Why We Choose The Slow Travel Digital Nomad Life

We spent a little over 10 months in Latin America. In that time we visited 5 countries and I feel like we have only just scraped the surface.

So, sometimes when I tell people we spent that much time in Latin America but didn’t make it to Argentina; or went to Mexico and didn’t see Chichen Itza or Tulum, I can see the look of horror and bewilderment on their faces. I can almost read their minds, wondering “What DID you do for 10 months then?

The thing is, we like to travel slow. And the more we do it, the more we’re enjoying it.

What is Slow Travel?

Slow travel is exactly what the name says – it’s traveling slow, putting experiences over sights. It’s taking the time to really get to know a place, experiencing the smaller things (like grocery shopping at a local market) and immersing yourself well and truly into a foreign culture.

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vegetable market calcutta india

Local vegetable market. Calcutta, India.

 

It can be a week, a month or a year. There are no time constraints on how slow. The idea is to simply slow down, look around and process your experience before moving on to the next shiny thing.

Why Travel Slow?

Many of us are on a mission to tick off countries and sights off our bucket list. There is so much world to see and there is never going to be enough time to do it all. It’s an overwhelming thought!

But we have also long ago realised we don’t have (or want) a bucket list. We’re not interested in going places or seeing things just to tick them off a mental list. We have come to enjoy slowing down and really sinking our teeth into a town/culture/ country. Leo Babauta explains this well in his post about the Anti Bucket List.

For us, travel has become an opportunity to learn – about a new place, and also about ourselves. We have been trying very hard to practice mindfulness at all times in our lives and travel is another opportunity for us to stop, look around us and really, mindfully enjoy the place we are in.

There are many reasons we enjoy slow travel so much:

  • Experience over sights

Our mission for travel is to have experiences we will cherish. Sometimes this involves sights (e.g. Machu Picchu) but sometimes it’s just sitting in a park in Medellín and practicing Spanish with a local paisa.

Slow travel has given us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in various cultures, see how locals live, the challenges they face and come away with a better understanding of the country.

Do we do the sights? Absolutely. Just not everything in the guidebook and our experience isn’t defined by what we did or didn’t see.

  • Personal growth

Travel teaches you a lot about yourself. When you slow down and allow yourself to process your experiences, you allow yourself to grow from these experiences as well.

Spending large amounts of time in a foreign country challenges you to step out of your comfort zone. This may be to haggle grocery prices in a foreign language or finding your way around a new city; and without even realising it, you grow.

  • Living like a local

living like a local

 

We love the “live like a local” experience. Naturally, we’re not naive enough to think we’re living the same life a Thai person would in Chiang Mai. But, expats can be locals too, and we try to blend in and respectfully have the best local experience possible.

This obviously includes meeting and interacting with locals but also eating where they do, shopping where they do, checking our their local getaway recommendations and more.

  • The food

Ask us about a place we’ve been to and I can guarantee you our response will include some sort of commentary about the food.

Sample conversation:

You: How was Peru, Johnny & Radhika?
J & R: It was really great. Machu Picchu is even better than you think. And OMG, Peruvian food is just incredible. You have to try a Chicharrón sandwich!

 

chicharron sandwich

Chicharrón sandwich at La Lucha Sangucheria in Lima, Peru.

 

Food is a HUGE part of our travel experience and we’ve found slow travel really allows us to get to know, enjoy and savour the local food.

  • Avoiding burnout

travel burnout slow travel

 

We often get asked if we get tired of traveling. And I think it’s because most of us realise that constant movement can be very exhausting. Ever come back from a vacation needing another vacation?

When you travel slow you don’t burnout. You aren’t running around trying to pack everything into a 2.5 day itinerary. Instead, you could spread out your sightseeing over 4 weeks and do many other things in between.

  • Better productivity

For practical purposes as well, slow travel suits us better. We’ve learnt we are more productive when we “settle” in a place and establish a little bit of a work and play routine for ourselves.

Our work is what enables this lifestyle so we always put work first. We choose to slow down and stay longer, so we can work well and live well in a place.

  • It’s cheaper

Another practical reason. When you settle down in a place for a longer time, you definitely spend less money. This is because:

  • Long term accommodation is cheaper than short term stays
  • We shop local produce & cook more once we’re “residents” and avoid the over priced tourist trap restaurants.
  • You don’t feel the urge to see/do EVERY tourist attraction, most of which cost money. You realise you can leave some out and still have a good experience.

Can you Slow Travel on Vacation?

Obviously not everyone we know is a digital nomad and when we talk about slow travel, we often get told “It’s easy to do slow travel if you’re not bound by a limited amount of vacation time.

Yes, I acknowledge that it’s easier to travel slow and savour the experience when we don’t have to be back in Australia at the end of our 4 week vacation. However, if you have 4 weeks, you can still choose to slow down and see only one country or one town as opposed to frantically hopping from country to country, with 2-3 days in each place.

