Have you heard of the slow travel movement? This new concept in travel is by far more economical, less stressful and allows for a more meaningful overseas experience. It’s quite the opposite of how we humans usually travel. As a concept it means travelling less but gaining a lot more in return.
The principles of slow travel are simple – move less, travel longer, go deeper and experience more.
Move Less, Stay longer
You can’t maintain a quick-paced trip for very long. Two months is about my maximum for a backpacking-style trip, bopping from one city to the next every few days. While it might be fun, long term it’s very draining. Quick travel only allows you to skim the surface of a city or country. By travelling slower you can get a better feel of what the city is like, how it’s people live and all it has to offer.
Stretching your travel dollars further is the key to travelling longer and the best way to do this is by slowing down. The more you move, the greater the cost. The actual act of travel can be expensive – flights, visas, hotels, even bus tickets. They all add up. By travelling slow you cut back on a lot of the to-ing and fro-ing and can really trim your budget right back. In fact, if you pick the right countries you can actually live much cheaper than you would at home.
Focus on the Lifestyle
Slow travel is a lifestyle choice not a vacation. Don’t think of it in the same way you would a week’s holiday at a resort. You won’t be spending hundreds of dollars a night on accommodation, eating out for every meal and stuffing your day full of sightseeing. Slow travel is more about soaking up the culture and getting a glimpse into a different world. Going about your daily business in a foreign environment – shopping at markets, chatting to neighbours, lounging in a park, can be just as exciting as traipsing around temples, museums and galleries. In fact, I think I prefer it.
Rent an Apartment or House
Go for an apartment instead of a hostel or a hotel. Renting an apartment for a week can cost you around the same as staying in a hotel for a few nights. The longer you rent an apartment for, the cheaper it gets. Not only will an apartment save you money on accommodation but you’ll also be able to cook your own meals, do laundry and have some much needed personal space. When travelling with kids, apartments will allow you to have separate bedrooms for the little ones which makes it a lot easier to get them to sleep. Downtime is also important which travelling as a family – spend time colouring, reading or watching DVDs to avoid overstimulation. It’s a lot easier to do this from an apartment.
Become Part of a Community
Talk to people. Get to know your neighbours, vendors at markets, other parents at the playground, people on the bus. Put yourself in situations which give you access to the local community. No doubt they’ll be intrigued about you, your country but also how you like their city, country, culture or cuisine.
Follow Your Interests
Let your interests drive your lifestyle. Rather than having a job dictate where you should be in the world and what you should do with your time, follow your passions. Head to a location which specialises in a certain hobby you’re into or skill that you’d like to develop. Lee is passionate about Kung Fu – he’s already a brown tip belt, so he’ll try and find centres to practice and hone his skill wherever we are in the world.
Learn something new. Pick up painting, go to a language school, learn to cook, try your hand at Tango. In each city you go to, attempt to learn a new skill. It’s a great way to meet people plus will give you some much needed alone time if you’re travelling with a partner or family.
Take a break from your slow travel lifestyle. Just as you would if you were living and working in your home country, you need to take regular vacations to keep yourself energized and refreshes. We’ve been stationary in the Sunshine Coast for the past month but are really looking forward to a six day holiday to Melbourne in a few weeks time. We’ll stay in a hotel, eat out and see the sights. Even though we’re still in Australia we’ll be doing something completely contrary to our slow travel lifestyle. I’m sure it will make us appreciate both sides of the travel equation – fast and slow.
If you pick a central hub location, you can explore and entire region or continent from your slow travel base. Fellow family travel bloggers A King’s Life are a great example. They’ve based themselves in Bali and have explored far-flung parts of Indonesia, partied with travelling families in Malaysia and experienced the famous Loi Krathong lantern festival in Thailand.