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What is slow travel?

When we plan a holiday, it’s usually because we’ve decided we need time away from the stresses of our daily routines to relax and enjoy the experiences of a foreign place. Unfortunately, the mere task of even planning a holiday can be a confusing hassle in itself. Then, of course, there are the frantic attempts to tick every item off your tourist checklist before the trip is over. By the time you arrive back home you’re wishing you never left in the first place. It has become a social perception that the more we get done each day, the more productive and worthwhile our lives seem. The problem with this hypothesis is that it limits our experience of the present and prevents us from living in, and really enjoying, every moment. According to Michael Grosvenor, green living and sustainable travel expert, blogger and author of Sustainable Australian Travel for Dummies, Slow Travel allows you to “experience every part of your travel journey in a relaxed and intimate way,” offering the perfect solution.

Slow Travel: Green and Sustainable Living

Born from the Slow Living Movement which aims to reinforce the deep connections we experience in all aspects of life, Slow Travel is mostly a mindset that promotes a connection to local people and cultures when travelling abroad, achieved by blowing off the tedious list of standard tourist attractions and slowing the pace of holidaying. The slow traveller is in no rush to become briefly acquainted with as many towns or cities as possible in the amount of available time, but is enthusiastic to spend as much time as possible developing a deep love affair with one in particular. The aim is to explore your destination thoroughly and in doing so, really immerse yourself in the local culture.

How to go green and slow it down

The key element to Slow Travel is to reduce the pace of your holiday experience and eliminate the associated anxiety responsible for keeping you on your toes. The best way to achieve this is to reject the standard tourist style of travelling and sightseeing.

Rather than staying in swanky hotels and resorts your entire trip, rent a self-catered apartment or holiday house. “Go directly to a place for a week or more so as you get to ‘live’ there rather than just visit and, once there, do plenty of wandering by walking and cycling – the slowest of all the transport modes,” suggests Michael. This allows you enough time to absorb the culture and live as a temporary resident of your destination. It will also encourage you to engage with your surroundings and visit the local Grocery store, become a regular at a café, taste local foods and meet local people.

The next step is to ditch that crammed and rigid checklist you’ve compiled for yourself under the impression that meticulously planning every minute ahead would help you get the most out of your holiday. Advocates of Slow Travel would argue that precisely planning each day of travel is exactly how you miss out on truly experiencing the culture and creating meaningful connections and memories. Instead, familiarise yourself with your immediate surroundings and take the time to properly experience all that you can in your vicinity. Try to work your way outwards from the approximate location of your accommodation, which marks the centre of your cultural experience, in a circular manner. Remember, the important thing is that you take your time.

The way your travel can also be slowed is through reconsidering your form of transportation. Green living and transport is another prominent feature of Slow travel. It may seem pointless at first, but downgrading on transport can be a great way to get even more out of your holiday. “Slower forms of transport enable you to view the passing scenery from your window seat on a train or bus. You could even hop on and off to experience some local community life on the way,” says Michael. When planning to cross country, ask yourself what mode of transport will let you get the most out of your journey from point A to point B.

Benefits of going Slow

The most obvious benefit of Slow Travel is the cultural enrichment added to your otherwise mundane and typical holiday experience. “You gain a greater appreciation and understanding of different places and cultures,” says Michael. After really engaging in a local culture and interacting with new people, lifelong lessons are learned and deep connections and meaningful memories are made.

“Having a slow holiday also allows you to have a green and sustainable holiday,” says Michael, “because you lower your carbon footprint by choosing holiday options that are a lot less energy intensive.” Slow travellers only really hop on a plane when absolutely necessary, otherwise enjoying the novelty of a relaxing scenic train ride, boat ride, cycle session or leisurely stroll.

Environmentally friendly transport also happens to be more budget friendly, allowing you to save a buck as you save the planet.

“Slow travel is also about supporting local communities by staying in a place for longer and spending your money with locally-owned and operated businesses,” says Michael. The relaxed nature of your holiday will also have you feeling rejuvenated and calm and perhaps make you realize that your busy life at home is not your best life.

Slow hot spots

Anywhere in Europe is generally great for Slow Travel as holiday rental properties are plentiful and culture and tradition are rich. Australia and New Zealand, along with the US, also offer an abundance of holiday rentals for those looking for less of a culture shock on their Slow trip, but Slow travel is ultimately a mindset that you can take with you everywhere. The key is in planning. “Forsake the travel brochures and head straight for the internet to source potential slow holiday options,” suggests Michael. Here are some great sites to get you going:

  • Slowtravel – www.slowtrav.com
  • Slow Travel – www.lowcarbontravel.com
  • Slow Travel Tours – www.slowtraveltours.com
  • Planeta.com – www.planeta.com/ecotravel/tour/slowtravel.html
  • Slow Travel Guides to Sydney and Melbourne – www.slowguides.com
  • Slow Planet – www.slowplanet.com

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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