traveling if you can avoid it, you carry your own bags when you go shopping, you purchase from ethical suppliers, you book eco-friendly tours and avoid seeing performances of wildlife in captivity, or perhaps you take the bus instead of hiring a private taxi. Your action can be big or small, it just matters that we give it our best effort.
6. You Get to Experience Raw Travel Moments
Slow travel truly opens up new doors into those funny, memorable, crazy moments that happen during travel. Not to say you can’t have these moments at any given time during any type of travel, but typically slow travel does increase your chances of meeting someone inspiring, listening to insane stories, or embarking on that spontaneous mini-trip with a new group of friends just because you can and you feel open to that. Those moments are the travel moments to seek. Otherwise, the travel quote “It’s about the journey, not the destination” wouldn’t be such a hit!
7. You’ll Leave a Traveler, Not a Tourist
Tourists often get a bad rap. Sadly, tourists are often negatively perceived because they come in hoards with a “me mentality” often leaving a place worse than when they found it. They rarely attempt to connect to the locals, they might promote, not diminish, stereotypes, and they just might not truly grasp the place they’re in.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to do tourist things like check off that bucket list you made. Remember though that slow travel exists beyond just seeing the top attractions. It exists in those travel moments in between that can make the difference. Also, if you’re at a top attraction, you can be a responsible tourist and lead by example by following the local rules and laws. Not trespassing behind a rope when a trail section is closed off, not stepping off-trail to get the Instagram shot in the delicate flower field… You get my drift!
Living for 6 months in The Netherlands connected us to local farmers and also enabled us to ride our bikes everywhere – both eco-friendly lifestyle choices.
The Importance of Slow Traveling
Traveling slowly combines aspects of sustainability, mindfulness, awareness, and responsible travel to foster deeper connections with a place and its people.
And in an ever-changing world, it’s important to be open and adopt more ethical and sustainable practices into every aspect of our lives. Especially when it comes to traveling!
That’s why adopting slow travel, responsible travel, mindful travel – whatever you want to call it – is so important. It bridges connections between people and popular travel destinations, educates about ethical tourism in order to protect and preserve cultures, languages, wildlife, and the natural environment that we all share.
So, will you incorporate these aspects of slow travel on your next trip? What about this way of travel do you find appealing? Drop your thoughts and comments with me below or reach out by email if you want to chat more. Thanks for reading!
Like it? Pin it!
Share this article with a friend.