What Is Slow Travel: Sustainable Tips For Mindful Trips

Slow Travel is a movement that is drawing in people globally with its environmental and personal benefits. Check out why you should join the movement too!

In today’s fast-paced world, many of us are guilty of rushing from one destination to another, without taking the time to truly appreciate the experiences along the way. Slow travel is a recent trend that seems like it’s here to stay. But what is slow travel, who is it for, and how can everyone incorporate it into their expeditions? 

Slow travel, an emerging trend that emphasizes the importance of immersing oneself in the journey, encourages travelers to forge a deeper connection with the places they explore. 

This blog will explore the benefits of slow travel and offer the benefits of slow travel and offer helpful tips for adopting a slow travel mindset that is consistent with the principles of sustainable and responsible travel. 

White woman in a white linen shirt and skirt holding a small bouquet of wildflowers

Table of Contents

What is Slow Travel?

We’ve all heard of Slow Fashion – the movement to prioritize quality and ethical fashion purchases over cheap fast fashion brands. And even Slow Food – the movement away from low-quality fast food and towards sustainable whole food options to fuel your body.

Both Slow Fashion and Slow Food are focused on things you PURCHASE. What about the things you EXPERIENCE?

Isn’t a quality use of your time the ultimate goal in life, since it is so preciously limited? Well, Slow Travel is finally making its way into the ‘trends’ of society, and it seems like it’s here to stay. Slow Travel isn’t a strict schedule of how long to stay somewhere, it is a mindset. The mindset to be present, to be open to new experiences and perspectives, and to be 

For me – slow travel is a mindset centered around sustainability, being present, being open, and trusting the flow of life. I believe when you allow the flow of life to happen without force or pushback, it takes you exactly where you should be. 

"Slow travel may mean different things to different travelers, but I define it as staying in one place for longer and going deeper into the local culture. It’s taking the time to make real connections with locals versus jam-packing a schedule full of tours. It’s staying in Kyoto at a Ryokan instead of city hopping throughout Asia."

Who Is Slow Travel For?

Since Slow Travel is a mindset, it can be done by everyone at any time. You don’t need to sell everything you own to travel full time to take on slow travel. Even if you only have 10 days off of work for a getaway vacation, you too can slow travel!

Slow travel seems to be emerging as so many people find remote work opportunities. It is also well-timed with a new generation of people entering the workforce – a generation filled with dreamers and doers who can’t stop asking big-picture questions and trying to find the meaning behind life. 

I felt it myself – I was working a stressful Corporate Sustainability job for years, and while I felt my role had an impact, I was sacrificing a lot of my personal time and freedom. I gave up a part of myself, and at 26 years old, I felt that the next 40 years of that wouldn’t be satisfactory for me. 

There is so much to see in the world, and while I was fortunate enough to travel full-time in a very slow way, anyone can do it, even if you still work in the office!

Thankfully we all have perks from working, and a big one is vacation time. You have the power to use your time off differently to reconnect with your environment and yourself.

In short, slow travel is for remote workers, new families, people working 9-5 jobs, people in a gap year, retirees, teachers on summer break…literally everyone!

If you’re not sure why you should change the way you think about travel, here are a few reasons.

 

Fast Travel

  • Strict plan to optimize time
  • Stressed thinking about the next plan
  • No time to meet locals
  • Does what all other tourists do
  • Doesn’t usually make lasting connections
  • Expensive splurge of sight-seeing
  • No time to rest, time is limited and planned
  • Emission-intensive transportation
  • Enjoys comfortable travel
  • Tourist” = Sees a place

Slow Travel

  • Flexible plan to optimize time
  • Ability to be present in each moment, no stress
  • Pursuit of conversations with locals
  • Receives off-the-path suggestions
  • Makes intimate and lasting connections
  • Well-paced adventures, without huge expenses
  • Time for rest and reflection
  • Slow transportation = less emissions = cheaper
  • Enjoys authentic travel
  • Traveler” = Experiences a place

1. Builds a Strong Connection

Traveling with a focus on awareness and being present inevitably will slow you down. It is too much for someone to see a dozen things in a few days, and be able to be fully engaged with all of them. You will never be able to see everything in the world, and even if you could, would you truly experience them?

You can think of slow travel as reducing the radius one tries to ‘see’, and instead focusing on thoroughly experiencing the few things that are done in the given time. If someone is focused on seeing it all, then they will be so concerned with what they think should be seen, that they miss everything in between.

Engaging in mindful and slow travel creates opportunities to develop deeper connections with the world, yourself, and the people you meet along the way.

2. You See the world Differntly

One of the main advantages of slow travel is the opportunity it provides to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. By spending more time in a single location, you can gain a better understanding of the customs, traditions, and daily life of the people who call that place home. You meet locals, share their traditions and practices, and understand how other people live in this world. 

