How We Travel Now: Slow Travel

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If fast travel is a race, slow travel is a journey, both internal and external.

Who hasn’t felt frazzled returning home from a packed three‑day vacation or experienced travel fatigue during a frantic Euro trip? In a world infected by what Carl Honoré – award‑winning Canadian author and godfather of the Slow Movement – calls “the virus of hurry,” the Covid Pause has been a worldwide workshop in slowing down and doing less, forcing us to reflect on our past frenzied pace of life. That slow ethos is also starting to change how we travel.

The Slow Movement – an offshoot of the Slow Food movement, birthed (naturally) in Italy in 1986 – is about being present, perceptive and appreciative of our surroundings. As Honoré, whose book In Praise of Slow has become the Slow Movement’s main manifesto, puts it: “It means doing things well instead of fast, living each moment fully and savouring the seconds rather than counting them.”

November 26, 2020
A woman sitting amongst the mountains writing in her journal
   Photo: Tyler Nix
The exterior of the Prospect of Whitby in London
   Photo: Tyler Nix
    Photo: Étienne Godiard

If fast travel is a race, slow travel is a journey, both internal and external. Capturing the essence of a place and understanding what makes its people tick can’t be done simply by reading everything online ahead of time, having a set schedule and rushing around to check things off as you go. “When we travel in a hurry, we miss the small details – the fountain you stumble upon looking for a trattoria in Ravenna, or the dusty, run‑down service station that offers the best local risotto – that make each place unique and thrilling,” Honoré says. When we reflect on how landscapes and people change along the way, only then do we tap into the transformative power of travel. “We’re choosing less, but better, and slower travel experiences, ones that emphasize meaningful connections to time, to place, to people and to oneself,” he says.

“Slow is the ultimate portable mindset, because you can literally take it anywhere. That’s why it’s so liberating – it opens the whole planet up.”

Slow travel doesn’t limit itself to off‑the‑grid nature getaways. “You can have a slow holiday in downtown Tokyo, on Barcelona’s high‑traffic Las Ramblas or in the subways of Moscow,” Honoré says. “Slow is the ultimate portable mindset, because you can literally take it anywhere. That’s why it’s so liberating – it opens the whole planet up.” Honoré practises the mindset himself in London, where he now lives.

Travelling at a more reasonable pace is also well‑suited to families. Honoré says he’s seeing a surge in multi‑generational travel, and that families naturally vaccinate us against the virus of hurry – one simply can’t hurry younger, or older, generations. Taking off with different generations also allows connection with the local culture at different levels. Plus, months of isolation have kept families apart, leading us to reunite in ways we had never thought of. “Covid has ultimately made us realize we’re all connected and in this together.”

Carl Honoré leaning on a white bookcase with his hands in his pockets
   Photo: Madeleine Alldis

Carl Honoré’s 5 tips for slowing down

  1. Plan to get lost – serendipity is the purest form of slow travel.

  2. Plug into local culture through food. Take a cooking class, ask locals to steer you to their favourite spots and look for eateries that have not been rated online.

  3. Keep a journal to write things down as you go and reflect on your surroundings. Journaling solidifies memory.

  4. Choose a slower means of transport on‑site. Ride night trains and buses, and try cycling or walking. Slowing down physically will enrich your overall experience of the place.

  5. If you stumble upon a corner café or any place you like, go back the next day. Deepen your relationship rather than searching for something new.