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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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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.