How often have you gotten home from a vacation and been even more exhausted than you were before you left? In our modern, speed-obsessed society, the pleasure of the journey is all too often lost to the anticipation of arrival. But more and more people are beginning to advocate Slow Travel – an approach to tourism which suggests that, instead of trying to cram in as much as possible, you take time to really experience the place you’re in. If you’ve ever felt like you needed a holiday from your holiday, Slow Travel may be the solution.
The problem with fast travel
Since the advent of travel guidebooks, travel has taken on a sort of bucket-list urgency. There are thousands of ‘places to see and things to do before you die’ recommendations and tourists often feel the need to bulldoze their way through their checklists, getting in as many sights and sounds as possible – before zooting off to the next destination to repeat the process.
One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. – Henry Miller
Much of our current approach to travel can be attributed to the way we interact with our world in the instantaneous information-age. We’ve been a little spoiled by the amount of information at our fingertips, which allows us to craft exactly the experience we want, step-by-step, from the time we touch-down in another place. The problem with this is not only that we may be missing out on some unique places that aren’t listed in our guidebook (or on Google) but, also, that this manner of accelerated travel does not lend itself to the low-impact tourism that is beneficial to the places we visit.
Why go Slow?
Low-impact journeys that encourage us to touch the earth lightly and engage with the communities en route to our destination are the basis of the Slow Travel movement. But Slow Travel is less a mode of transportation than it is a mindset – it seeks to replace the way of travelling with the why of travelling. One of the tenets of travelling slower is to spend more time in a single place. Instead of trying to cover as much ground as possible, slow travellers will get to know the neighbourhood, shop at the local markets and frequent their favourite spots.
One of the solutions is to travel more, locally, spending more time in a single place. You may think this kind of experience is too difficult when you’re taking a break from the working world and you have to maximise what little time you have in a particular place by seeing as much as possible. But at the end of your, usually expensive, overseas trip – you have to ask yourself: are the quick snaps of you posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum and Louvre all you’ll take home? Will your memories of the place fade as quickly as your tan?
Taking your time when travelling means you get to immerse yourself in new surroundings and appreciate the place on a whole different level – as more than just a passing tourist. This means your experience of the place and its people will be unique and something that will have a meaningful impact on your life. Aside from ‘getting away from it all’ isn’t that really why we want to travel in the first place?
Slow Travel tips:
- Get into a slow state of mind. Slow travel is about appreciating where you are.
- Try out public transport, ferries, buses and trains and reconnect with the landscape as you go. Check out the markets and shops that the locals use.
- Enjoy the unexpected. A delayed train is an opportunity to chat to someone and learn some of the language.
- Think about how your visit affects the people who live there and ask yourself what you can give back to the communities you visit.
(Adapted from Hidden Europe 25, March / April 2009)
How can we start slowing down? Leave us your Slow Travel tip in the comments below!