Slow travel is my favorite way to travel. Why? Sometimes it can be tempting to rush from city to city just to check off another destination on your list. But that type of travel isn’t for everyone. And it isn’t the only option.
While I do think everyone should live the backpacker lifestyle at least once in their lives, slow travel has a lot of its own benefits. And it can be just as fulfilling as living the backpacker lifestyle, with a lot more comfort!
I’ve traveled quickly before and, well, traveling is traveling! I definitely didn’t hate it. But living in Cali has made me realize that slow travel is more my style!
Here are 8 reasons why:
1. Slow travel allows you to build solid friendships
One of the ugly truths of traveling is that it can get really lonely. You’re constantly meeting new and interesting people, but after a few days everyone goes their separate ways. Maybe you’ll stay in touch with some people after, but it’s difficult not having someone to count on where you’re staying.
One of the things I love about slow travel is building lasting relationships. When you stay in a place for a while you can find your group of people and create your own sort of family. Believe me- it definitely helps with traveler’s loneliness and feeling homesick!
2. Slow travel lets you to really understand the culture
I’ve been to many countries in North and South America. But can I really say that I deeply understand all of the cultures in every country I’ve been to? Absolutely not. A country’s culture is really complex and takes a lot of experience to fully understand.
Another thing I love about slow travel is it gives me the opportunity to REALLY understand the culture where I’m living. When you live somewhere for several months or years, you start noticing things that are impossible to notice in days or weeks. For example, my first few weeks in Cali I thought that everyone was so friendly and open (which they are).
But after months of living there I realized it’s really not that simple. I always thought Americans were just colder but our social norms are actually the opposite from Colombia. In the United States, we’re often cold at first, but once we start to trust people more we develop really strong relationships. In Colombia, people are really friendly and welcoming when you first meet them, but after a while the relationships sort of begin to fizzle out (not always of course).
3. Slow travel allows you to feel like a local
I’d argue that one of the coolest things you can do in a foreign place is be able to give solid directions to a taxi driver. There’s no better feeling then telling your taxi driver exactly where to go and being able to argue with him (and win) if he tries to overcharge you. That’s when you know you’re a local.
I love this feeling, because sometimes you just want to feel comfortable. Even if you love traveling and getting lost, sometimes it’s just great to feel at home for a little while. To know where you’re going or how to speak the language.
4. Slow travel is a lot less tiring
One great thing about slow travel is that the emphasis is more on experiencing a local way of life. It’s great to do away with crazy sightseeing itineraries and just enjoy where you are! Wake up in the morning, buy coffee at your new favorite coffee shop, walk around, maybe visit a place you’ve been wanting to check out.
It’s so much more relaxing and enjoyable when you try to see a place for what it really is! Of course, there’s a reason tourist sites are so popular and you should probably visit some wherever you are, but there’s no need to cram everything in one day since you’re taking your time here.
5. Slow travel allows you to discover places you wouldn’t have otherwise
Slow travel really allows you to get to know an area. When backpacking, it’s more common just to go to main tourist/backpacker hubs while slow travel gives you time to see more places.
For example, a lot of tourists and backpackers come to Cali, but I can guarantee you that almost none of them go to places like Charco Escondido or go camping at Cascada 5. These are really cool experiences, which brings me to my next point…
6. Slow travel gives you quality over quantity
Slow travel really allows you to have amazing, high-quality experiences wherever you visit. Sure, there’s no problem with cramming 10 visits to tourist attractions in one day, but like I said earlier, it’s not everyone’s style.
I personally prefer to form real relationships with locals and have experiences I never thought I’d have. I’ve gone to a free zumba class in a poor neighborhood in Valparaíso, Chile and bonded with the middle-aged women in the class. I’ve drank beer with friends in a “closed” restaurant on a day where it was illegal to serve alcohol in Bogotá. And I’ve gone camping at a little known campsite in the middle of the Colombian jungle outside of Cali.
These experiences are far more memorable than when I visited Monserrate in Bogotá or La Boca in Buenos Aires.
7. Slow travel makes it easier to stay healthy
When you’re changing locations every few days it can be really difficult to stay healthy. When you slow travel, you won’t be eating at restaurants every day. Instead, you’ll be shopping at local markets or grocery stores and cooking at home. It makes it much easier to make healthy, home-cooked meals.
Also, if you’re staying in one spot long-term, you’ll be taking life a little slower and likely be able to find time to exercise during the day. Or even join a gym!
8. Slow travel can be better for the environment!
When we’re traveling just to hit all of the major destinations, we often don’t think about whether these activities are eco-friendly or not. When you slow travel, you’ll likely be doing more low-key activities that are better for the environment.
Also, you’ll significantly cut down your carbon emissions from traveling, since you’ll be traveling between cities and countries much less.
Overall, slow travel is definitely an option you should consider when traveling!
What’s your opinion on slow travel?