It is not even possible to put into words how this opens your perspective and shifts your thoughts about what it means to be a human. Our understanding of life is shaped by what we are exposed to, and slow travel allows you to develop a deeper appreciation and broaden your perspective on alternative ways and values.

 

3. You Learn About Yourself

Slow travel can also have a positive impact on your mental and physical well-being. Taking the time to disconnect from the daily grind, unwind, and fully engage with your surroundings can help promote mindfulness and allow you to get in touch with your intuitive self.

Also, by putting yourself in new and unfamiliar circumstances, you allow yourself to grow and change. There is a unique release of pressure when you travel long-term. We all have this feeling that we need to be the way that people think we are, but that limits our ability to change freely. It puts us in a box of who we should be, through other people’s eyes. 

How do you present yourself to new people? How do you talk about your life and where you come from? When you meet people from all over the world, it offers the chance to introduce yourself and your life influences. Imagine if you didn’t see people you know every day. Nobody around you has any expectations of how you ‘should’ be. What would you do differently? 

Maybe that would be freeing and terrifying at the same time, but growth never comes when we stay in our comfort zone. 

4. You Make Forever Friends

There is a special connection that is made between long-term travelers. When everyone can relate to the same thing – the thing that is such a major transitional point in your life – that unites you. Suddenly you’re on the other side of the world following your dreams. Maybe you just left your family for the first time, or maybe you don’t know where to call home anymore.

Everyone that is traveling can relate to that, offer support, and experience that beautiful life together. You engage in meaningful conversation as you are constantly in a state of awareness and openness.

5. Reduces Stress

When you limit your time you inevitably put stress on it – to experience everything, to enjoy it all, and to see enough. However, when you travel slowly, you take all of the stress out of traveling since you allow yourself time to get comfortable and go with the flow. 

Think about when you go on a 2-week vacation to a foreign country. You have to think about the customs and cultures, the food they eat, the dangers that may exist, the weather, the cost, and the people… I’m already overwhelmed! If you only give yourself a few weeks in a place (or worse – a few days), it is a complete overload of things to think about!

Now picture arriving in a place that you may be in for months. You don’t know if you packed everything you need if you’ll like the food options, or know any of the local languages. But, you have given yourself time to figure it all out as it needs to be. 

When you travel slowly, you are allowed to take a few days to settle into a new location. You allow yourself to move at a pace that is comfortable for you, and you don’t put too much pressure on planning!

We’ve all been there where you plan an awesome adventure or activity, and it is completely not what you anticipated. However, when you’re not in a rush to “see it all”, you can go with the flow and make the most of it! 

6. Positive Environmental Impacts

As you travel around the world – or even at home – you will become aware of the current state of the natural world. You will see species disappear from a region, extreme changes in weather, and plastic waste sprinkled through an otherwise natural landscape. 

However, when you take a step back and think about the whole picture of why that is, you start to see how every human decision is linked to one uniting system. Nothing in this world happens in a vacuum, especially when it involves traveling to the other side of the planet!

When you travel fast, you take quick flights that emit a crazy amount of greenhouse gases, to arrive at a resort that is right on the beach, or deep in the jungle. When you allow yourself more time to move around, you open more possibilities to navigate the world. By using public transportation, walking, or cycling instead of relying on carbon-intensive methods of transport, you’re actively contributing to the preservation of the planet for future generations. 

When you travel fast, you leave a wake of negative impact in your path. You don’t experience life like a local, and you don’t stay long enough to see the impact of how you exist in a place. Traveling at a slower pace and prioritizing local, sustainable activities, and accommodations can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. 

7. Save Money with Slow Travel

Racing around to do everything there is to do can be both tiring and expensive. When you travel slowly, you’re less concerned about seeing the ‘must-see’ places in an area, because you learn that there is so much to see that isn’t what everyone else is waiting in line for.

Traveling at a slower pace can be a more budget-conscious option. By spending more time in one location, you can often find better deals on accommodations and take advantage of lower-cost local experiences.

There are also potential cost savings with transportation. When you travel slowly, you aren’t in a rush to get somewhere as quickly as possible. This opens the doors for other transportation options than carbon-intensive flights, like trains or boats which are much more enjoyable! 

Food is also a major part of cultural significance, which you can explore more when you travel slowly. Instead of going to the closest restaurant, which is probably targeted at tourists, you can explore the local cuisine at a much more affordable price. 

Tips To Make The Most of Slow Travel

Research, Don't Plan

While it is great to be aware of what is around you, you shouldn’t lock yourself into any official plans right away. If you let yourself go with the flow, you may find things that you would never find on TripAdvisor or Google Maps. Check out what things there are to do in an area so you know what other opportunities might exist too! 

