We imagine that at this stage of your life, you’ve heard someone talking about the concept of slow travel. But what does this way of traveling, that is gaining more and more followers, involve? How can slow traveling change the way you see and live the world? We invite you to know a little more about this kind of traveling and start visiting the places as if you want to be part of it and not just a mere spectator.
SLOW TRAVEL VS GUIDED TOURS
Every time we see a tourist bus stopping by the town where we just arrived, it gives us the chills. Like pieces on a production line, they descend in a row with their inevitable hats and automatic cameras hanging from their necks, their shirts that rarely match their shoes and their continuous rush. They escape from their home routines and their daily stress to get into another pre-defined schedule routine and other stress caused by the need to return in time so that the bus does not leave without them.
We understand perfectly that due to the crazy and imperious mania of having to work eleven months and a half a year to only have two weeks of vacations, the tourist does not have much time available. But the question we ask ourselves is: wouldn’t it be more enriching and more relaxing to choose few places to spend “a lot of time”, than a lot of places to spend little time? Wouldn’t it be more nutritious for the soul (and for the stomach) to stop at a typical village bar at noon to try the owner’s home-made food than to stop half an hour to eat a tourist menu and continue to tick places off our bucket list where the most important thing is the number of monuments visited and photographed, despite having no idea what you are seeing?
Guided tourism is a mass that follows a leader, who is the one who knows, who is informed, who sets the times and who demands your adaptation. Slow Travel transforms the traveler into his own boss, into the owner of his time and his decisions. He who goes without haste decides where to go, how and when. Nobody asks you to return to a bus.
URBAN SLOW TRAVEL VS RURAL SLOW TRAVEL
This travel concept is closely linked to rural areas, with cities getaways, with small towns where the rhythm of life helps to incorporate the slow travel into the traveler plan. But to choose this travel style is to choose a way of traveling that can be applied to any place and any time, since it is not only about speeding down, but also about knowing how to accept seeing less in order to enjoy more. That is why it can also be applied to large cities.
Having said this, we don’t want you to think that you have to go to Rome and avoid visiting the over-the-top-full-of-tourists Coliseum and eat grandmother’s pasta instead. What we are saying is that if you are going to the Colosseum, do not just go to take a photo to have it as a souvenir and carry on to the other monuments because you only have one day left in the city. What we propose is that if you go to the Colosseum, you should take the whole day to visit it alongside the Roman Forum, breathing its history, understanding the atrocities that happened there, “enjoying” the place. And if you don’t get to visit the Villa Borghese, don’t worry; It is a good excuse to return to Rome. Don’t rush. This is one of the great commandments of slow traveling: knowing the place where you are, knowing what it is and why you are there.
It is true that this concept does not usually apply to large cities. It is more applicable to rural adventures, outside the circuit. Slow travel is to avoid the vacation package and the all-inclusive cruise. However, we like to take this concept to the urban areas too, especially considering that having a young child means that the times of traveling are shortened because we have to adapt to his needs. Choosing to slow travel is deciding on a travel style. It is knowing fewer places to get deeper into them. It is having a month in Europe and yet choosing to discover only one country, instead of five. It’s spending more time walking the streets and meeting people, than getting on a train or a plane.
OUR FIRST SLOW TRAVEL EXPERIENCE: FRANCE
Our first “slow travel” experience was in 2013 when we decided to spend our 30 days vacation in France alone (at that time we were not doing the blog and our son was not in our lives). It is to this day that we consider that journey as a breakthrough in our lives. Not only because we fell in love there and decided to go back to our home country and live together, but also because we discovered a new way of traveling. We started to stay in houses instead of hostels or hotels, and to dedicate an important time to meet our hosts. We are still in contact with several of them, and we have even visited them no longer as guests but as friends.
In a month you could say that we understood France. We walked the streets of some beautiful lost villages, slept in a stone house in the middle of the mountain, tasted more than 50 varieties of cheese. We even had many French people try the mate, our traditional Argentine infusion. In a month, instead of deciding to accumulate places, we decided to accumulate experiences, which in the end are the most memorable things about a trip. Our favorite time was not when we went to a museum or visited a monument. The best moment of the day was when we sat down in the picnic areas along the side of the roads (in France there must be one every ten kilometers) to drink some mates and just enjoy the views.
Read about our journey through The Most Beautiful Towns and Villages of France.
ICELAND: NO RUSH AND BREATHLESS
One of the best experience we remember is our trip to Iceland. It was a little over two weeks in a campervan. Two weeks is not enough to travel one of the most wonderful countries that we have ever been to. But taking into account that many people that we crossed by were doing our same itinerary but in five days, you could consider our journey as slow traveling. And we were able to improvise on the go and choose places that were not in our original plan. And many of them were the best part of the trip. Because that is another advantage of slow traveling: the possibility of changing plans because nobody hurries you, no one forces you to follow a fixed itinerary.
Let’s do an exercise: try to travel in your mind and find some recent trip that you have done. Do you already have it? Now look inside that memory and find something that made you smile. What is it? Is it a monument? Is it a moment when you were in a hurry trying to get somewhere? Or is it an experience? There is nothing more beautiful and unforgettable than the experiences that come with the trips. That feeling of living, and not just seeing and being in a place. That feeling of interacting with the place and not being a mere spectator.
MOTORHOME EUROPE: THE ULTIMATE SLOW TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
We must admit that we found it hard to apply this concept while beginning our motorhome adventure. Everything was new and overwhelming. But once we discovered that we were rushing, we put our foot on the brake and decided to return to what had made us so happy: taking our time. The mobile home is the best ally for a slow travel trip of this style as there are no check-ins or check-outs, there are no places to arrive at a particular time, nor need to leave if you like where you are.
There was no better-improvised trip than that. Just a brief route guide to follow was enough to help us decide on the go where we would sleep the next day. Our house was always the same, the only thing that changed was the backyard. And that’s when we fully embraced the concept of slow travel and enjoyed its great advantages.
ENJOY SLOW TRAVEL: 5 PIECES OF ADVICE
- CHOOSE THE SHOULDER SEASON: Beyond the fact that the prices will be lower and the weather more pleasant, going during the middle season and not the high one will make you avoid getting “infected” with the rhythm of the masses that come and go and often end up taking us by the hand.
- CHOOSE FEWER PLACES: It is better to travel less and enjoy more. Depending on the time you have, it may be better to decide for a single country than to combine infinite places to try to get as many as possible off your bucket list.
- STOP ASKING “AREN’T 10 DAYS TOO MUCH?”: It is never too much when you learn to enjoy slow traveling.
- SAY NO TO THE TOURIST MENU: The tourist menu is fast food disguised as local cuisine. The real local food is to be found in those restaurants visited by the locals, and not in those that have the menus written in 8 languages.
- EMBRACE IMPROVISATION: There is no better piece of advice that we can give to you than to let yourself be carried away by what you want to do that day. We are not saying you should go without any information and only get lost wandering the streets. We are telling you that you should know a lot about where you are going so you can choose according to your desire.We like to go at our pace, without any schedules, without limits to check out. If we like a place, we stay. If we do not like it, we leave. That’s what slow travel is about. To choose where and when to be. To live the true freedom of traveling. No clocks, no rules, no driver leaving us behind if we do not arrive at the pre-set time. Going to the place we want and not the one indicated by the travel guides.
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