Travel Perspectives – Slow Travel
Over the past few years, I’ve realized the importance of slow travel. I didn’t always put much thought into slowing down my pace though. I will admit, I am a bit of a list ticker. It’s not my main motivation for traveling, but sometimes it’s fun to make a little game out of travel. Unfortunately I’ve taken a few trips where I let the list ticking get the better of me, and I definitely traveled too quickly. How’s Hong Kong, Macau, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Perth, Ayers Rock, Cairns, and Sydney in the span of two weeks? I know, insane. But at least it taught me the value of slow travel.
Travel slow, don’t rush
I mentioned earlier that Andy and I have been talking a lot about our future, and much of that discussion involves our travel plans. As avid travelers, we want to see a lot of this wonderful world. But we don’t want to rush through it. By slowing down, we’ll get to see more of a place, which is more meaningful than just seeing more places. This means planning our trips to allow for plenty of time in each stop.
We probably won’t be able to completely eliminate short stays. I probably won’t completely squash my list ticking game. But we’re going to put more thought and effort into slowing down, even if it means we don’t get to see everything.
Slow travel allows for more interaction with locals
I like interacting with locals when I travel. Last August we spent four days in Barcelona. That’s not a lot of time, but we had a different approach to that trip. Instead of eating every meal in a restaurant, we found a local grocery store and market and bought food there. I remember buying meatballs from a deli counter and seeing the woman’s face light up that I wanted them. It was tiny, but that glimpse of local culture sticks in my head.
Slowing down and staying in one place longer also means you can become a regular, if only for a little while. A couple years ago, we went to the same ice cream shop in Valencia several days in a row and joked around with the guy behind the counter. When we skipped a day, he noticed. Even in Barcelona last summer, we went to a cafe for drinks, sat at the bar and talked to the waitress all night. It felt nice to know her a little when we returned the next night.
Those experiences mean a lot more to me than seeing a famous statue or building. I still enjoy seeing those things, and I will continue to seek them out, but it needs to be balanced with local experiences as well.
We love apartment stays
Andy and I have had a lot of great experiences renting apartments on our travels. Apartments tend to be in residential areas and a little further from the touristy sections, which makes interacting with locals a lot easier. We never would’ve found the deli lady with the meatballs or the ice cream shop if we were staying in the touristy part of town.
Apartments are also great because we have more room. It’s so much more comfortable and relaxing when we’re not confined to one room that’s barely big enough for the bed. Plus with a kitchen, we can cook a few meals or at least have a few snacks and drinks on hand. It’s a small way to combine the feeling of home with travel.
I’ve mentioned a few times that Andy hates flying. While I’m very happy that he’s able to get on a plane now, it’s still not something he’s comfortable with, and after the bad flight we had in Turkey, I don’t blame him.
I love Andy, but being on a plane with him requires a lot of energy from me and stresses me out tons too. Flying just isn’t a good situation for either of us. So we’ve decided that minimizing the amount of air travel we do is the best option. We won’t eliminate it entirely because sometimes it’s the only practical way to get from one place to another. But if there’s a reasonable alternative on a train, bus, boat, whatever, we’ll probably choose that over an airplane.
Traveling on a slower mode of transportation usually means great opportunities to watch the landscape go by. I especially love train travel for that reason. I love seeing the scenery change as we get further from where we started and closer to our destination.
I see lots of changes in the way we travel. In addition to focusing on experiences over stuff, we’re also going to slow down our pace, seeing fewer destinations for longer periods of time so we can get to know those places a little better. We enjoy interacting with locals. We’re most comfortable staying in apartments, especially for longer trips. I also see a lot more train travel in our future. There are so many benefits to slow travel, and we’re making our upcoming travel plans based around this idea. You can see a lot more of the world if you just slow down a little.
February 11, 2013 @ 3:44 PM
3 cheers for slow travel! We’re right with you two 🙂
February 11, 2013 @ 10:33 PM
Thanks Heather! I’m glad other people enjoy slow travel too!
February 11, 2013 @ 4:57 PM
Yes! I have “list ticking” tenancies as well, but when I look back on where I’ve been, the places that really had an impact on me were the places where I spent a few months. I can still check the other places off the list, but I don’t feel changed by them. As much as I want to see more and more, getting to know new places is what traveling is really all about for me. And I agree on train travel too – it’s by far my favourite type of transport.
