Slow Travel: Better for You, Better for the Environment

A man and woman walking through a park
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Last Updated on: 12th May 2024, 09:30 am

Hi there. Have you ever taken a vacation that plum wore you out?

Maybe you took a multi-day tour that didn’t provide enough downtime.

Perhaps you got tired of packing and unpacking as you moved from city to city.

Or it could be that you saw so many sights in a short time that they have all gotten jumbled up in your memory.

If you relate to any of these, slow travel might be right for you.

Steve and I have been traveling slowly since 2018 and highly recommend it.

In this post, I will explain what slow travel is, what the benefits are, how we practice slow travel, and how you can, too.

What is Slow Travel?

If you search the internet for “what is slow travel?” you’ll find varying definitions.

Some, like this Conde Nast Traveler article “What Does the Phrase “Slow Travel” Actually Mean?” stress moving from place to place in the most environmentally friendly way even if it takes longer.

Some focus on connecting to the local culture and people, as in “What is Slow Travel? And How to Do It” by Remote Year.

World Packers proposes rejecting conventional tourism and being open to unique and immersive experiences.

I think this definition from StudySmarter UK says it best:

“Slow travel is the art of not rushing around when traveling. The purpose of traveling slowly is to take in the sights, get to know the place better and have a local feel of it, creating lasting memories and connections.”

No matter how you define slow travel (also known as sustainable travel, mindful travel, slow tourism, and low-impact travel), putting it into practice can make your trips more memorable and meaningful.

Benefits of Slow Travel

Less stress

Traveling slowly reduces your stress level, and who doesn’t want that? Since travel is already full of stress, why add more?

By keeping your plans flexible and allowing free time, you are less likely to panic when something goes wrong. If you don’t see attraction A today, you’ll see it tomorrow.

Slow travel also encourages you to be picky about what you want to see. When we go to a new place, Steve and I list things to see and do, then, we prioritize them. By choosing which things are the highest priority, we can enjoy them leisurely.

Lower costs

Besides having less stress, slow travel helps you spend less.

The most apparent savings are on transportation. The less you move around, the less you spend.

But you can also save big on accommodations, especially if you use Airbnb. There is backlash against Airbnb and other home-sharing companies, but that’s an issue for another day. Frankly, until someone comes up with an alternative that offers as much as we get on Airbnb for a comparable price, we will continue to use it.

The way to save big on Airbnb is to book long term. Many hosts give discounts for weekly and monthly stays. The monthly discounts are usually a higher percentage than the weekly ones. Our average nightly rate for a month’s stay in an Airbnb is $70 compared to $120 for a hotel room. If you book an Airbnb with a kitchen, you can cook meals, too.

You can save even more if you forego the rental car and use public transportation.

More profound and authentic experiences

This benefit is near and dear to my heart. I love the feeling I get when I’ve been somewhere long enough that things become familiar and I feel at home.

It can be as simple as shopping for groceries or conversing with a local on the bus. It might be trying that out-of-the-way restaurant tourists don’t know about. The memories of the places we’ve discovered and the people we’ve met when living like a local mean more to us than the typical tourist experiences do.

Opportunity for unexpected experiences

When you stay in one place longer, you have time to wander. Often, we will be heading somewhere and discover other things along the way. Because we are traveling slowly, we can take the time to check them out.

We often come across cemeteries, parks, churches, and street art because we looked around the next corner.

a church with a garden and a graveyard
While heading elsewhere, we came across this church with colorful gardens and a cemetery in Walthamstow, London, U.K.

When you aren’t overbooked, and you spend time talking with locals and other tourists, you may learn about unexpected places and activities. We often discover something memorable after we arrive at our destination.

In Barcelona, it was stumbling across the delightful Parc del Laberint d’Horta, Barcelona’s oldest garden. There were surprises at every turn, and we had the park mostly to ourselves.

In the Galapagos Islands, it was heading into the highlands on electric scooters for a day of exploring. We came across a lava tunnel and a family-owned amusement center.

We searched for abandoned Austro-Hungarian forts in Pula, Croatia, where even their aquarium is inside one of these forts.

While in Cordoba, Argentina, we learned about the German-inspired hamlet of La Cumbrecita and spent a few days enjoying its solitude.

My favorite unexpected experience was visiting Medellin, Colombia’s District 13 (Comuna 13). Less than 25 years ago, District 13 was the most dangerous neighborhood in one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Today, it attracts tourists with its small businesses and street art. It was delightful to see the residents full of purpose, joy, and positive spirit.

Collage of slow travel adventures
Clockwise from upper left: the maze at Parc del Laberint d’Horta, Linda at a lava tunnel entrance in the Galapagos Islands, Steve in La Cumbrecita, Linda in La Cumbrecita, dancers in District 13, and Fort Giorgio in Pula

Less environmental impact

There are two ways slow travel can help the environment. One is to move around less, and the other is to take more environmentally friendly transportation methods, even if they take longer.

The first one is easy. Find a place you would love to explore and hunker down there for as long as possible.

We have found the second one more difficult. When Steve and I traveled from Budapest to Manchester, we considered taking a train since we had plenty of time. We would have spent almost 24 hours on four trains. In addition, work was being done on several stretches of track, so we would have had to use buses for parts of the journey. We chose to take a 6-hour flight instead.

Even though taking a train didn’t work in that case, we always consider it and other options.

For local transportation, the best thing for you and the environment is walking or cycling. You get the added benefits of exercise and seeing the sights along the way. You can also ride an electric scooter (if you are better at it than I am).

If none of these suit the situation, local public transportation (where available) is the way to go. Not only is it better for Mother Earth, but it is also a lot cheaper than renting a car.

Check out this article from The Travel to see how different transportation options rank.

How We Practice Slow Travel

Because we travel full-time, it is easy for Steve and I to practice slow travel. If we didn’t, we would burn out. We also need time to take care of day-to-day issues that can be ignored when you are on a short vacation.

We prefer to stay in one accommodation for four weeks. That gives us the benefit of Airbnb discounts and reduces the stress of packing and moving.

Since we have plenty of time in most places, we space out our sightseeing. We will usually pick one thing to do that will take several hours. Often, we find interesting things to see around that attraction or while traveling to and from it.

How You Can Practice Slow Travel

You don’t have to travel long-term or full-time to practice slow travel. The first step is defining what it means to you.

Will you seek out local experiences? Will you wander the area with no specific destination? Will you be mindful of the environmental impact of your transportation choices?

There is no right way to practice slow travel. You will know you’ve done it when the place you visited is etched on your soul.

Until Next Time

I hope you found this post engaging and thought-provoking. Are you ready to practice slow travel, or have you already done so? Let us know in the comment section below.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured image by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash.com

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