venice italy slow travel
Slow Travel,  Travel

What Is Slow Travel? (And 6 Practical Tips to Start)

Slow travel is all about putting quality over quantity, taking your time to explore and getting a taste of local everyday life.

In a culture where a good education means a well-paying job, and where money means comfort and security, travel can become just another commodity that’s held up as a status symbol.

The Apple icon on the back of a golden phone, or the snapshot on Instagram from the trendiest summer vacation spot, are meant to tell others we’re living our best lives.

Happy, fulfilled and successful.

Slow travel is as much a backlash against this kind of materialism as it is a slower pace and less hectic itinerary.

The term “slow travel” may conjure up images of quiet alleys in rural France with long lunches of organic cheeses. Or months in Bangkok steeped in the local culture. And it’s definitely about those kinds of immersive experiences.

But slow travel is an approach you take whether you’re spending a weekend in Paris or a summer in Provence.

Here’s how to travel slower:

1. Know your destination

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The more you know about a country’s history, culture and customs, the more meaningful your trip will be. Learn a few phrases of the language to communicate with locals, and read up on the sites and local life you’re likely to encounter. Preparing and doing research also dulls culture shock and lets you integrate easier into your surroundings.

Before you arrive, reading novels by local authors or watching local films will get you excited for the trip and give places more significant when you visit.

2. Put quality over quantity

venice italy slow travel

To really get to know a destination, give yourself time to wander and explore. Leave room for the spontaneous and keep your itinerary flexible. Get to know a city beyond its tourist attractions.

Walking is often the best way to discover a new place. The surprises along the way can turn vacations into adventures and meaningful journeys, while the slower pace allows you to be more mindful of your surroundings and notice things you’d miss from a speeding bus window.

3. Follow your bliss (and know yourself)

venice italy building vines

Slow travel isn’t about skipping the major tourist attractions and spending your days wandering down quiet side streets. The iconic landmarks are famous for a reason and are often worth visiting. A bit of research can reveal which spots are overrated, however, and which are hidden gems.

Slow travel means being more selective and maximizing your time. It’s about following your gut and forgetting other people’s must-see lists – and writing your own.

It’s knowing yourself and being honest about what you love. If you’re a big Oscar Wilde fan, and there’s an exhibit of his works in Paris, then head there and skip the Louvre if you’re not excited about it.

Author Joshua Becker once said: “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.”

So it’s not about missing out on anything because you’re going at a slower pace. Slow travel is about focusing on the things you’re excited about and skipping anything that feels like an obligation.

4. Get a taste of the local, everyday life

The best way to understand a new culture is to immerse yourself in local life. This can mean staying at an Airbnb on a residential street, eating at a restaurant that doesn’t cater to tourists, or taking a walk through a local park.

Asking locals for recommendations is a great way to discover authentic food and hidden gems that are off the beaten tourist path.

Getting involved in the local communities you’re visiting can be a great way to quickly integrate yourself in a foreign city. Sign up for a cooking class, volunteer, take a walking tour or spend an evening at a local concert or theater.

5. Protect the environment

venice italy slow travel

Slow travel is as an offshoot of the slow food movement that began in Italy in 1986 to resist the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. The slow food movement emphasizes local food and traditional cooking over mass-produced, homogeneous fast food.

And in the same way, slow travel emphasizes a visitor’s connection to local communities over mass tourism and one-size-fits-all itineraries.

This also means supporting local artisans and traditional handcrafts, as well as supporting local businesses whenever possible.

Because cheap souvenirs made in China put skilled craftsman out of business.

Stay at eco-friendly hotels, don’t litter, and buy fair trade whenever possible. Don’t take part in the exploitation of people, animals or the environment.

6. Enjoy the ride

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The process of getting from point A to point B can be just as enjoyable as the destination. Slow travel can mean travel by boat, bike or train, or anything that lets you take in your surroundings.

Road trips are perfect examples of slow travel because they’re all about the experiences along the way.

Slow travel isn’t for everyone. But for me it’s the best way to understand a culture, relax, enjoy a place and explore deeper.

For more inspiration, read how to travel off the beaten path.

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215 Comments

  • Hintsforhappyliving

    Hey Dee!
    You have explained it so beautifully. I believe slow travel can completely change the vibe of the place. I went to Udaipur, India couple of years ago and was more interested in just checking off the items from my list. I didn’t liked that place, maybe, because I was in such a hurry that I actually didn’t get time to see it for real . But I got chance to visit that place last year and this time I made it a point to slow travel. Walking down the lanes and talking to locals, actually made me sink in the vibe of the place. It was such a wonderful experience that now this place is one of favourite place. This whole experience really made me realise the importance of slow travel and now, I prefer slow travel!

    • Dee

      That’s such an amazing story! And it’s pretty much what happened to me with Venice.. I did the rushed tourist tour when I first went and I think we covered the entire city in a day. Then, years later, I had a business trip in the region and wasn’t even that excited about it because I didn’t think I liked Italy so much. But I decided to extend my stay anyway and spent a few days just wandering the city without an itinerary. Now I’m convinced Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and definitely my favourite. Isn’t it amazing how your experience can completely shape your opinion of the place? India is definitely another destination that’s perfect for slow travel, and your trip to Udaipur sounds incredible.

  • browney237

    I loved your description of Slow Travel. It is as you say a mindset and can apply to a weekend away or lengthy trip.
    It’s something we discovered at the end of my professional career when we at last had time. Flying only in daylight. Not having to drive but catching public transport because if the bus doesn’t come on time it doesn’t really matter. Just walking the streets. We had 7 weeks in Syracuse, Sicily. I think I walked every street it was wonderful.

    • Dee

      Thank you! Seven weeks in Sicily sounds like a dream, and I’ll be looking forward to reading your blog.. Slow travel is definitely something I wish I’d done sooner, but maybe in some ways you need to go through those rushed, mass-produced tours first to really know its value.

  • Lisa

    I love this idea, as I feel like I jam pack so much into my travels that I miss a lot. I think it’s really important to take as much of a destination in as you can, and love the idea of exploring without a plan. This is a way of travel that I definitely need to implement. Thanks for sharing Lisa @lovefromlisa.com

    • Dee

      Thank you, Lisa! I think it’s best to aim for a combination of the two approaches when you’re just starting out with slow travel – so, making an itinerary of everything you’d love to see, but also leaving some time for wandering or improvisation 🙂

  • Maria

    We couldnt agree more!

    My partner and I loved going to as many places as possible but felt we didnt really experience them. Now we slow down, enjoy the area over a longer period of time and really take in the local life. We have been so much happier ever since making the change to slow travel.

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