Photo Credit: Frontier
Take a breath on your next holiday with slow travelling; say goodbye to that tourist fatigue and make the most out of where you’re staying.
Where social media and blogging has made travel a popularity contest through instantaneous posting and influencers influencing us, it’s hard to go on abroad without trying to spice up that Instagram feed. The once cultural havens of countries have been exploited through “overtourism” and it’s harder to know the locals when whizzing from city to city in interrailing or hostel hopping.
Why do we need slow travel?
There’s a clear increase in the interest of travelling where in Britain alone solo travel has grown by a third since 2011. Back in 2016, travel guide Lonely Planet predicted that international travel is set to grow by 35% within the next decade. More than a third of the world is going to have the travel bug.
With access to apps that offer immediate booking like comparison websites Skyscanner and Expedia, travel is no longer a luxury but a way of life. Booking.com reported that within the last year, 80% of travelers like to use their mobile phone to “self-serve” on travels and get the best option on flights and hotels.
Travelers often use their phones to book their trip, but mobiles in general are used to scout out buyer favourites and see what others have been up to. In a study by Google Consumer Insights on 2018, 70% of U.S. travelers stated that they “always” use smartphones to travel. Is this smartphone travel making destinations more accessible, or making us live the experience through our phones?
So, what is slow travel?
There’s no literal definition of “slow travel” (it surprisingly came from the slow food movement from an Italian McDonalds in the 1980s) but it’s a much more relaxed attitude towards seeking out a new place to find; more like quality over quantity. You probably know your hometown like the back of your hand so why not try this on your travels?
The idea of slow travel is to withdraw from the online obsessions and experience the culture for itself. Not everyone has the time to go on monthly or yearly trips abroad but spending a week in one town is more meaning than zooming round three cities in less than that. Take Italy, for example. Many tourists jump on trains and get to Venice, Rome, Pisa and more to tick the country off the bucket list in less than two days per city. Ditch the to-do’s and make an itinerary of your own.
Rather than try to fit all the biggest sights in one go, slow-travelers opt into immersing themselves in the community – quite literally living like a local. This allows travel to become much more mindful and appreciative of the niche experience of culture. Websites such as AirBnB which allow travelers to stay in a local apartment or host house; one step further is couchsurfing where you live alongside the host. This accommodation allows tourists to reach further into the communities they’re visiting and straying away from large hostel or hotel chains as well as quite often saving some pocket money to spend on the place they’re visiting.
What are the benefits of slow travel?
With this connection it allows an indulgence into the normal life of the city-goer or country lifestyle without being conned into expensive tours or rip-off chains. It also allows travelers to receive the best advice straight from those who live there. Often the best kept secrets are from the people who know the area the best – which is, most obviously, the locals – and seek out those hidden gems.
The idea is to make memories based off stories and people, rather than landmarks and monuments. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with visiting the Eiffel Tower or Times Square but often these places are filled with tourist upon tourist and are very often built up by money-making machines. With a “slow” mode, you can seek out the lesser known destinations and quite literally get lost without getting worried about how far away the next landmark is.
It’s also surprisingly great for the environment. Slow travelers work around on foot, in often smaller areas. So, where fast travels often include jumping from plane to train to bus to tram by travelling all over the place, slow travelers work in small areas and try to understand that area in detail which often includes on foot. Where travel is reportedly responsible for one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions, it might not be such a bad thing to consider a eco-friendlier method.
Not just light on the planet, but it will be light on your pocket too. As previously mentioned, local rentals and staying on someone’s couch is probably cheaper than booking out a hotel. With all that walking you’ll be doing as well, you probably wont be spending on transport and you’ll know the best deals with all those tips from the locals.
That’s not to say that slow travel is for everyone, though. If you’re boosted by the fast-paced adventure and your main concern is ticking of as many landmarks off your bucket list as you can, then the travels of to day are probably quite tailored to you. Having slow travel can be challenging when you don’t find everything you want but is often a more laid-back approach to the hectic tourism we experience today.
When travelling in 2019, as cheesy as it sounds, try to capture the moment with your eyes rather than your camera. Give slow travel a go and see if you find something more worthwhile than just coming home with another picture for social media.