I recently wrote a piece for my friends at which featured my . I figured I’d follow up with a more in-depth piece which highlights a few of the reasons why I think slow travel isn’t something to be overlooked. Also, that anyone planning a vacation should further investigate the idea of traveling less to experience more before putting together their next itinerary.
First, I’d like to tell you that when I first started traveling in 2009, I didn’t really have a plan. I just sort of showed up in Vancouver, then Vegas and finally Bangkok. It was in Bangkok that I met lots of other travelers and just started going around with different groups of cool people that I met. It led me all over the world and most of the memorable places which stick with me after all the years are you guessed it, the ones I actually got to know.
If you look at travel like you do friendships; how well do you really know the gent you said cheers to at a busy pub? Do you even remember some of the people you met briefly for a few moments years ago? Now think of the people you went on a crazy adventure with, people that you shared a life changing experience with? People that actually taught you something… Now relate this back to travel. If you want to go places to say you’ve been there and to check off your bucket list, that’s fine but I don’t think that is what most of you are after.
Most of you are after what I’m after and that’s meeting pleasant people from different places, experiencing different cultures and learning a little bit more about the world we live in as well as ourselves in the process. There is no better way to do this than by slowing down your travels and taking the time to smell the flowers, taste some dishes and mingle with a few local minds.
Besides that, there are also other benefits to slow travel such as it being cost effective. Passing your time exploring instead of in transit, relaxing instead of burning yourself out and meeting interesting locals instead of just the touts who flock to the touristy areas and ultimately want to sell you something. This summer I really slowed down and it was one of my best summers yet in Europe.
The first time I went to Europe I bought a rail pass and went everywhere as I had no plan and wanted to maximize my return on the investment. I had a fun time but it was draining both financially and emotionally. Also, I didn’t really get to know lots of the places I visited beyond the town square. I definitely visited the places, there is no doubt but upon further reflection, I only scratched the surface and didn’t make that many meaningful personal connections.
Back to last summer, yes? I spent most of it in the Balkans and in Spain. I did do some hopping around but also really slowed down and spent time in places I liked. I spent roughly two weeks in Dubrovnik staying in a third floor loft apartment overlooking the . I even flew my mother out and we really enjoyed the area like locals. It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve had in ages and in the process met some great local friends; ones we both hope to see again at some point in the future.
Following that I spent a month in . There, I rented a room in a flat and developed a great network of local characters whom I’m proud to call friends. I even met up with one of them recently in London for a night out; good times. There are countless ways you can spend the time you have while on a trip and ultimately, none are wrong or right but they all lead you to different experiences. If you’re looking to really get a feel for a place, learn about a foreign culture and make some new friends, consider giving slow travel a chance.