Text reads What is slow travel? On a background of a beach below the sandy cliffs of Albufeira Portugal at sunset.

While slow travel is a perfect fit for relaxed people who like being spontaneous, it’s more of a mindset than an actual process, so anyone can embrace it!

What Is Slow Travel?

The definition of “Slow Travel” is:

“Travelling as a means of connecting with the people and places that you meet, and taking time to enjoy the journey.”

The opposite of slow travel is “fast travel” or “checklist travel,” where the focus is on seeing as much as possible in a short time frame.

At its heart, slow travel is the act of travelling more mindfully.

Simply put, slow travel is about embracing every part of the journey. We like to really live somewhere, for however long we have there.

An old street beside a stone wall on a sunny day in Sintra Portugal.
Sintra, Portugal

The Slow Travel Movement

I don’t know whether there is an actual slow travel movement, or it just has a name now. I think it has been around for a while, and travellers are pretty 50/50 on it, usually falling into one camp or the other.

It has been gaining popularity because it is more sustainable than the traditional scurry to see it all.

History of Slow Travel

I have read this several times now, so I feel like I have to include it.

Slow travel has been accredited to the slow food and slow life movement, which came out of Italy in response to fast food and chain restaurants popping up and threatening their culture. 
{paraphrased from a number of sources}

Now whether I agree with the idea that slow travel today has anything to do with Italy boycotting fast food in the late 80’s, I’m really not sure.

I think it’s more likely that travel became accessible in the internet age like it never had been before, and people went crazy for the last 20 years, seeing as much as they possibly could, as fast as they could.

Now we are calming down a little, and taking time to truly experience the world, asking ourselves “What does this mean to me?”

The beautiful aqua blue water of the Grand Canal in Venice Italy. Colouful tall buildings line each side.
Venice, Italy

The Rise of Slow Travel

There are a few reasons that slow travel is becoming more popular.

For the same reasons that fast fashion is going out of style, slow travel is coming in. Mainly, younger generations are equal parts eco-conscious and really broke (ahem.)

The wasteful spirit of instant gratification and always having the “latest-and-greatest” is on its way out.

A small girl stands in a lush green forest of ferns and moss in Sintra Portugal
Sintra, Portugal

Slow Travel and Sustainability

Slow travel is the starting point for more sustainable travel.

By moving around less you will minimize the amount of fossil fuels used in your journey.

You will also be more likely to try locally owned accommodation and restaurants, which keeps your tourism dollars in the local economy, instead of handing them over to a corporate giant!

The goal of slow travel is also to embrace and respect the culture that you are visiting. As a guest in their home, you do what you can to leave it as you found it, or better.

This can be as simple as spreading kindness and positivity.

A young girl in profile as she looks out an airplane window onto the clouds below.

How Do You Know If You Are A Slow Traveller?

If you are someone who is “on vacation” as soon as you leave the house, you are probably a slow traveller already!

If you embrace airport restaurants and don’t mind overnight layovers (in a real bed obviously) you are already finding joy in the journey.

This doesn’t mean that you LOVE long flights, don’t get any travel anxiety, and are never in a hurry. It just means that you are open to authentic and organic experiences.

How Do You Start Slow Travelling?

Well I’ll tell you!


Your Guide to Slower Travel

The simplest way to slow down in your travels is to plan less. 

You won’t have time to discover and embrace new things if you already have a long list of things you HAVE to embrace and discover.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t see and do amazing (and maybe famous) things!

It just means that you will happen upon them when you are walking through an old town, or when you wake up on a Saturday morning and think, “what should we do today?

It’s important to note that when you go anywhere, discoveries WILL happen!

A path leads through a lush forest to a cave with an open gate in front of it. A man leans into the door. At Pena Palace Sintra Portugal.
SIntra Portugal

You will hear or read about something while at any destination, and have to shuffle the itinerary to make it work.

Of course, you can always come with some non-negotiables, just don’t bring a checklist and schedule every hour of your time.

