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Slow Travel

What is Slow Travel ?

Slow travel is an approach to travel that emphasizes connection: to local people, cultures, food and music. It relies on the idea that a trip is meant to educate and have an emotional impact, in the present moment and for the future, while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.

Heard of the slow food movement? It originated in Italy in 1986 and aimed to preserve regional cuisine, local farming and traditional cooking methods through education of tourists and local residents. People were realizing that increased tourism was changing the way that people were eating, bringing larger, chain-based restaurants to major cities and taking away profits from family-owned establishments. The slow food movement worked to draw business back to traditional restaurants by touting the benefits of using regionally-sourced ingredients and stimulating local economies.

Different industry, same concept. Where travel is considered, a “slow” mindset urges tourists to take a step back from their to-do lists and Instagram-worthy photo ops and simply embrace what the local community has to offer. Instead of making sure you hit the “hot spots” outlined in a travel guide, focus on things that locals do everyday, things that excite them and give them joy. The impact that these connections have on you will last a lot longer than the memories that you have of racing from tourist attraction to tourist attraction.

This is not just a way to travel, it’s a mindset. It’s the outlook that the quality of your experience is more important than the quantity of your experiences when you travel.

You can wake up without plans for the day, unsure of the adventures that await you, but with the knowledge that what you’ll experience will mean so much more than a post to social media could convey.

Many travelers like to use the phrase “there’s always another trip” to convey that it’s impossible to see or do everything within a city in a short amount of time. It’s okay to save some of the sights for another visit. Instead of racing to do it all, indulge in experience-based activities.

When you visit a museum, give yourself enough time to fully immerse yourself in its artworks. Ponder the meaning behind a painting, or imagine the artist’s thoughts as he or she sculpted an object from clay or stone. Lose yourself in the meaning behind the duality of identity in Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits. Absorb and analyze the cultural impact of Salvador Dalí’s surrealist works. Remember: you don’t need to visit every wing or exhibit – you can always come back.

What other impactful local activities could you only experience if you were traveling slowly? Imagine learning how to create handmade beads from a local artisan, heading out with a resident fishing crew to reel in the day’s catch or getting to know the proper intricacies of drinking mate from a born-and-raised Argentinian.‍

You want to find something on this trip that leaves a fingerprint on your soul. Whether it be an evening spent wandering through a local park, a day pondering artistic intention in a museum or an afternoon white water rafting in the mountains, you’ll search for an adventure that will make you feel something.

Benefits of Slow Travel

Slow travel has many benefits for the traveler and the community that they’re visiting. In a way, it’s a return to the reasons that people had traveled in the past, for a cultural experience or a chance to lose themselves in a new place without the need to document every moment. Here are a few  reasons you should consider travelling slowly:

Prevent “tourist burnout”

Have you ever left a trip more tired than when you arrived? That’s a little thing that travelers call “tourist burnout”. Trying to see or experience as many things as possible within a short period of time can be exhausting, and actually leave you with a negative view of your time on the road as a whole.

Ditch your typical frenetic mentality and slip into the pace of the local culture. Instead of thinking of your trip as a list of as a checklist, reframe it as an opportunity for growth, education and development. That to-do list that you created doesn’t need to be fully completed in order for your travels to have been successful. You can always head back to that destination later to see what you missed!

Other level experience

Traveling slowly can be a different option than a typical tourist jaunt. Chain hotels and big-name restaurants tend to be to normal, and they don’t offer the type of charm or experience that a local spot would. Beyond the places that you’ll visit during the day, you can enjoy the space where you’ll lay your head at night. Seeking out local Airbnb options or even homestay opportunities could be the key to a connected, life-changing experience on your next trip. If you have a kitchen in your accommodations, bonus! You won’t have to eat out quite so often (though you may be tempted to with all of that amazing cuisine), and you can find regional ingredients with which to make a culturally-relevant meal with your own two hands.

Make connections

We’re going to let you in on a secret: you won’t meet anyone who has the ability to change your life if your head is stuck inside of a tourist guide. Look up and look around. Learn a bit of the local language before you arrive so that you can engage in brief conversation with shop owners. A short conversation with a man working at a bakery could turn into an opportunity to learn how to make your own bread and, later, a traditional meal with his family where you can make even more connections. You never know what could happen when you take the time to slow down and get to know the people in the city that you’re traveling in.

Break out of your comfort zone

This way of travelling isn’t always simple, planned or easy. It requires a certain level of confidence that things will work out, or that you will be able to figure them out along the way. There will be moments during your experience that scare you, but these are the moments that can teach you a lesson that you could carry with you for the rest of your life. You may need to overcome language barriers and differences in cultural customs. These experiences will make you a more knowledgeable traveler and give you global perspective. Unlike a tourist experience, where translated tours abound and Yelp  directs you to a place where you’d most likely enjoy the food, a more authentic experience could end up with you tasting a scorpion for the first time in China. You’ll also leave little to no negative impact on the local community because you won’t be working with exploitative tour operators. That’s what will make it one of your best trips ever.

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