Allow yourself to let go of the need to see and do everything. Instead of creating a rigid itinerary, focus on a few experiences that genuinely interest you and allow yourself the freedom to explore without a rigid schedule.

 

Choose Sustainable Transportation Options

Select eco-friendly transportation options whenever possible. Utilize public transportation, walk, and look for ferries instead of flights. Not only will this reduce your environmental impact, but it will also allow you to take in the sights of the area at a more leisurely pace.

When you move slowly, you also open the opportunity to meet other like-minded people. Enjoy the journey, and make that a part of the experience. It’s not just about the destination!

Stay in Local Accommodations

To further immerse yourself in the local culture, choose small, locally-owned accommodations such as guesthouses, bed & breakfasts, or homestays. These options often provide a more personal experience and can offer unique insights into local life.

There isn’t a better way to practice the language, understand the values and traditions, and connect with an area than staying with a local family. Not only do you learn, but you also help support locals. I promise you, a big resort that is designed to make you feel comfortable and at home, is not an enriching experience when you’re abroad.

Travel in the Off-Season

If you go to a major tourist destination in the middle of peak season, you may find that tours are booked and accommodations are limited, which makes planning essential. If you travel in the off-season, you skip the massive crowds of stressed-out travelers, and you get to move freely. 

Similarly, challenge yourself to get off of the beaten path. Explore new less explored areas. This can lead to unique and unforgettable experiences that you might otherwise miss. Just because you don’t see it as a trendy place on Instagram (yet), it doesn’t mean there aren’t new places to explore that will be more authentic and memorable.

Put Yourself Out There

Traveling is the door to a world of new experiences and perspectives. It is up to you to open that door! When you travel, be confident in yourself and try new things. If you are alone, talk to people! Travelers are the most friendly people, who are always open to new friends. Go to events and things that draw you, that’s where you will meet like-minded people!

Even if that means getting on Bumble or the notorious Tinder to meet people in the area, it’s a great way to connect with others and get in the groove of moving around solo. I suggest staying at hostels to start, or looking for volunteer opportunities to get you in the rhythm of traveling and meeting new people!

Talk To Locals

There are no better people to connect with than locals. I’m guessing you didn’t travel to the other side of the world to connect with people who are from the same state/country as you. When you’re out to eat, ask the server if they know of any good viewpoints. Talk to shop owners about what they’re selling and be open to learning about local crafts and traditions.

These conversations will open so many doors for you – you never know who knows where the best waterfalls are, or tricks to avoid tourist traps!

Dive Into the Local Culture

No matter where in the world you land, cultures vary dramatically. Ask locals what is happening around your area, and go for it! Whether it is a dance ritual, a religious ceremony, a traditional practice, or a parade, experience everything you can.

These are the things that you can’t capture in a photo. They’re the feelings that will sit with you long into your old age of memories of distant worlds that you got to be a part of.

Embrace Digital Disconnect

Put your phone down regularly and just be. The world moves so fast out there, and when you’re constantly connected to what is happening all over the world, you lose touch with what is happening where you are. 

Use this time to be present in the moment, take in your surroundings, and connect with the people around you. Social media often distorts the way the world looks and ‘should’ feel. Be present and take in the reality of life, everywhere you are.

Be Adaptable

Part of adopting a slow travel mindset involves being open to change and spontaneity. Be prepared to adjust your plans as needed and embrace the unexpected. This is where a lot of growth develops in you, as you learn to trust yourself in unknown situations.

You are capable and intuitive. Trust your instincts, and prioritize your safety, but also allow yourself to be uncomfortable and challenged. You never know what opportunities are out there until you’re open to them.

Have Patience With Yourself

Traveling can be a major transition, and if you don’t listen to yourself you can burn yourself out. Give yourself enough time to rest, a little bit of ‘me time’ can be the most grounding place when the world feels so foreign and unfamiliar. 

Nobody will say that traveling full-time is always easy, and if they do, please seek more authentic perspectives. It is a challenge sometimes, but it is in those moments that you grow the most and learn about yourself.

If you’re ready to take on this life of travel and connection, check out the steps to follow to Build a Life of Slow Travel.

Summary - Slow Travel; Mindful Tips For Sustainable Trips

Slow travel offers a refreshing alternative to the typical fast-paced, checklist-driven approach to exploring the world. By embracing this mindset, you can deepen your cultural understanding, reduce your environmental impact, and create meaningful connections with the people and places you encounter. By following the tips outlines in this article, you can begin to adopt a slow travel mindset that aligns with the principles of sustainable and responsible travel. 

So, on your next adventure, remember to take a step back, slow down, and truly savor the journey.

What other destinations are on your bucket list? Find your Travel Inspiration here. 

Posted by Taylor Mallaber

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