Why you should try slow travel
In a world where chasing growth and productivity gains is a requirement why not enjoy a holiday for what it should be, that is a time to relax, reflect, and connect with family, friends and perhaps even strangers? Interestingly though most of us these days want to make the most out of our holidays and so we plan with excitement itineraries that will look like a bucket list of busy, must-see places. The result? We rush from one place to the next, pound the pavement for hours and try to cram in as many experiences as possible within each day. A first world problem, no doubt but why not consider slow travel next time?
What is it?
Slow travel is not new and people started talking about it along with the concept of slow food which came to life in the 1980s when MacDonald’s came to conquer the European market. In response to fast food, the slow food movement was and still is about regional cuisine, local farming, and preserving traditional food preparation. As a result, both slow travel and slow food emphasise the need to connect with the land, traditions, culture, local people and family/friends.
Slow travel is not so much a concept as it is a mindset, it encourages you to immerse yourself with a particular culture, to explore more thoroughly a region and to keep time for yourself so you can enjoy the present moment. While most may think of slow travel as a fly/stay holiday, it can take many forms. River cruises, rail journeys, small yacht adventures, walking holidays are other ways to slowly engage with fellow travellers, locals and the land. Each of these options give you the opportunity to slow-down and even stop where you feel most comfortable before moving on when you feel ready.
Slow travel is generally best enjoyed outside of major fast paced urban centres, which means you are less likely to face overtourism, and pollution. Similarly, you are less likely to negatively impact the environment. As a slow traveller, you tend to travel less far, enjoy the occasional bike ride or walk. Some even argue that you are likely to consume and spend less but I am personally not convinced. In my world, there is generally so much food to taste, wine to test and cheese farms to visit that you might feel inclined to contribute to the local economy more than you expected.
Freed from the pressure of ‘seeing and doing everything’, you have more time to learn the local dialect and may find yourself getting to know the local baker. You will also find more time to engage in deep and meaningful conversations with your partner, family or friends.
Who is it for?
Obviously, it suits people that prefer to take it slow but beyond that I think slow travel will suit people that have enjoyed travelling in a particular country but were left with a desire to experience more. If that sounds like you then I recommend learning about the various regions within that country and evaluating what suits you best.
I also think slow travel is great for family reunions or multi-family holidays. Being part of a larger group of people gives you an opportunity to rent properties with a bit of history that will have you imagine what life may have been like as a local. You may also be able to afford a budget for the services of a local chef that will prepare degustation menus every day of the week using local produce, or even organise cooking classes… I can see myself there!
Where to go?
Slow travel arguably has its roots in Southern Europe and so Italy, France, Spain come to mind right away but that is not to say that Russia or India have nothing to offer. Places with a good choice of holiday rentals and historical heritage as well as attractions provide the best environment for a slow travel holiday.
The Tuscan region in Italy has a wide choice of stunning villas and other majestic properties sitting on a hillside and generally equipped with beautiful and family friendly pools. The cultural and culinary heritage is like no other and local craftsmanship provides for plenty of opportunities to learn more about woodwork, jewellery, etc. Go for a bike ride and finish with a coffee at local terrace while the rest of the family is poolside. Choices are endless.
The Dordogne Valley is arguably one of the most beautiful places to visit in France. Unlike the Loire Valley, the Dordogne’s portfolio of castles is limited. It feels more rural, isolated. Dordogne is not about manic sightseeing but rather picturesque villages… You will want to wander around the vertical village of Rocamadour, taste food at local village markets, hunt truffles and canoe down the Dordogne river, all within reason and without rushing it!
Basque country, Spain
The Basque Country is a small region across both South West France and North Spain. It is a unique region where locals consider themselves neither French or Spanish and where Euskara (the local language) is widely spoken. Strong culinary traditions, and a distinctive geographic and cultural landscape, fairy tale-like villages and modern architectural landmarks make it a beautiful place to visit. The Basque country is also known for its gastronomy, cider, surf and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Take it one day at a time!