Rush. That’s how our society works. We rush to work, have not enough time for hobbies, family, friends and at last, for our wellbeing. When we go on vacation, we run to see as many places as possible and we stress about luck of time. We arrive back home exhausted and feeling like we need vacations. Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit. Have you heard of slow traveling? I am sure you did, as this movement is getting viral nowadays. So how do you travel slowly and make connections with people? Why you should go slow travel and live like a local? Is slow traveling comfortable? In this post I will answer all these questions and try to convince you to take it easy on the next trip.
Slow traveling = Smart traveling
Does slow traveling means buying a package vacations, staying in a hotel for a week without doing anything? Well, no. Mass tourism run by agencies is something completely different. They will organise everything for you, provide food and swimming pool, invite performers to entertain you. You ask me, what’s wrong with it? Mass tourism changed the way people travel, bringing them to large hotels, chain-based restaurants, creating major resorts in certain places and taking away profits from family-owned establishments. Big companies brought lower quality of service and took us back with how authentic the traveling experience is.
The point is that they will show you what they want to show you, which is often far from reality. You will not get to discover the culture, nor make connections with locals, see how they live and what they do in their free time. You will support corporations and big companies instead of small locally owned businesses. Slow tourism destinations work to draw business back to tradition and nature as well as appreciating the culture and stimulating local economies.
How do you travel slowly?
I am sure that you heard about slow food movement which aims to preserve regional cuisine and supports local farming. Slow travel shares the same idea and stands for creating authentic experience when traveling, immersing with the local culture and not harming the environment.
Slow traveling is not just a way to travel, it’s a mindset. Instead of making Instagram-worthy photos, see what locals do, focus on seeing their culture and appreciate it. Take time to immerse with locals in order to learn few phrases in their language or check for local festivals. Shopping locally is also a great way to support local economy and family-owned entrepreneurships.
Forget about your bucket list and focus on the quality of your experience, not quantity of the places your are going to check. If you have time, maybe you can volunteer for a local NGO, teach english to local kids or clean the beach to inspire good changes? Use your skills to help others. In the process, you will get to know another culture and develop relationships with its people. Authentic experiences with locals or spontaneous act of kindness, will surely last in your memory longer then the next tourist attractions you are going to see.
Why should I go slow travel?
Slow traveling brings us back to the roots of why we travel. Why do we travel than? To make a list of the places we want to see, and than check them out? Or to create memorable experiences and have time to rest our body and reset our mind? Authentic experiences leave you the feeling that you truly got to know the place and the culture of locals. Changing location every 1-2 days will never get you this, and to be honest the only thing it will get you are photos and fatigue. If you travel just for the photos, better learn how to use Photoshop properly.
Yes, the world is big and life is short, so we get to hurry up to see all the amazing places the Earth has to offer. However, fulfilling your check list is never going to finish, no matter what. There will be always new places you want to see. You will not get to see everything anyway. I am talking from my own experience traveling over 50 countries. Believe me, I have seen a lot. The most memorable are still not the places, but the experiences I had.
What kind of activities could I only experience by traveling slowly? Walking alone in the jungle, kayaking in the mangroves, hanging around on the street markets, tasting traditional cuisines, staying with a local family on Couch surfing, participating religious festivals, having local crafts workshops and much more. I search for adventures that make me feel something, not just see, take a photo and go.
Why traveling slowly is better for the environment?
Enthusiasts of sustainable travel know that traveling slowly leaves less carbon footprint. First of all, as we move slower, we use less transportation and reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to propel us on the journeys. As planes produce the highest amount of pollution, try to travel by land and rather enjoy one place instead of jumping from one country to another in a short period of time. Staying somewhere longer means also less energy used to clean the room, wash our hotel towels and sheets, as it would get if we quickly change the places.
Moreover, if you are an environment conscious traveler, you will most likely search for sustainable places to lodge. The number of carbon neutral accommodations increased and as competition grows, gradually decreases the price. Anyhow, it’s worth to give your money to those who care about the environment and let them continue their mission.
How do I live like a local?
An extremely important factor of living like a local when traveling is the respect. Imagine you are in your own house. You don’t throw your towel on the floor after the first use, and you do your best to live well with your neighbours. You switch of the light and AC when you don’t need it and respect nature around. We get to carry on this respect also when we travel.
