The Rewards of Slow Travel
Where did the time go? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves towards the end of a holiday. And while you enjoyed some of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that only travel can offer, perhaps you’re craving a deeper connection with that memorable city or country.
Yet all you need is a change of mindset to use your time more effectively – and that’s where slow travel comes in. Slow travel encourages taking the time to appreciate your new surroundings, to travel in a more sustainable way and to connect with the soul of a location – its people, its culture, its heritage and its food. By spending longer in one place we not only contribute to the local economy in a positive way, we also foster meaningful relationships and a unique understanding of what makes that location tick.
So could 2021 be the year we start to really see slow travel’s exciting potential flourish?
The Genesis of Responsible Tourism
Slow travel takes its inspiration from the slow food movement, a concept originating from Italy in the mid-1980’s when people saw that increased tourism was changing the way that people were eating and bringing larger, chain-based restaurants to major cities, thus taking away profits from family-owned establishments. Through a broader philosophy of appreciation for time and heritage, it aimed to preserve regional cuisine, local farming and traditional cooking methods through education of tourists and local residents.
35 years later, it isn’t a large leap to apply similar maxims to the way we travel. It also projects to be a concept that’s here to stay because of how younger consumers are shaping future travel trends. With greater sensibilities of how to help the planet and preserve more traditional ways of life, millennials are seen as ideal purveyors of slow travel.
“Responsible tourism is back in a big way,” says Tom Barber, co-founder of luxury tailor-made holiday company Original Travel. And he’s confident that it’s that younger generation who are leading the drive towards this more sustainable way of seeing the world. “They are the most ethical consumers ever,” Barber explains. “So, companies are offering ways of travelling that are increasingly ethical and less damaging to the planet.”
But what are some of the main benefits of slow travel?
Culture, Connection and Compassion
Looking closer at the main environmental benefits, the strong emphasis on staying in one location for a longer amount of time means we cut down on some of the biggest transport polluters – especially air travel. Eco-friendly alternatives like trains and bikes are favoured, while as the decade progresses, we’ll also see electric cars become a prominent part of the movement too.
Once settled in, you can then take the time to explore the neighbourhood and discover superb spots at your own pace. Spend your mornings relaxing at unique and vibrant cafes, exclusive to the area with their own distinct style and atmosphere. Get to know the owners and locals, absorbing the vibe of the area and its culture. Unearth fresh ingredients at colourful local markets and have a chef cook their unique delicacies at home.
Those local trips not only help the neighbourhood thrive, they also come with the benefit of building bonds and fostering connections with the community – a unique experience rarely found in traditional weekend city breaks or resort holidays.
“When done right it can leave positive impacts that will last long past your trip, benefiting the local communities, economies and wildlife,” says Justin Francis, CEO of activist travel company Responsible Travel.
“Slow travel enables us to learn, relax and rejuvenate,” he says. “To be part of a place for a short period rather than just crash through it.”
Where to Explore
So, you’ve got the mindset, but where do you want to travel?
Perhaps go back to where it all began and spend some time in beautiful Italy this summer. But instead of Rome at the height of the tourist season, maybe spend a week or two savouring the sublime wines, cinematic scenery and distinct culture of Tuscany’s charming towns and villages? Maybe set up base at the stunning Relais Borgo Santo Pietro, before exploring all of its regional delights.
Though the glitz and glamour of Hollywood often comes to mind when thinking of California, the Golden State is also a wonderful place to slow travel. Not only is the Californian coast perfect for a road trip, it’s also full of eco-friendly luxury lodges (such as Big Sur’s majestic Post Ranch Inn) and charming towns to spend a few easy days in.
One of the world’s most alluring countries, slow travel is an excellent way of exploring Japan’s distinct culture at your own pace. Discovering Kyoto’s ancient spirit, charming neighbourhoods and superb coffee scene is an activity that shouldn’t be rushed. The beautiful Aman Kyoto embraces Kyoto’s unique culture and style, making it a fine central base to explore the city’s vibrant communities.
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