Wandering Parisian cobble-stoned streets, chatting with the locals while sipping wine with exquisite views of the Eiffel Tower, and getting lost in eclectic French bookstores sounds like a dreamy getaway for many. If that’s not your style, no problem. Take a moment to think about your dream vacation. Envision it. I’ll wait.
Now, think of your last vacation. What did you do? How many days did it take you to pack everything in? Did it feel meaningful? Now think about how you envisioned it before setting off. Does it match up?
No matter what the case may be, the idea is the same. Often times when we imagine our perfect holiday, upon arrival we don’t often give ourselves enough time to feel immersed in the destinations we seek to explore. This results in added stress because we fill our days from top to bottom trying to see all the sites and fill our notepad with check-marks making us feel as though we’ve achieved what we wanted to do and see during our short holiday. But if it was the perfect holiday you imagined, did you remember to pencil “Relax time” or “Aimless strolling” or “Getting purposely lost” or “Talk to locals”?
If your travel experiences haven’t been making you feel as fulfilled as you had intended, there’s a solution for you. It’s called slow travel, and it’s exactly what it sounds like it is. It’s the idea of taking your time and not overbooking yourself. Enjoy the unexpected. Relax. Immerse. Repeat.
What is slow travel?
As mentioned, it’s the idea of taking your time. But — of course — it’s more than that. It’s to travel to have a more in-depth and immersive experience with a city, a town, a place, and its culture and daily life. While rejecting the traditional themes of tourism, slow travel is a mindset that encourages you to have meaningful, fulfilling experiences off-the-beaten-path while traveling.
It’s the concept of spending more time in less places, and focusing on what’s important and not simply checking off lists from a travel guide’s “must-sees.”
Why is slow travel great?
It feels better.
If I could put it into three words: it feels better. There’s something about it that takes you away on an adventure through the life of the locals, and it’s beautiful. It feels like you’ve spent your time and money far better than any alternative.
You get to make connections.
I mean this in many ways. You feel more connected to a place that you slow travel in because you’re there longer, so you get to know the streets and the places a lot better. You get to have a local cafe that you go to every morning for breakfast and a coffee. You’re more able to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and rely less on maps. But also, you get to make connections with the locals. You have more opportunities to interact and learn from the locals in the community, which is something you rarely get when you’re not taking your time.
In Marrakesh, I met a man who worked outside near my hostel who, initially, was most likely just trying to convince me to eat at his restaurant. He was very friendly, but I didn’t spend too much talking to him during our first interaction. As the days passed, he continued to greet me, even learning my name, and eventually invited me in to his restaurant for a delicious Moroccan lunch where we chatted about the Spanish language, life in Morocco, his hopes and dreams, and what happiness means to him. He admired my smile, and believed I had a happy heart. I’ll always remember that, as well as several others I met in Morocco. I could write an entire article about the kind people I met there (maybe I will!).
It feels more meaningful.
Weekend getaways can be fun, and I hope that they are as you’ve spent money to travel there, but they don’t typically feel very meaningful. Take it with a grain of salt because everyone’s experiences are different, but I find that my travels are more meaningful when I am going slowly. On long weekend trips, you see the sites and check the items off the list, but what are you going to carry with you? What did you do or experience that you’re going to remember for years to come? Think about this scenario: “I remember when I saw the Sahara Desert” versus on the other hand: “I remember the time I met an older gentleman from a Berber village of Morocco while traveling to the Sahara Desert and the beautiful story he shared with me about his family and his definition of love.” Slow travel would be the latter, and in terms of memorable experiences, wins hands down.
Life is not just about social media.
It’s really depressing to think that some people travel to a destination with the main objective of growing their Instagram or visiting somewhere specifically because it matches their Instagram aesthetic. They may spend their days hopping from tourist attraction to tourist attraction instead of having a real experience. Don’t be this person. You can absolutely take photos, and you should! Take gorgeous, Instagram worthy images, just make sure you’re not solely focused on that. Focus on the real world around you, as a true slow traveler would.
You discover more.
You get to dive deeper into a destination, discovering its hidden gems. The beauty of aimlessly wandering around a place is that you’re bound to stumble upon something worthwhile that you may not have read about in a guide book or seen online.
You learn more of the local language.
The longer you’re there, the more exposure you get of the local language. You’re bound to pick up phrases from overhearing conversations, reading signs, browsing local shops, and meeting locals. It’s always a good idea to learn a few words of the language before arriving, but once you’re there putting those words to good use, you’ll find yourself wanting to learn more. Check out my article on 30 tips for better travel to find out more.
You’re putting your money into the locals’ hands.
Rejecting typical tourism, you my choose to use local guides and spend your money in small, local restaurants and boutique shops. This goes into being a more conscious traveler, which you can read all about here.
~All photos are from a solo & slow travel trip I took to Morocco~
Originally published at http://thespiritedexplorer.com on May 3, 2019.