When travelling I always used to be the person who was the fastest walker (I admit I still walk too fast), the planner, determined to see and do as much as possible. It is so tempting to cram as much into a trip as possible, but when a trip is so busy that you spend most of your time stressed, not really appreciating the places you are visiting, what are you really gaining?
Only recently did I discover the ‘slow travel’ movement and it has really made me reflect on my travel habits and how I can make the most of my adventures. For me slowing down can be difficult, but the more I consciously travel slow the more I crave it. Slow travel isn’t an exact formula but a state of mind, and it doesn’t just apply to travel. Some call it mindful travel, or simply mindfulness. Whatever you call it, slow travel is about embracing experiences and immersing yourself in your environment. It is about quality over quantity, committing yourself to the present moment instead of always thinking ahead to the next destination. When you travel slow, you do less each day but you gain so much more.
1. Connect with people
When you are rushing from place to place you never really have time to interact with the local people, which is one of the most rewarding and insightful parts of travelling. Take your time to talk to locals, ask questions, learn about their culture. You will make new friends and have such a deeper appreciation for every place you visit. Plus, the locals usually give the best recommendations.
2. Disconnect from your phone
I’m still working on detaching myself from my phone, but I can’t deny that phones are distracting and usually take away from my travel experiences rather than add to them. Of course, use your phone if necessary, but resist the urge to check your email or social media while you’re out exploring. How many times have you arrived at a beautiful vista and seen nothing but people on their phones? Take plenty of photos yes, but once they’re taken wait to upload/edit them until the end of the day. Most importantly, put your camera or your phone away and take in the scenery yourself. A picture will never equal the memory of a place, and it is the memories that give the photos meaning!
3. Cut down your itinerary
When you’re in a city, pick 1-3 activities or sights to do in a day. Part of cutting down your itinerary means accepting that it is ok to not see everything. A relaxed schedule gives you time to pause, enjoy and truly reflect on each place. It can be frustrating to know you might miss out on sights or cities, but it means you’ll really know the places you do visit and you’ll be so much happier for it.
4. Limit your baggage
Over-packing is one of the worst, and most common, travel vices and trust me I have suffered from it as much as anyone. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that bringing lots of bags on travels just weighs you down, physically and mentally. It is one more thing to coordinate and think about, and it means you are more often reflecting on what clothes you are going to wear or what you want to buy than what you are experiencing. Bring less so you can travel more freely, in all senses of the word.
5. Embrace spontaneity
With a jam-packed itinerary, there is little room for spontaneity or changes in plans. Slow travel is all about giving yourself time to explore and wander. Some of my most cherished travel experiences have been places I happened upon or when we decided to suddenly change our plans. When you’re not chained to your schedule you can go with the flow and adjust as you want along the journey.
6. Pick slow transport
Whenever you can, walk or bike instead of taking cars/buses/trains. My favourite way to explore a city is walking because you see so much more on foot than you would speeding by on four wheels. You really get a feel for the local area and you are more likely to find hidden gems. Plus, it’s healthier, more environmentally friendly, and cheaper (what’s not to love).
I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences on slow travel! Do you have any other tips? Leave a comment xx