Make Your Travels More Meaningful

This is the pared down point to slow travel, but how do you actually make travel more meaningful?

One answer from a Redditor having a bad day: “You can’t. Accept that you are a tourist and stop looking for authenticity or meaning.”

Yikes.

A little girl with a grumpy face closes her eyes in front of a bowl of soup and holds her hand to her forehead.
Could this be our friend from Reddit? – Varna, Bulgaria

I don’t think we need to be gatekeeping an authentic travel experience, so here are some suggestions:

Stop Making it a Checklist or Competition

We’ve all seen those people on Instagram whose bios read “50 countries and counting!” or something along those lines.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, they are just proud of all the places they’ve been, but that in no way affects your experience.

Your travels aren’t complete when you’ve visited every country that is not at war! If you love travelling, you already know that it’s never done

There is also nothing wrong with having a mental bucket list of things that you really want to see. Just make sure that your “checklist” is a list of sights that will be a meaningful experience for you.

A little girl in a winter coat stands on the bridge in front of Big Ben
Sometimes we see the big attractions

If you haven’t seen the Eiffel Tower, is it on your list because it’s famous and you want a picture in front of it?

Or is it on the list because you want to experience French culture under the sparkling lights of the tower?

Are there things on the list that don’t hold meaning to you?

Take them off.

If you would rather rent a peddle boat in a seaside village in Croatia than see machu picchu, do it! 

For me, I don’t care about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Sure it’s cool and it’s famous, but I would never take a day or two to go back to Italy for a picture with 200 other people in front of it.

That wouldn’t be a meaningful experience for me.
(Now if you ever do catch me in Pisa in the future, rest assured it’s because Jason or Siobhan wanted to go!)


There can be – at least for me – an element of guilt when it comes to skipping “important” things. Let that go!

I’ve hustled through museums I didn’t care for, and not waited in line for things that I felt like I should see. It’s liberating.

You make the rules.

You don’t need to care about the biggest and best things just because they have historical significance or “everybody” sees them.

There is a lot of freedom in ditching things that don’t bring you joy to eat an extra ham n’ cheese toasty under an orange tree, and listen to someone play music on water glasses.

A hand with wine coloured nails, holds a polaroid of an orange tree in Lagos Portugal, over a white blanket.
A favourite spot in Lagos, Portugal

Return To Places You Love

Having thought about it, returning to a place that you love is the simplest way to make a trip meaningful.

When you find that an unspoken connection with a country, embrace it! Say, “this is my second/third/fourth home.”

For me, Bulgaria is one of those countries.

The first time we went, we really didn’t enjoy it.

It was hot.

Bulgarians are grumpy.

Jason (the hubs) was the only man in the whole country with a beard (at that time,) so people openly stared at us everywhere we went.

We agreed that we wouldn’t go back if it was up to us. We were adopting from Bulgaria which requires two trips, so it actually wasn’t up to us.

I’m glad we had to go back, because now it’s a part of our family. (Quite literally as well, because our daughter is a citizen.)

An image from above of the red roofs and bridge over the river in Veliko Tarnovo Bulgaria.
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria


For how many trips we have taken, we really haven’t been to that many countries. We just keep finding places that we love and want to return to over and over!

I have yet to go anywhere in Asia, and even though I think it may happen one day, we will have to choose it over Bulgaria, Croatia, or Portugal – and let’s be real, that will be hard for us to do!

Return to places that you love.

Find spots that only you know about.

Cultivate meaning for yourself.

Ask Locals

Ask for recommendations from locals for activities, food, or nice places to see!

If that sounds awkward to you, it really doesn’t need to be. There are lots of opportunities to strike up conversations with your servers, or your apartment hosts, and ask them some questions.

A graphic with a list of questions to ask a local: Where do they like to eat? What would they do on their day off? What is the nicest part of town? What nature activities do they like? Where can someone go and not see a single other tourist?

People are usually happy to share things that you won’t find in guidebooks.

Be Fully Present

“Mindful travel” sounds a bit…snobby? But it’s a pretty simple concept. Practice mindfulness by fully immersing yourself in the present.

