Slow travel can be defined in many ways (and differently to each person!), but at its core, it’s about making meaningful connections with the people & places you meet along the journey. It’s about immersing yourself deeply in the culture and savouring experiences rather than rushing to check things off your travel itinerary.
Another way to think of slow travel is a way to take a break from the fast-paced, stressful way of life that has become the norm in our society. Slow travel is intentional, authentic, and above all – a mindset to enhance connection. If you are considering slowing down your pace of travel, here are 7 practical tips to help you get started. From timelines to food, these tips will help you ensure your slow travel experience is a transformative one!
1. Do Your Research Ahead of Time
I know you may be wondering: isn’t slow travel meant to be unplanned?
The answer is yes! But travel research is not quite the same as planning. Aside from obvious reasons such as safety, it’s important to do your homework on the country you’ll be traveling to. Learn what you can about the neighborhoods, culture and customs, climate, and cost of goods ahead of time. I recommend reading blogs and reviews, or even checking out location posts on Instagram.
How it helps: The more you know about your destination ahead of time, the better prepared you’ll be when you arrive. You’ll experience less culture shock and be able to adjust to the area much easier. You’ll also spend less time on your phone (so you can be more present!) if you do the initial research upfront.
2. Avoid Lists & Itineraries
Slow travel does not include packed itineraries and overwhelming bucket lists. By all means, if you do have a few “must-sees”, don’t deny yourself the experience but don’t schedule it in either. Remember, slow travel is all about going with the flow and waking up without a set plan for your day.
For example, if you’ve always wanted to see the Mona Lisa, stop in at The Louvre when you happen to be in the area – after all, you did travel all that way!
How it helps: Avoiding lists & itineraries eases the pressure of feeling like you didn’t see or do enough. It leaves space for spontaneity and the unexpected!
3. Travel in the Off-season
It goes without saying that traveling in the off-season is a hack to save money and avoid tourist crowds. Instead of waiting in museum lines or being asked to take photos, you’ll have the extra time (not to mention, space!) to be present and make the most of whatever activity you’re doing.
How it helps: When you’re surrounded by mainly locals, your travel experience will be much more authentic to the culture and local way of living.
4. Eat Like a Local
Everyone’s favorite travel topic – food! To truly savour your slow travel experience, support local businesses whenever possible. Steer clear of any chain restaurants or foods you can easily get at home. Instead, hit up a local market, grocery store, café, or watering hole to feel like a true local.
How it helps: Food is a big part of a country’s culture. By opting for local foods and restaurants, you not only have a much better chance at meeting the locals, but understanding the lifestyle on a deeper level. Bonus: it helps you save money!
5. Spend More Time in One Destination
Instead of booking an all-encompassing country or multi-country tour, narrow it down to 2-3 cities or towns that you’d like to explore. When we try to pack in so many places on one trip, we often end up feeling anxious – spending a lot of the time commuting, checking into hotels or Airbnb, and just trying to figure out “where to go next”. Slow down the pace and keep it simple.
How it helps: Spending more time in a particular place allows you to absorb the culture, and experience it to the fullest. You’ll also have more energy and feel relaxed – the whole point of a vacation!
6. Learn the Local Language
Learn the basics of the native language of the country you’re traveling to. There’s enough culture shock when visiting a new place without worrying you won’t be able to order your morning coffee! You don’t have to be fluent, you just need to know a few key phrases to get by – most locals are happy to help you out anyway! But if you want to fast-track your skills and will be traveling to a Spanish or Italian-speaking country, check out my language offerings in the OCW Academy.
How it helps: Being able to communicate on some level will not only help you navigate the community with less stress, but also help you create better relationships with locals.
Lastly, skip the subway or bus and explore the streets on foot. Try walking as much as possible, preferably without a map pulled up on your smartphone. This allows you the chance to get off the beaten path and wander without a plan. Remember, slow travel is all about having authentic experiences in a foreign place. So, get a little lost – you might find just the thing you’re looking for!
How it helps: You’ll notice small details & moments that would otherwise be missed.
So, are you ready to let go of planning and experience the personal growth that comes with slow travel? Where are you headed next? Connect with me on IG and let me know!