8 Reasons Why Slow Travel is Better

8 Reasons Why Slow Travel is Better

As a Slow Travel practitioner for more than a decade now, Im clearly partial to the many benefits it provides.

But I also believe that my experiences make me an astute observer of why this approach to travel works so well.

At the risk of provokingcontroversy, Ill just come right out and say it: I think Slow Travelis the ideal way for everyone to seethe world.

Its admittedly easier to say this being the perpetual nomad that Ive been for most of my adult life. Ive had no mortgage to speak of, no kids to support, and nary a real job to contend with.

Butregardless of your financial ties or career commitments, I believe that traveling slowly is generallythe best way to go.

To back up this thesis, Im prepared to give you eight reasons why Slow Travel is better for you, for your travel experience, and for the planet itself

READ MORE: What is Ecotourism? The History & Principles of Responsible Travel

Trio of Maasai Women in Tanzania, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

What Is Slow Travel?

Before we dive into some of the many reasons why Slow Travel is superior, perhaps a discussion of whatthis increasingly popular tourism industry buzzword means is in order?

In essence, Slow Travel is the opposite of Mass Tourism (a.k.a. Overtourism), which has proven to be increasingly devastating to some of the worlds most popular travel destinations over the last few decades.

Slow Travel means not trying to stuff a million different activities into an itinerary. In fact, sometimes it means experiencing the benefits of not having an itinerary at all.

It means not constantly moving from place to place, whether that be sights within a city, cities within a country, or countries within a continent.

It also means transporting yourself from one destination to the next with no regard for the amount of time it takes. Its about enjoying the journey itself as much as the destination.

These concepts may sound somewhat clich, but theyre all about changing our mindsets away from the notion of merely ticking off bucket lists and instead looking at travel as a means of having more immersive experiences.

The goal is for these experiences to give us a deeper understanding of the places we travel, as well as more organic experiences that will help us understand local people, traditional cultures, and the environment in which they live.

READ MORE: Hawaiian Mythology: An Intro to Hawaiian Gods, Goddesses & Legends)

Chicken Bus Station in Antigua Guatemala
Chicken Bus in Guatemala, photo by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

Why Slow Travel Is Better

1) Slow TravelIs Cheaper

Slow Travel is cheaper due to the fact that transportation is among the most expensive aspects of traveling, especially for budget travelers like me.

Every plane, train, or bus pass adds to the overall cost of a trip.

Also, whether youre staying in eco lodges, hotels, or glamping, accommodations are often discounted for longer stays. You can save a small percentage for staying a week vs. a day, or get a larger reduction for a month as opposed to a week.

Even eating in transit can be more expensive!

In other words, staying in one place for longer periods of time has many money-saving perks. One of them is that all of those travel funds arent being spent on constantly moving from point A to B to C to D.

READ MORE: The 25 Most Unusual & Unique Hotels in the World

Sunset Over Wadi Rum, Jordan
Sunset in Wadi Rum, Jordan, photo by Mary Gabbett

2) SlowTravelProvidesMore MemorableExperiences

Generally, the majorobjection people have to Slow Travel is that well miss something and never get back to the same place again. That may be true.

But, in rushing around to take in every last tourist attraction as quickly as possible, we ultimately sacrifice both our sanity and our enjoyment of what were seeing.

The majesty of exploring the ancient city of Petra in Jordan resonates much more deeply when its taken in with a meal at a local restaurant and a night in a local Bedouin camp, rather than just a quick photo opp at the Treasury.

Was the point of traveling all the way to Greece to simply see the Acropolis of Athens before moving onto the next thing, or to spend time exploring the islands and experiencing local culture?

Go slowly, and youre much more likely to get a travel experience thats worth remembering!

READ MORE: The 7 SafestCountries in the Middle East for Americans to Visit

Relaxation along the Rio Dulce in Guatemala
Relaxation along the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, photo by Emma Gallagher

3) Slow Travelis More Relaxing

This one seems obvious because, for many travelers, the whole point of taking a trip is to chill out. And dashing from one spot to the next clearly isnt the best way to do that.

That being said, you cant really claim to have experienced Mexico if you never left your luxury resort in Cancun (which is more like no travel).

There is a happy medium to be discovered somewhere away from the luxury resorts, withlazy afternoons in little cafes along the promenades of colonial towns.

Ortiny bamboo beachside restaurants with papasan chairs in the sand that beckon you to kick back and watcha weeks worth of sunsets.

This place, and others like it, are where Slow Travel tends to take us. They are places where we can disconnect from the hustle and bustle, breathe deeply, and get something truly rejuvenating out of our travels.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Christmas Traditions in Mexico

Be a Responsible Traveler- Biking on South Koster Island, Sweden with local guide, Stefan von Bothmer
Biking on South Koster Island in Sweden, photo by Bret Love

4) Slow TravelIsMore Sustainable

We all have toaccept the fact that traveling leaves a whopping carbon footprint, especially when airplanes are our primary mode of transport.

To oversimplify the situation (technically, the number of passengers changes everything), the slower our means of transport, the less that footprint is.