Appreciate the local customs, try to learn about what local people do and how they live. Living like a local when traveling is all about immersing with the place you are in; Meeting up with locals and getting to know the area. Instead of renting a hotel room, maybe you would like to stay in the traditional wooden house surrounded by peaceful forest and go pick mushrooms with an old man from the village; go to the local tavern in the evening and listening to the old legends. And in the morning waking up with the sound of birds and making your favorite coffee. How does it sound?
Is slow traveling comfortable?
For me, traveling slowly is the only way I can do. Honestly, I am fed up with carrying my backpack and jumping from place to another in order to see more places. It’s more important for me to enjoy the journey and if most of the trip is just moving on, I simply get exhausted. I am truly happy if I stay in a destination longer and get to know some locals or go to the local coffee shop. Moreover, lower environmental impact of traveling slowly, makes it the only way I want to travel.
The great difference between regular hotels and a slow tourism destinations is that you don’t have to bring much to feel like home. Unlike hotels where you rent for a day or two, slow tourism destinations are designed for those who stay for a few days or even weeks to fully relax and enjoy the place. Therefore, most of them are fully equipped in all that you need to start living.
Some even provide food, but to be honest, I think it’s better if they don’t, as there is less food waste. Thinking that everyone has different taste, and 25% of the food in all-inclusive hotels goes to trash. It can be also a great opportunity to go out shopping to a local market and blend with the community. This is, in fact, a principal part of ‘living’ in your travel destination. By ‘living’ and not just ‘staying’ somewhere, you will experience the place more intensively.
Break out of your comfort zone
If you travel slowly, you will notice that it isn’t as easy as all-inclusive tour packages where you worry only about your tan lines. This way of travelling is not well-planned and full of unexpected events which can make you feel fed up, scared or irritated. You may need to overcome language barriers and differences in cultural customs. However, remember that each experience like that is a lesson and builds your confidence and strength. Each is a step out of your comfort zone, which will just empower your character and give a global perspective.
Embrace the feelings of discomfort and use your trip as a chance to gain knowledge about the cultures and its people, about yourself. Say ‘yes’ to an opportunity that you never would take in your normal life. Whatever you do, don’t hold yourself back because of worry or discomfort and remember that there is always another trip.
Where to stay when traveling slowly?
If you want to go slow travel and skip big hotels, you can look for guest houses, huts or eco-homes. The options are various, and they have different names in different countries. For instance, you will see vacation rentals in US., self-catering in UK and Australia, gites in France, ‘agriturismos’’ in Italy, agroturystyka in Poland; ferienwohnungen’ in Switzerland and Germany.
If you are traveling around Europe, I recommend checking the Nature.house. It’s an online platform, which will let you rent stunning cottages surrounded by nature. Currently the website lists over 10 000 cottages from which the most popular destinations are: The Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Belgium. The houses in nature come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny cabins in woods to villas with the valley view and a swimming pool. All to ensure a perfect place to finally relax and spend time with your loved ones. Away from the masses, you get to organise time by yourself, enjoying you favorite outdoors or simply celebrating life with a glass of wine on the terrace.
Apart from living in nature, I like the idea of Nature.house for two more reasons. Firstly, everyone can list their cottage on the platform, as long as it’s surrounded by nature and not being part of a large holiday park. As a result, the concept can have a great impact on protecting the old heritage and supporting small businesses. In my country, Poland, lots of families have an old wooden house standing in a remote area abandoned after their grandparents. Investing in renovation and listing the house as a city escape for guests, can save lots of them from destruction.
Contribute to a greener planet
The second thing that impressed me about the Nature.house is their planting tree mission. As travel contributes to a vast emission of CO2, the idea of trees planting project helps to compensate the negative impact. For every single night booked, they plant one tree with a goal to plant one million trees by 2021. With partner organisations they have planted over half million trees in Madagascar, Tanzania and Burkina Faso, planning another project in Africa and Europe. The mission is not only preserving unique fauna and flora in deforested lands but as trees are planted by locals, the mission also contributes to the local economy.
As you can see, you can help the Mother Earth when you travel slowly. Take your time and forget about “hitting” next spots on the list. And when you come back home refreshed and full of precious memories, try to implement the slow travel mindset in your daily life. Try to slow down a bit, learn about your neighbourhood, take time for your wellbeing. This will always give you a fresh energy and let you see the old place in a new light.
Summing up, you should definitely go slow travel to emphasize connection to nature, local people and their culture, food and music. Slow traveling remains responsible and sustainable for local communities and the environment. Are you up for it on your next trip?
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.