February 11, 2013 @ 10:36 PM
I’m glad I’m not the only one willing to admit I’m a list ticker! But yes, it’s always the trips where I travel slow and see a little more of the place that I really enjoy. I didn’t have much experience with train travel before moving to Germany, but it has definitely grown on me. Thanks Jessica!
February 11, 2013 @ 9:49 PM
I’m all about slow travel. Why the rush?
February 11, 2013 @ 10:37 PM
Yay, another slow traveler! Thanks!
February 11, 2013 @ 11:43 PM
I wish we could travel slower, but with two full jobs we take what time we can. And that generally means a lot of short breaks and 10 day getaways. Someday we’ll be able to stay in places longer, but for now it’s travel on short breaks or not at all.
February 13, 2013 @ 4:03 PM
I think the key to slow travel is that even if you don’t have much time, you can still slow down your pace in the way you travel. Instead of hitting 4 or 5 places in 10 days, just stick to 1 or maybe 2. We only had 4 days in Barcelona, but staying in a non-touristy area, going to a local market for food, and not rushing around to see every tourist attraction in the city made a world of difference.
February 12, 2013 @ 5:20 AM
Wow love this. Actually I love travelling by trains, I don’t need any entertainment just the scenery.
February 13, 2013 @ 4:04 PM
Thank you George! The scenery is pretty amazing most of the time. I once took a 12 hour train from Wellington to Auckland, and I thought I would read because that’s a long time to sit in one place. But I didn’t, I spent the whole time looking out the window!
Olivia - young on the road
February 12, 2013 @ 12:52 PM
Ali, slowing down may mean you will miss out on some locations. But you get to spend more in depth time in the places you do go to!
However, you own a travel blog – I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities to go back later and experience those missed out places 😉
February 13, 2013 @ 4:06 PM
Thanks Olivia! I think having a travel blog means I’m constantly finding out about more places to visit and my “must see” and “must return” lists just keep getting longer! But I’m coming to terms with missing out on a few things here and there in order to travel slow and really enjoy the destination I do visit.
February 12, 2013 @ 4:45 PM
When we have the time for it, I definitely enjoy slow travel more!
February 13, 2013 @ 4:08 PM
Thanks Andrea! Yeah, there isn’t always enough time to travel slow, and I know we won’t avoid quick trips altogether, but this is one of the goals we’re striving towards.
February 12, 2013 @ 6:09 PM
Slow travel is the way to go. When I rush too much, it my vacation/travels remind me of “The Amazing Race”, which is not really a way you’d want to travel 🙂
February 13, 2013 @ 4:09 PM
I actually really like watching the Amazing Race, but when I do I can’t help but think, that is NOT how I want to travel! I would have a meltdown 3 days into that race! They miss out on so much, though I’m sure it’s a great experience in its own way. Thanks Faisal!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
February 13, 2013 @ 3:06 AM
When I did my first jaunt around Western Europe & the UK back in 2005 I was the complete antithesis of a slow traveler. My friend and I rarely spent more than 3 days anywhere, and 2 days was far more the norm. When Tony & I left on our trip through Asia (& beyond? I hope!) in August, we had similar plans… plans, that fell apart after 1 month in Japan. Traveling like that was honestly exhausting and it certainly didn’t leave us time to blog about our adventures! We knew something had to give, and realized that pace wasn’t going to be enjoyable or sustainable.
Now we have made our peace with going slower, knowing we will see fewer places & things but that we can spend more time really enjoying the ones we do see rather than feeling frazzled and just passing through. While we still do a few “quick” stops in smaller places, we are less concerned with packing our days with sightseeing, and generally only pick one or two things that we “MUST” do each day and leave the rest to chance and whatever our wanderings might bring our way. We also tend to have at least one day of “down-time” each week, where we can laze about and do not much of anything at all, and those really help to recharge us and keep us going as well!
February 13, 2013 @ 4:14 PM
I can totally relate to what you’re saying about your pace on your long term trip. I thought I’d be ok spending 4 or 5 days in one place instead of my normal 1-3, but I burnt out quickly. You’re right, you can’t go at that pace for too long, it wears you out and it makes it hard to enjoy what you’re doing and where you are. I’m so happy to hear you’re going slower now! It’s so much nicer to leave things open-ended and give yourself a break once in awhile. Long term travel is NOT a vacation, and even though it’s hard to compare it to a job, it does take a lot of energy and you need a weekend off sometimes. Even if it’s a Tuesday 🙂
February 13, 2013 @ 11:41 AM
I completely agree with your point that slow travel gives you more time to interact with local people. In this way one can come to know about local culture and best places of that area and the particular famous cuisine that we should eat and from where. These things can help you a lot to explore that place completely.
