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What Exactly Is Slow Travel? A Deep Dive Into The History & Main Pillars Of Immersive Journeys

You might have read about it on our blog before, but you might be wondering – what exactly is this trendy slow travel everybody’s talking about? Is it a momentarily popular way to see the world, or is it here to stay? How can a person even travel slow to begin with?

We’re doing a deep dive on this philosophy of journeying today… and we hope you’ll join us! From defining slow travel’s meaning to understanding its history and its most important aspects, we’re here to discuss this important travel philosophy and how you can choose to adopt it in your own adventures.

What Exactly Is Slow Travel?

To define slow travel is a tricky thing. It’s been described as a philosophy, a lifestyle and an ideology – something that is hard to wrap up in a pretty bow, for sure. There are many facets of this travel methodology to unwrap, and we’ll be sure to explain its main functions later in this post!

Simply put, slow travel is centered around prolonged, in-depth experiences.

Slow travel is:

  • quality of travel, over quantity of bucket list items checked off a list
  • prioritizing extended time in one place
  • aiming to know and learn from locals
  • being mindful of the harmful effects of travel on the ecosystem

Slow Travel’s Beginnings

Slow travel was created thanks to the slow food movement stemming from the protests of fast food restaurants opening storefronts in historic Rome. With the danger of fast food chains opening beside the Spanish steps, the slow food movement began in order to promote local, traditional food made with love, produced with care and served with graciousness. This intentional appreciation of food (and food service) inspired many travelers to adopt the same philosophy in regards to how they travel.

Traveling with the idea of enjoying and lingering longer, impacting the environment less, focusing on community and rejecting the notion that travelers must do it all and see it all – this what slow travel embraces.

As the world becomes faster paced, the notion of slowing down to travel might seem contrived or old fashioned. But the truth is, slow travel teaches explorers the impact of their stay and gives them the rare opportunity to learn a new place with sincerity and deep interest. It’s not a new idea. Slow travelers can thank travelers like Theophile Gautier, who rejected using stagecoaches to see the world, for embracing the deep impact of moving slower through our journeys.

The Main Pillars Of Slow Travel

Should you choose to adopt this travel philosophy in your own travels, there are some important aspects of slow travel you should know. Here are some of (what we believe) are some of the main pillars of slow travel.

The Journey, Each Aspect Of It, Is Worth Savoring 

“It’s about the journey, not to the destination.” Now take this famously cliched quote and give it a slight twist.

For slow travelers, it’s about quality experiences over quantity of sights. Involving ourselves in every aspect of our travels, savoring each moment, immersing ourselves in experiences fully and wholeheartedly – this is slow travel.

Keep in mind, slow travel isn’t touting that you should skip tourist attractions. Instead, it’s about deciding to enjoy your sights and activities with an embracing attitude, but not bombarding your itinerary with them.

Embracing everything you experience abroad as an important aspect of your trip, including a languid and relaxing morning cappuccino at a local cafe to support the community or a long conversation with your neighbors. Taking the time to enjoy the simple things, not necessarily the popular destination points is a big perspective shift for most travelers – but its worth it.

Understanding and Connecting With Locals Is Key

Learning from locals is a key aspect of slow travel.It’s truly not as complicated as you might think! Some examples of supporting local culture are: taking the time to choose a hotel or BnB run by a local family, planning your dinners around family-run businesses instead of chain restaurants, shopping at local markets and buying handmaid items.

For the extrovert, taking the time to learn some basics of the language will open conversations with locals in a welcoming way. Gaining friendships and acquaintances through regularly visited restaurants and cafes is a great way to connect.

More importantly, taking the time to learn about and with locals about their culture is the number one aspect of slow travel we should all embrace. Some examples of how to do this are: reading or watching television series about the history of your destination or taking a cooking or handicraft lesson from local makers and artisans.

To know a place is to know its people.

Long Durations (If You Can Swing It) Give More Meaning To Our Travels

Extending our time in one place solely creates deeper relationships and memories. Slow travel’s first defining word – “slow” – means that (if you can swing it) keep your itinerary simple and long-term. For example: instead of doing a grand tour of Europe in a month, choosing to stay in one city or town for a few days or weeks at a time.

For those of us that can’t necessarily swing long term travel in our day’s off, remember – slow travel is about slowing down to enjoy the simple moments. Change your itinerary to serve more of the community and less about pictures and “must do” activities. Ask yourself what you can simply and slow down in your plans, and do it!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about slow travel! There truly is so much to unpack on this one and we’d love to spotlight this philosophy more on the blog.

Have you ever considered adopting slow travel in your adventures? If you have traveled slow, what were some of the biggest highlights and lessons learned from your trip?

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  • Domingo Reiman August 28, 2018 at 3:17 am

    Well said. You just can’t experience a place if you just see it in passing. I don’t want a selfie in front of a landmark… I want to meet people and hear their stories.

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