Slow travel is an offset of the slow food movement, which began in Italy in the 80’s as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. Slow travel is about stripping back travel to the basics and is such a wonderful way to explore and so enriching to our lives. Holidays should be about fully relaxing and unwinding. About exploring a new place or culture in depth rather than just skimming the surface in a hurry. Don’t you think? After writing the Beginner’s Guide To Slow Travel, I had a lot of emails from people interested in tips on how to become a slow traveller and how to apply the ethos of slow travel to their own explorations. If you too are interested, then I have written some advice on the topic that you will hopefully find useful to incorporate into your own travels.
You may already travel slowly and just not be aware of it yet. One of the main aims of my blog is to help you to live a slower, more intentional life. To share with you ways in which you can enrich your life, ways that I have incorporated into my own life. Travel is just one of the aspects I want to cover and one that you can quickly and easily change. Below are my tips on the best ways to begin making changes in the way you travel to allow you to start your life as a slow traveller.
How To Become A Slow Traveller
When I used to travel, I would pack enough for a month when actually only going away for a week. Did I use even half of what I brought with me? No. Most of us always pack more than we will actually need. Some of us (like the old me) pack FAR more than we need. You don’t need to change clothes multiple times a day. Plan your outfits. Choose items that work well together to make multiple outfits to wear. This will cut out on duplicates and unnecessary items.
Pack basic necessities. I will create another post to go into depth on tips for how to travel light but I will give you a quick example. For a weekend city break I will pack (including what I wear for the flight) 2 pairs of trousers, 3 shirts, 2 pairs of shoes, a dress, a handbag, underwear, makeup, brush, deodorant and a toothbrush. I don’t think I can possibly simplify my packing further. Get rid of that massive oversized suitcase and you’ll find that the extra baggage that goes along with it – stress – almost disappears.
For the past ten years I have been travelling with hand luggage only and it is so much more relaxing. I would never go back to the way I used to pack. Plus, you don’t have to queue to check your luggage in and wait ages for it to be unloaded off the plane. You get to head straight out that airport and start your holiday. This means more time for experiencing your destination and creating memories – the essence of slow travel. Honestly, I cannot recommend travelling light enough!
Choose One Place or Region
It can be easily tempting in your excitement of visiting somewhere new, to want to pack in as much as you can see and do into your holiday. I can’t lie, that used to be me. Wanting to see every single site there was, just in case I never got back there again. I am even battling this still whilst planning our upcoming trip to Puglia and Amalfi in Southern Italy later this year. There are so many unbelievably beautiful towns and villages I want to see. But I am forcing myself to stick to a smaller area that I might ultimately have liked, in order that we can get to see a handful of places properly and won’t be rushing from one place to another.
The best part is the satisfaction that you have really immersed yourself in a place and gotten to know it. That you have taken the time to get lost and wander the back alleys and found all those local haunts which serve the BEST food or stores that sell locally made, hand crafted items. These are the things that will leave you with fond memories. Not rushing around from one place to another to make sure you’ve ticked something else off your list. I think being a slow traveller is even more important when travelling with a family as it allows you to bond and have quality time together. This is something that we can all struggle with on a day to day basis and why it is even more important on days out or trips away.
Don’t Follow Travel Guides
I can see the benefits of following a planned itinerary. But. They are designed to help you get the most out of your day, which completely goes against the idea of slow travel. By all means make a list of things you would like to see, however don’t have a set plan to stick to. You may visit one of the places on your list and want to spend a couple of hours really immersing yourself in it and find you don’t have time to visit other places. This is okay, great even! The aim is to travel freely, not stick to a plan.
