What is Slow Travel

In 2003, when I left the Netherlands for a two-year journey to Asia, which ultimately turned out to be the start of a new life, I wasn’t aware of terms like fast travel and slow travel. My partner Coen and I have always traveled in a way that felt good to us, which happens to be traveling slowly. We’ve enjoyed lingering, getting a feel for a place, meeting people and becoming part of their lives.

When I learned about Slow Movement, of which Slow Travel is one aspect, I came to appreciate the term and concluded it fits our style of traveling. This is what slow travel is to me:

Slow Travel is about Being Unhurried

  • Slow Travel is allowing the world to show itself on its own terms.
  • Slow Travel is about feeling comfortable without a plan or itinerary.
  • Slow Travel means traveling slowly.
  • Slow Travel is about the journey, not about the arrival.
  • Slow Travel is about spending time in a place.

Slow Travel is about Connection

  • Slow Travel is about connecting with your surroundings: people, food, climate, nature, animals, (historic) culture.
  • Slow Travel is about meeting local people, learning about their lives if they wish to share it with you.
  • Slow Travel is about following up on tips from locals, whether this is about sights, food, dress or any other matter.
  • Slow Travel is about exchanging and sharing (two-way relationship), as opposed to ‘taking’ (one-way relationship).
  • Slow Travel means caring about your environment and behaving accordingly.
  • Slow Travel is about noticing: the other, your surroundings, that particular taste or smell of a local dish.

Slow Travel is a State of Mind

  • Slow Travel is about being where you are, not about what you do.
  • Slow Travel is about intensity.
  • Slow Travel means keeping an open mind for the unexpected.
  • Slow Travel is about mindfulness, paying attention, focus.
  • Slow Travel is about letting go of fear and opening your heart.

Slow Travel is Not about How Long You Travel

Slow Travel is a way to visit Paris for the day or weekend, to hike in the Rocky Mountains for a week, to go on a sabbatical for a year, to make it your lifestyle, or anything in between.

Slow Travel is Not for Sale and Can’t be Found in a Guidebook

The spirit of slow travel is to have your own, unique experience of a place, with people, or in nature. Following a guidebook, even if that happens to be themed as slow travel, is exactly that: following a guidebook.

Slow travel, for example, is sitting in a local cafe, drinking a typical drink of that region and chatting with the workers who go there each afternoon for their after-work drink, instead of having a coffee at McDonald’s or in the #1 bar mentioned by the Lonely Planet (or any other guidebook).

But I want to take it one step further. What happens to you when you sit in that cafe? What goes on in your mind, what are your feelings, observations, interactions, and how do they help you define what you like or don’t like about a place or the people who live there, or that one particular person you just met? Slow travel is not just about sitting in that local cafe – it’s what happens as a result of that action which makes slow travel so valuable.

Have I missed a theme? What is your experience with slow travel? What do you feel it’s all about?

14 thoughts on “What is Slow Travel

  1. I like the idea of slow travel. All I have to do is convince my husband (and my yellow lab) that slow travel is the only way to go. Or…I could just run away and become a gypsy, leaving no forwarding address. I am especially curious about Brazil. I’ve spent a few days in BsAs and got seasick going around Cape Hoorn on a ship, but somehow we didn’t get to see anything of Brasil.

  2. It great to hear someone talking good things about our country – Brasil. European people are always afraid and scared of coming!
    We are travellers, not slow, not fast… just curious and open minded travellers. Welcome in our home, whenever you need! Paula & Paulo

  3. Hi Paula & Paulo, Thank you for your words of welcome. You’ve just said what Brazil is all about: hospitality! Unfortunately, the European image of Brazil is largely distorted but I know that through our stories other travelers have taken the courage the come to this so called dangerous country too, and just loved it.

  4. Good people like you make the difference in the world!
    Our house door is open for you, guys! Whenever you need help from São Paulo state, count on us! With a small black hot coffee waiting for you!

  5. We’ve been travelling around Australia for about 13 years now, I don’t really keep records any more and we’ve slowed down a lot in the last couple of years but but last I checked we averaged 137k per week

  6. I greatly admire the approach and philosophy that you embody. I try to emulate what you have made a life’s effort in a meager way by having participated with like-minded sojouners in what is known as “overlanding” by driving/camping through East, South and West Africa and Ethiopia, Mongolia, Peru, Thailand, China, the Middle East, Russia, and Central America. I would love to spend even more time with the Indigenous Peoples of these regions and hope to do so in my own “Slow Movement” return visit to Namibia and the Himba People and the Desert Elephant in the near future. Thank you for your inspiring work!

  7. I like the term, “Slow Travel”. Years ago in 1974 I made a plan to travel on an open ended journey by Land from my home in Minnesota to South América,only traveling by land …or water as the situation presented itself.
    I had saved some money from my work as a pediatric nurse in Washintong D.C. and set off to see how far and how long this journey would be. I did not have a time frame in mind other than taking each day as it came. My modes of travel included bus,train, sailboat and in Bolivia,riding on the back of open air trucks transporting people ,produce and small animals. Many months later, I found work as a volunteer in an Orphange in Sucre, Bolivia where I worked ,half days,7 days a week with infants under a year old. I was given room and board in exchange and fell in love with this beautiful country. many of the friendships I made have lasted until now, 40 years later.

  8. I have never heard of the term ‘slow travel’ before but after reading your page, it gives me a whole new perspective. About 6 months ago, I moved to the middle east from the US in search of exploring new things, new ideas, meeting new people, and learning about the world in which we live in. I have meet so many amazing people from different parts of the world. Like you said, just sitting in a local coffee shop and talking to the people, can completely change your life and introduce you to new ideas, and concepts, and lifestyles. After I save up some more, I plan to travel more and really connect with people. It truly is an amazing journey!

  9. Hey – great post.
    I’ve just started to write about our slow travel experience – the first of what I hope are many. We are at a different stage in our life to you but I found it easy to relate to what you said perhaps most with “Slow Travel is about being where you are, not about what you do”

Leave a Reply to Paula & Paulo Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *