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How to Start Traveling Slow to Experience More


Picture of my husband enjoying his morning coffee in Redwood National Park.

So you just came back from an amazing traveling adventure. You are scrolling through your hundreds of pictures and smiling at all of them. Then your friend asks you to share a story of your favorite part, and you are somehow stumped. It was a wonderful trip overall, but nothing really jumps out at you. In fact, you’re having trouble remembering much of any details. It feels like a bit of a blur. Sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. We are so accustomed to jam-packing our travel itineraries, that we come back with little impactful memories and experiences but rather a massive list of things we managed to check off.


Consider this: Is your goal when traveling to see as much as you can, or to embrace the journey and savor the moment along the way? For those interested in the latter, slow travel may be for you.


What is Slow Travel?

Slow travel started in the late 1980s, stemming from the slow food movement in Italy. It originally started to encourage others to be more mindful of local businesses and the planet. The goal isn’t to check everything off your bucket list, or see every must-see site, but rather learn the culture, speak to locals, and immerse yourself into the place you are visiting and relish in everything it has to offer.


Traveling slower means trading in materialistic luxuries for more meaningful experiences. It is under the sustainability tourism umbrella, and in contrast to mass tourism.


Why Try Slow Travel?


You Actually Relax & Recharge

How often do you come back from a vacation, saying “Phew, I’m in need of a vacation from my vacation”? It’s interesting, right? The whole point of taking a vacation is usually to relax and enjoy it, but so often we jam pack it with a full itinerary that we are just left with some pretty photos and barely any meaningful memories. We are also left drained, rather than energized and revitalized. Slow travel is more focused on embracing the experience and savoring it. You’ll come back from your trip, full of perspective, and a true replenishing breath of fresh air. There is something so beautiful about recharging your soul while traveling.


Cultural Immersion

Some travelers choose to minimize their travel itinerary by using the all-inclusive resort route. By doing this, you often miss out on being able to immerse yourself in your destination’s culture, try out local cuisine and shop from local merchants. On the contrary, slow travelers often opt for staying at a rental or local family-owned hotel. Adopting the mindset of slow travel will leave you more open to possibility and experiences.


Sustainable Impact

This can be a more sustainable option. By immersing yourself in one location, rather than rushing to various locations, you are making a lighter environmental impact.


Personal Development

It can also be great for enhancing your personal awareness and growth. This act of mindfulness will help you get more in touch with yourself and your surroundings to have a much more meaningful, impactful experience. You can carve out time to consciously improve your experience and yourself along the way.


How & Where Do I Slow Travel?

You can slow travel anywhere! It’s just a matter of searching for the itinerary that is more “off the beaten path” than the tour group that will take you through all the highlights of a place in a short period of time. It also takes the special art of flexibility and openness, that can be a great catalyst for an amazing journey you never expected.


Hiking

Hiking trips can be a great option to embrace slow travel. Try to get a trail lead from a local, and learn about the local wildlife and culture while out there.


Transportation

When you can, try to take the train. Not only is it a sustainable way to get from one place to another, it also gives you time and space to chat and learn from others. Walking and biking are other great sustainable options as well.


Talk to Locals

Before jumping to follow the best rated places to eat on a restaurant guide, try consulting a local first. The last time we visited New Mexico, we looked up a place to eat on Yelp for local cuisine. It had great reviews and looked good, but when we asked some local park employees (where our children were playing at the time) what they thought of it and if they could share their favorite item on the menu, they looked at us puzzled. Not only had they never visited that place, they had actually never even heard of it. So we took time to talk to them for a bit and we learned from them where they eat for lunch and gave that place a try. We also got some great tips on places to visit, along with the best times to go to avoid crowds and actually experience it.


The Time To Start Is Now

Taking the hustle out of our travel itinerary and embracing slow travel has been one of the best mindset shifts we have embraced. It has had a true, positive impact on ourselves and our planet. You can start local and small. Ask a neighbor for a recommendation on a local hike and have an open-minded adventure. And when it’s time to plan that next big trip, consider a less structured itinerary so you have space to explore and immerse yourself the locals’ way, leaving a smaller carbon footprint on the planet and a larger, meaningful imprint in your soul.


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