February 13, 2013 @ 4:15 PM
Thanks Peter! Learning about the culture and the food and interacting with the locals is such a huge part of why I love travel, and it’s so much easier to dive into that when I slow down.
February 13, 2013 @ 6:14 PM
My annual summer trip with our kids tends to be a mix of fast and slow. We normally stay a few days wherever we land (and slowly enjoy that city and get over the time change). Then we usually do a cruise. With only one day per port normally, it’s just enough time to see the key/important tourist sites and not a lot else. What it does do is give us a sense of whether it’s a place we want to return to for a slower visit. Normally we choose a cruise that ends in a different city, and we spend several days there before flying home. We’ve done this type of trip 4 times now in different parts of the world and it seems to work well, especially with the kids. Slow-fast-slow seems to be a nice way to recover from the flight, cover ground quickly after that, and then relax again before heading home.
When I start doing very extended trips when the kids are gone I think I’ll definitely do more slow travel with only a few intense days thrown in here and there. There are some places I intend to visit that as a solo woman I’d feel better on an organized tour, and that means going at the pace they set. Most places I want to see are perfectly safe, but there are a couple where I figure there would be a serious language issue, or women on there own would be hassled.
February 14, 2013 @ 12:15 PM
It sounds like you have a really great system going! Whenever you do start traveling on your own, if you’re nervous, signing up for a tour, or even just a few daytours, is a good way to ease yourself in. But remember all the traveling you’ve done with your kids. Yes, they were there with you, but ultimately you were responsible for everything, and obviously you’re handling it wonderfully. There are a few places where it’s difficult to be a woman traveling by yourself, but research the culture, know the dress code and what kinds of things are appropriate, and learn a few basic words. You’ll find that the more you travel on your own, the more it will build your confidence.
February 14, 2013 @ 2:04 AM
I am LOVING slower travel. I liked that we moved fairly quickly during our RTW trip but now I’m all about settling in, finding that meatball lady, and really learning about a place. And you’re right it’s not just for longer trips; you can travel slowly on short trips too!
February 14, 2013 @ 12:18 PM
Thanks Gillian! Exactly my thoughts! For me, slow travel is a perfect balance of the newness and change of travel and the routine stuff of everyday life, and I need that balance. I consider that Barcelona trip slow travel even though it was only 4 days for those exact reasons.
Suitcase Stories - Nicole
February 17, 2013 @ 12:55 AM
We are also fans of slow travel! It saves money, you can immerse yourself into the culture and you really get to know the place better… Plus you find more hidden gems by getting to know/talk to the locals! We are house sitting our way around the globe which is the perfect way to travel slow.
I used to be a fast traveler but I founds I would need a vacation to get over my vacation! Now that we are full time travelers things are different and slow travel suits us much better!
February 17, 2013 @ 1:51 PM
Thanks Nicole! Exactly my reasons for traveling slow! I’ve had those fast trips too, where you need a vacation after your vacation. Maybe I was ok with that a few years ago, but I don’t enjoy it anymore. So far we haven’t had the right opportunity to give housesitting a try, but I’ve been hearing good things, so maybe in the future!
Vicki - Way Out Far
February 26, 2013 @ 1:27 AM
Hey Ali – have you read ‘The Art of Slow Travel’ by Dan Kieran at all? It’s a lovely book and sums up the beauty of slow travel really well.
We’re fans of slow travel. The slower the better for us sometimes and overland is the ideal way to see a country for sure! Some of our best stories we have are from border crossings that took hours or places we stumbled upon because we were driving slow enough to find them.
I have to get on a plan 3 times this month and it’s making me wince already 🙁
February 26, 2013 @ 3:45 PM
No I haven’t read that book, but it sounds good, thanks! I like overland travel by train, but I’m not a fan of buses. I’m sure I’ll have to get a little more used to that as we travel slowly in certain places. Sorry about all your upcoming flights, but I’m sure you’ll get through it!
Daytrips and Slow Travel - Grounded Traveler
March 7, 2013 @ 7:56 PM
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