The “Slow” Travel Movement: Pretend To Be A Local


Quick: which sounds like a better vacation to you:

* Plan out infinite details, take a tour bus, rush from site to site, have a tour guide tell you where to go, stay in an American-style hotel, eat in regular restaurants

* Rent a local house, hang out with locals, buy local groceries, have lazy unplanned days of randomness

If you liked the second option, you’ll fit right in with the “slow travel” movement.

What is Slow Travel?
Slow Travel is an offshoot of the Slow Movement (made popular in part by Carl Honore in his book, In Praise of Slowness). Slow Travel believes, instead of rushing around the usual “five cities in one week” kind of vacation, you should stay in one location for a longer period of time (at least a week), and dive more deeply into the local cultureenjoy a drink at the local watering hole, make friends with the locals, take time to take in the local rhythms.

You become a temporary resident instead of a tourist. Instead of feeling this is a once in a lifetime trip, and you need to cram in as much as possible, Slow Travel believes you should know there will be more trips. Even getting there should be leisurely – instead of being crammed into a plane and subjected to ridiculous security, why not take a train, car or a boat?

I have been slow traveling and I didn’t even know it…when traveling, I always love planting myself away from the tourist path and taking in things as a local. When I visited a friend in Germany recently, one of my favorite things to do was wander around the local grocery stores and cafes to see what Germans like to eat (LOTS of breads, and boy are they into their sweets!

I asked what the most popular dessert was, and it was a toss-up between pudding and apple-kuchen) In fact, instead of just vacationing somewhere I just tend to move there (“you never know somewhere until you’ve lived there!”) but that’s another post…

Planning Your Slow Travel Trip
Slow travel starts with renting a local home to stay in, instead of a hotel. Slow travel abodes are called by different names in different countries. For example in the United Kingdom and Australia they are called ‘self-catering’; in France, ‘gites’; in Italy ‘agriturismos’’; in Switzerland and Germany ‘ferienwohnungen’; and in North America ‘vacation rentals’.

The point of these rentals is just to arrive, and starting living there. They are usually fully equipped with linens and cookware. Some come stocked with food, but it’s better if it’s not, because then you get to go out into the community to shop. In most parts of the world, cooking and eating are much more important to the culture than in the U.S.

How can you make your next trip a slow trip?

* Stay in a local rental. This is essential. There are tons of great resources at the end of this post. You will see more listings for Europe, because Slow Travel has been popular there for decades but it’s only now making its way around the world.

* Stay in a place that is non-touristy. Better yet, go to your destination in the off-season.

* Stay out of cars. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that supports walking (or biking), foresake a rental car, and hoof it around your neighborhood. You’ll take in so much more of the scenery, people, sights and smells than if you’re trapped in traffic.

* Get out among the locals. Make it a point to relax at a local cafe or bar, even if you’re traveling solo. See this great article on drinking alone (not in the sad way) from the great travel blog, Brave New Traveler.

* Set up routines, just like you did at home. Go for a run at the same time you did back home. Read the paper at a local cafe. Watch a local sports even with the townsfolk (this also gives you a handy topic for conversation later!)

* Ask the locals. Instead of consulting guide books on what to do and where to eat, ask the locals. If I’m asking for the best place to get (food item), I usually ask a few people so as to not land upon the one person in town with crappy taste. But even if I do go on one person’s opinion and it’s bad, I’ve only lost one meal, and probably gained a funny story!

*Why not invite a local back to your house for a home cooked meal? Slow travel is all about making connections with other people, whether near or far.

Slow Travel Resources:

Slow Travel

Slow Planet/Slow Travel

Brave New Traveler - their tagline is “exploring the inner journey through the outer world”

Slow Travel Tours

Self-catering Guide

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  1. Soultravelers3 Says:

    Oh yes, slow travel is definitely the way to go, especially if you are traveling as a family. It is much cheaper, better for the earth and so much more enriching.

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