A plane is worse than a car; a car is worse than a train; a train is worse than a bus; and a bus is worse than bikes (or walking).

But the fact of the matter is that we all have to get theresomehow, and not all of us have the time (or inclination) to travel from Alaska to Patagonia by bicycle.

Still, going more slowly in whatever forms that takes for us really helps to minimize our impact.

READ MORE: Going Green: 60 Tips You Can Use Every Day

Kids Coloring at an After School Program in South Africa
Volunteering at an After School Program in South Africa, photo by Bret Love

5) Slow TravelEnriches The Trip

or at least it opens up the opportunity for more enriching endeavors, such as signing up for a local language course, or cooking class, or whatever.

Lots of people have found that volunteering with NGOs is a rewarding way to travel, allowing us toenrich the lives of others.

Arent most of us looking for real experiences and interaction with locals anyway?

More outdoorsy travelersswear by work-stays on organic farms, which can be arranged through organizations like WWOOF, HelpX or Work Away.

Slow Travel allows for much more than just lying on beautiful beaches, souvenir shopping, and fine dining. It is a means by which our trips can mean more, both to us and to others.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Environmental Charities & Animal Charities

Eating Traditional Mansaf in Jordan, photo by Mary Gabbett

6) Slow Travel Takes UsOff The BeatenTrack

The fantasyland referred to as off the beaten track seems to be the ultimate destination for many a traveler.

It represents a place where visitors dont outnumber locals, where life meanders more naturally than it does via tour guide, and where the local culture we experience is one of authenticity rather than showmanship.

This place is much harder to find when we whiz through a city or country, looking only for the highlights.

Moving slowly allows time for wandering and wondering, going for a walk and getting lost, ducking into enticing bars and trying the traditional foods all the natives seem to be flocking to, then sitting where they sit.

Its here where motion and time become afterthoughts that the beaten track of mass tourism finally disappears.

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My Host Father and His Delinquent Son in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
Author Jonathon Engels with his host in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest

7) Slow TravelResults In More Organic Cultural Exchanges

If you want to truly know a place and feel its cultural heartbeat, that requires lingering.

Lets say someone was to visit our hometown for a day trip or a weekend getaway: We wouldnt say they really know what its like to be there!

It takes experiencing upon local events and cultural festivals. It takes developing connections with (or, at a minimum, recognition from) vendors, neighbors, and other members of the local community.

It takes time to discover favorite spots, such as the most comfortable coffeehouses, the mountain summits where you can watch perfect sunsets and sunrises, and the busy intersections to avoid.

It takes time to learn about the local specialty dishes, funny customs, and local folklore. It takes the sort of time that Slow Travel typically provides more of.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Festivals in the World

Sleeping Baird
Bairds Tapir in Costa Rica, by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett

8) Slow TravelOffers The Element Of Surprise

Itineraries, schedules, guidebooks, and return tickets dont provide us with much in the way of surprises.

Sure, they move us along slickly, smoothly and if they work as intended relatively hassle-free.

But when we get home from an adventure, its never these things that were itching to tell our friends about. In fact, you could argue that its when these things break down that travel is at its most interesting.

Its about unexpected encounters with weird animals, like stumbling upon a sleeping Tapir in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle.

Its about getting lost in the back alleys of Greece, only to find yourself in the middle of a neighborhood street party.

Its about drunken sing-alongs with crazy Norwegians on an island in Sweden.

Traveling slowly doesnt necessarily mean that the things on your itinerary never get done. It just means that they get done in their own sweet time.

READ MORE: 15 Reasons Responsible Tourism is Better for Everyone

Travel Packing Tips- unplug technology
Bret Love working at a Dive Resort in Norway, photo by Mary Gabbett

How to Stay Safe When Traveling Slowly

The ultimate point of Slow Travel is that we should savor our travel time, savor the sights and sounds and smells of local culture, and move to the unique local rhythms of a destination.

Whether youre on a 2-week vacation, a year-long trip around the world, or living life as a permanent nomad, its all about losing track of the hours and seeing what makes the place special.

But what happens the unexpectedputs a total damper on your trip? Thats where travel insurance comes in.

Travel insurance can cover everything from baggage loss/damage and flight cancellations to medical expenses, emergency medical evacuations, and rental car damage.The most important part is picking the best travel insurance plan for you.

There are myriad travel insurance companies and plans to choose from, but one of the most popular with our long-term traveling friends is SafetyWing.

Where most travel insurance plans only cover up to 90 days and a single trip, SafetyWing covers people for an unlimited number of days, which makes it great for digital nomads, expats, and long-term slow travelers.

Check out the SafetyWing website for more info to figure out which travel insurance plan is right for you.byJonathon Engels, with additional reporting byBret Love

Jonathon Engels of Green Global Travel

Jonathon Engels is a traveler, writer, and teacher who lived abroad as an expat for nearly 15 years.After completing a slow travel trip from Central America to Patagonia, he and his wife Emma recently built their own sustainable homestead near Elkin, NorthCarolina. His work can also be found on his personal blog.

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