Three Ways to Embrace Slow Travel
The more I travel, the slower I go. On my RTW trip, I went from bouncing between cities sometimes with only a few days in each, to spending weeks and even full months in some places. There are tons of posts on the internet professing the benefits of slow travel. Pacing yourself doesn’t wear down your immune system, making slow travel better for your health. It keeps you from getting distracted and becoming more vulnerable to scams. Plus, by affording yourself time to fully experience your surroundings, slow travel is simply more enjoyable. But not everyone has a full year to explore freely at their own pace. Below are three practical ways to incorporate slow travel into a trip of any length – even a week-long vacation.
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Stick to one destination
The easiest solution to avoid traveling too quickly is to spend more time in fewer destinations. Instead of hopping from city to city on a whirlwind European tour, choose just one or two locations to base yourself for a week. If the idea of visiting only one or two places per trip sends your FOMO into overdrive consider this – when you leave a city after just one day, you’re missing out on a lot that place has to offer. When you slow down and focus on one place at a time, you can experience each one much more fully. One of my favorite examples is Athens. Many people spend just one to three days in the Greek capital. That gives you time to see the Acropolis and maybe go shopping or out for drinks in the touristy Plaka district. Those are certainly must-dos in Athens, but if you extend your stay to a week you can also explore the lesser known ruins around the city, spend a day in the peaceful National Gardens, and take a tour of the city’s best street art.
Schedule just one activity per day
There is no better way to stress yourself out on vacation than to try and stick to an itinerary planned to the minute. A jam-packed itinerary leaves no margin for error. What happens if you get lost, you find you need to run to the store for toothpaste, or any other number of things goes wrong? Slow travel means giving yourself time for hiccups, so when something goes wrong it doesn’t ruin your trip. Give yourself more flexibility by planning just one or two major activities per day. I once sketched out an all-day DIY walking tour of the South Kensington neighborhood in London and once I set foot in the Natural History Museum, I totally regretted planning so much else. One hour in that museum was not nearly enough and I could have happily spent all day there.
Set aside time to relax
Slow travel isn’t just good for practical reasons. It can also open you up to new and unexpected experiences you simply can’t plan to include on your itinerary. When I was in Vienna, the weather was gorgeous on a Sunday afternoon and with so many attractions closed, I decided to settle in at Cafe Demel for a while. Cafe culture is a big part of life in Vienna, so I was already getting a more authentic experience of the city than any museum could have afforded me. But that choice really paid off when I spotted a group of protesters marching down the street. At the time, Russia was threatening an invasion of the Ukraine, and tensions were high throughout Eastern Europe. So many people remember what it was like to live under communism and the Ukraine felt like the first domino to fall that would eventually knock them back behind the Iron Curtain. Seeing this march past a cafe beneath the turquoise dome of the Hofburg Palace was an incredible reminder we travel in a moment in time, and I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t slowed down for a few hours. Set aside a little time each day to relax at a cafe, on the beach, in your hostel common room – wherever it is you would enjoy having some downtime.
How do you make sure your trips are well-paced? Which destinations have you enjoyed slow travel in? Tell me in the comments!
Driving to Nashville, we arrived one day before our events began and stayed one day after them to slow down and rest up before driving home. So many events were planned that we were overscheduled and pooped out at our last reunion.
Good idea to schedule a day off before driving!
I love this post! It’s so easy to forget how to relax when you want to see SO much. I admit, I can go a little overboard on the ‘I want to do and see it ALL’ 🙂
It’s easy to feel FOMO, but it’s impossible to truly see everything. The more you explore and learn about a destination, there will always be something you haven’t experienced there before. In a full month in London – the 4th or 5th time I’ve been to the city – I still never made it to the Tate Modern, and I found out about a Moroccan themed afternoon tea I wound up missing. Best to set priorities and focus on enjoying what you *can* see.
Unpopular opinion, but slow travel is actually my favourite type! I don’t think there’s anything better than taking your time to wander around a city at your own pace, stopping to look in stalls/stores, having a coffee at random cafe’s that catch your eye etc.. This is how I’ve found some of my favourite local’s spots!
Not an unpopular opinion here! Having a poke about various shops and cafes is especially a great way to see a different side of really popular tourist destinations like Paris and Venice.
I totally agree! In my younger travel days I packed in way too much and was often overwhelmed and exhausted at the end of every day. We were just in Ljubljana, Slovenia and since it was raining we ended up not really doing anything except enjoying the local beer/food scene and it ended up being AWESOME. I hope your blog helps other anxious travelers!
Nice! Ljubljana is one of my favorite places for just that. When I arrived, I had been traveling really quickly through Italy and was feeling burned out. It was a pleasantly grey, rainy afternoon as I wandered the city center for the first time, and I remember feeling so rejuvenated exploring like that. I just wanted to do nothing but curl up with a hot cup of tea and write and write and write.
I totally agree that slow travel is better for your body, mind and soul. To me it makes no sense to try and stuff 3-4 countries in a short time because it’s tiring and you enjoy each destinations less. A glimpse and a few photos is all you get. Fondest memories can only be made when at least spending a minimum of a week somewhere new.
I’ve been to many places where I only spent a couple days, and it has never felt like enough!
I think when I was younger/ new to travelling I’d want to cram as much into a visit as possible (and I’ve definitely had some amazing trips doing things that way) but I think sometimes it can be out of fear of not knowing what to do with yourself in an unfamiliar setting. However, I completely agree that taking your time, finding a great cafe/ bar/ restaurant and just watching the life of a city happen around you is a really great way to get under the skin of a new destination.
That’s a great point Phoebe! I hadn’t considered that angle before.
Very interesting read, and I definitely agree ! Rushing through places only to see as much as possible can be counter productive, you end up missing lots of possibly interesting spots.
Yep, at the end of the day, it just isn’t possible to see everything. Better to enjoy what you can experience in the moment!
I’m loving slow travel too. I used to fit in 3 towns in 5 days but now I realized that I can appreciate them even more if I’d stop awhile and breathe in. ❤
I definitely found on my RTW trip that the faster I traveled, the less I enjoyed myself – even in places I had been before.
Great post to remind everyone that travelling is about the journey and not the destination. In my case wisdom came with age and it also makes it easier that we now live in Europe and have more time for slow travelling.
Living in Europe definitely gives you an edge! I’m trying to get better about appreciating the attractions in my own ‘backyard’.
I much prefer spending quality time in one location. Getting to know an area better, to feel more like a local, makes the experience more meaningful. I think it gives you a deeper connection to the place.
Agreed. As much fun as tourist attractions are – and you’re very unlikely to see me hating on someone for doing something touristy – it’s just as much fun to try and get past that surface of a destination.
I would add that leave some space for the place to surprise and show its hidden secrets. Spend some time sitting and observing the place so that you do not just see but feel the place. Let the place decide your pace.
Absolutely! That is exactly what I was talking about towards the end of the post with my story about Vienna.
Amen to this girl! If you’re lucky enough to be on a long RTW trip, there is no reason to kill yourself trying to see everything and go everywhere. Slow down and really savor each place you go. Totally agree with everything you said in this post.
Absolutely. Really, RTW or not, if you’re lucky enough to travel at all for any length of time, I think the same principles apply.
This is a wonderful post. I am still in a process of learning to slow down on travels. I’m always driven by my curiosity to see much but I experienced many good things when slowing down a bit. Cafes are a great way to relax on travels. I spend hours in cafes more and more often and enjoy this so much.
Thanks Ricarda. Travel is definitely a skill that we learn and develop over time!