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 such as fast travel, slow travel, or mindful travel. 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 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 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 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?