Slow travel isn’t for everyone. I know that. For some people, traveling to Europe may only be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so obviously you want to maximise that opportunity by seeing as many different places as possible. But, if you’re interested in a more immersive experience, you definitely can travel slow even if you only have a week!

Is Slow Travel the Only Way to Travel?

No, definitely not. It’s just our preferred way to travel whenever possible. Many other digital nomads prefer to move around quicker.

Do we plan to travel slow and steady everywhere we go? We’ll try. But we know it’s not always going to be possible. We zipped through Ecuador & Peru in 6 weeks (we had the World Cup in Brazil to get to!). We also have an upcoming trip to Singapore that will be super short.

Also, not every place requires slow travel so very often we make short trips once we base ourselves in a place. We used Guadalajara as our long term base to see Guanajuato, Tlaquepaque and even Puerto Vallarta & Sayulita.

For the most part however, our travel is likely to be s-l-o-w.

Travel is not a competition. And to bring out the cliche, it’s about the journey not about the destination.

Do you enjoy slow travel? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.

 

Written by


Radhika B.

After turning her back on office life in Australia, Radhika set out to create a life lived on her own terms (a constant work in progress). As co-founder of Fulltime Nomad, she is super passionate about helping others live life with more freedom and flexibility, and a bit of travel thrown in for good measure.

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6 Comments

  1. Jakob Gibbons

    Such a great post! I am also definitely a believer in slow travel for so many of the reasons you mentioned. I’m doing my own Latin America trip right now too, which is so far just 6 months in Mexico without even having seen Guadalajara, Guanajuato, or San Miguel de Allende. I’m using the DF as my home base like you said you used Guadalajara and it’s great for all the reasons you said — time for lots of productivity, lower cost because I’m cooking in all the time, and it’s a great launching pad for everything in a three hour radius.

    I thought it was funny that you referred to 6 weeks in Ecuador and Peru as “zipping through” — most people would just call that “twice my annual holiday allotment” 😛

    But do you ever feel the need to speed it up a bit or mix in intervals of fast and slow? I’m thinking about this a lot lately, realizing that every day spent in Mexico is inevitably a day shaved off of Argentina or Chile or wherever else, for example. How do you balance these opposing drives to see ALL THE THINGS and to see a few of the things in great depth?

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Radhika @ FulltimeNomad.com

      Hey Jakob! Thanks for reading & I’m pumped you could relate to it too. 🙂

      To answer your question – yes of course, I think some places call for living in, and need slow travel while others are for zipping through and maybe some day returning to. I know what you’re saying when you say you feel like the longer you spend in Mexico, the less time you have somewhere else… and this FOMO is hard to deal with sometimes.

      Intervals are a great idea to keep the traveller in you happy and satisfied. We spent 4 months in Colombia and then Ecuador & Peru was our period of fast travel for that reason. Also, I think it’s important when you set up a home base, to still remember you’re in a new place/ new country and take the time out (weekends maybe?) to see new things in and around your home base.

      Finally, you’re having an amazing experience living in DF so don’t worry about seeing ALL THE THINGS — you’re experiencing all the things! Have a bistek taco for us. Can’t wait to get back to Mexico!

  2. Naomi Brooks

    I’m also a fan of slow travel. I don’t need to work, all my travel is 100% holiday, so I have no reason to slow down and put work first. Instead, I now treat travel as a lifestyle. Once you travel more than a couple of weeks you need down time when you do nothing else but read a book, sleep in, potter around a market or shopping centre. I agree slow travel definitely prevents travel burnout and I love being able to return to the same restaurant/market stall etc and get to be a familiar face somewhere, even only for a few days. Indonesia is my favourite country so far and I’ve now spent 6 trips there and approx 6 months all up (3 months on Java alone) and don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface! Every time I read someone bragging on how many countries they’ve visited I just cringe! Or a post I once read on Thorn Tree saying “we’ve done SE Asia”! Like NOBODY can do SE Asia, it’s too friggin’ big for one life time!!

    • Radhika @ FulltimeNomad.com

      “Like NOBODY can do SE Asia, it’s too friggin’ big for one life time!!”

      Haha thanks for the laugh, Naomi! So, so true. Bragging about the number of countries really irritates me too. I love that you feel like even 6 months in Indonesia hasn’t helped you “see it all”. That’s how I feel about most places we go to as well.

      Travel as a lifestyle is such a good motto! Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  3. Aaron Jade

    Hey Radhika, completely agree with everything you have mentioned here. We are on the same track as you guys, using slow travel to see the world. It takes several months to really understand the different aspects of society and culture. Especially in countries when you aren’t fluent in the language. We are currently in Spain, have been here for 11 months and we are still learning the intricacies of daily life. I really love getting to understanding the people, where they have come from and what makes them think they way they do.

    • Radhika

      Wow, 11 months in Spain – that’s amazing! We’re spending 6 months in Mexico (after spending 2 months here last year) and I still feel like it’s not enough to get to know the country! I love what you say about the people – it’s something I really enjoy about slow travel too because understanding the people helps to understand the country, no?

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