When you have an outline but not a plan, you allow for the unexpected to happen and are happy to go with the flow. Not only does this allow you to enjoy the place you are visiting, it allows for you experience it. Head off the beaten track, stumble across hidden gems you just have to stop and eat at or look around. Experiences and memories are what you want to take away with you. You want to be sat on your sofa discussing your trip and relay stories of ‘the time that…’ and ‘do you remember when,’
Forget The Itinerary
What’s even better than forgetting the guide book is ditching the itinerary completely. As I’ve said before, I like planning. Planning and organisation make me feel comfortable, safe even. I would honestly used to have an entire trip planned out from where we were going to where we were eating each day. What I didn’t used to see is that this wasn’t actually helping my day run smoothly, it was stressing me out as I had to stick to a schedule and it was ultimately restricting me. One of the best things about slow travel is the spontaneity. Allowing the unexpected to happen. This is where the memories you will talk about for years to come are made.
Imagine living in a cosy little Trulli in Southern Italy for a week. Wandering picturesque cobbled streets through local villages, buying local fruit and veg from the markets to cook dinner in the evening, stopping for a coffee at a gorgeous cafe you spot in the square, watching as locals potter on by, walking down a side street off the beaten track and finding a perfectly beautiful florist to buy some local flowers. Does this sound like something you’d like to do? It’s all possible when you ditch that itinerary.
Quality Over Quantity – Do Less But Better
This fits into the same idea behind choosing one place. The fewer sites or places you choose to explore, the longer you can spend on each one. You’ll leave each place feeling like you experienced everything it had to offer. When you have an itinerary as long as your arm, you’ll only get to skim the surface of each place you want to visit. This isn’t satisfying. Not only that but you will waste a lot more time getting to each place on your list. Time which you could have used exploring a handful of places more deeply.
This one is one of my personal favourites. Ditch the map. Spot a pretty looking side street? Walk down it. Explore whatever takes your fancy and just go with it. You’ll always have a map or phone to hand so wherever you end up, you’ll never actually be ‘lost’. What you will discover though, could be one of the highlights of your trip. If you stay central or around the tourist spots, you don’t ever discover the more local side to a place. That is what I really enjoy discovering. Especially when it comes to food, which is a very big part of travel and experiencing a culture for me. The best eateries are the places the locals eat at themselves and I always relish hunting these out.
Immerse Yourself In The Experience
Experiencing a place is making memories of a place. Memories that you will carry with you and recall fondly. It may be getting lost and trying to talk to some locals to find your way back to somewhere you recognise (like us on our first trip to Rome – which was fun as nobody on the outskirts of the city spoke any English) or the smell of a little market you find selling freshly baked bread and smoked sausages.
Travelling slowly, you will find that you absorb a lot more of what is going on around you. The architecture, the sounds of a bustling town, the babbling of a brook running through a tiny village, the taste of local cuisine. The biggest one that always recalls memories for me is smell. These are all things that you start to notice when you take the time to do so. When you’re not rushing from one side of the city to the other to get something else ticked off your list.
Travel By Foot Or Bike
Ditch the car, the buses, the trains. Try and travel by the slowest means possible. If you are able, then the best way is by foot. The amount of things you stumble across unexpectedly is unbelievable. You will find so much that you would never have found otherwise. Things not mentioned in guide books or on blogs. There is so much detail to every single city, town and place that it isn’t possible to relay. These are the things you need to find for yourself. If you are travelling through the countryside then a bike is always an excellent idea. You can take in the smell of the fields around you, even stop for a picnic in a pretty spot you come across. You really will find the difference or slower travelling methods amazing.
Where To Start
When travelling, I only ever book places to stay through either booking.com or airbnb.co.uk both of which have some fantastically located hotels, villas and places to stay. For the past couple of trips I’ve been on and for my upcoming weeks away in Cornwall and Italy, I have used airbnb. I love being able to book the homes of other people, it lends to that authentic slow travel vibe. You can even meet the owners on check in and pick their brains about all the local places to visit. A real plus in my book.
If you fancy getting started planning your next trip and want to find a fabulously located home in your destination then hop over to airbnb.co.uk and you will get £25 travel credit as soon as you sign up. A great way to get you started!
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