In a new place there is a lot of “new” to experience. Take a moment to sit somewhere with the sun on your face.

Actually listen to the birds or that distant music.

Breathe in the atmosphere.

This makes for special moments, and ones that I promise you will carry with you.

Put the Camera Away (Once in a while)

Putting the camera away is the only way that I can truly be fully present. I love taking pictures, and not just for Instagram or the blog, because I really enjoy it.

It can be very hard for me to put the phone/camera away and embrace my surroundings.

A graphic of an old polaroid camera with two photos in front of it.

I sort of walk a fine line now, where I get plenty of pictures at the beginning and then try to put it away between every shot. That way I can just enjoy myself, but if a picture seems worth the hassle, I will dig it out.

I try not to give myself actual rules – such as a time limit – because I will inevitably resent them.

I know there can be a bit of photo FOMO, but I think that happens regardless. Often after a trip, as I go through my pictures I will notice things I should have captured, so I may as well miss some shots in the name of being present!

Switch Up the Sights

There is absolutely a sight-seeing fatigue that comes with exploring a new place.

Especially if you aren’t used to taking things slow, and you do have a list of local sights that you want to see.

Cut the list and choose only the things that are important to you, and try to have more days than you have plans for.

Make an effort to stick with a short list, such as; two churches, one museum, two monuments, three parks (or squares,) etc. and prioritize which ones from there. 

Next, alternate the type of thing you are seeing:

Coffee at a park in the morning, then visit a museum, go for lunch, stop by a church, eat a leisurely dinner, and stroll by a monument after.

A graphic illustrating how a list of sights and activities can be organized into a pleasant day.

By balancing your days better, the flow not only feels more organic, but you will prevent one church or museum from blending into the next.

Just ask our daughter: Sintra was amazing but it is all castles, and she was pretty tired of castles early in our trip.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful something is, more of the same is just more of the same eventually.

Focus On Collecting Experiences

Slow travel is all about doing less to experience more.

Rather than sights, souvenirs, and your checklist, focus on collecting more experiences.

That doesn’t mean guided excursions (although it could.) Come up with some quintessentially local things to do and meander through them.

For example, if you are in Portugal:

  • Visit a fish market
  • Try to find a building with the most unique tile
  • Sit in a busy square and listen to a busker play fado

Immerse yourself in living the local life, instead of just visiting to see.

A man holds his baby daughter in a front carrier on Vitosha Boulevard in Sofia Bulgaria.
Vitosha blvd. Sofia, Bulgaria

Get Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Do you ever see something interesting and think “I couldn’t possibly!” Give it a try!

Take an overnight cooking tour to a village in Bulgaria.

Sleep in a yurt.

Eat a scorpion!

Live your best life.


Is Fast Travel Bad?

Coaches line the street down from Big Ben on an overcast day.
Coach tour anyone?

There is nothing inherently wrong with fast travel, but I do think it robs you of the full experience.

Ask yourself the question: “Why do you need to travel fast?”

The answer is almost always that you have limited time, and so many things you want/need to see.

Sure.

I would guess the uncertainty of whether or not you will ever have this opportunity again!

But what is behind the need to see it all quickly?

This scarcity mentality is what really steals the experience. You can’t relax the plans because you don’t want to miss out forever!

Trust me, I have totally been there. My first trip out of the country was to Europe, and full of one night here, two nights there. It was billed in my head as a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Not only is a lot of it jumbled in my mind, I would have to revisit ALL of these places because there is no way to experience them properly in that amount of time.

I am not saying that two days is never sufficient, and you need to spend weeks everywhere.

A narrow side street with black and white patterned cobbles in Silves Portugal.
Village life in Silves, Portugal

There are sleepy villages that you can spend 48 hours in, just walking around, breathing the air, and feel ready to leave.

Don’t plan 48 hours in Paris.

You will want to sip coffee and nibble croissants, climb the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre!

“What’s this? A sunset river cruise?” Oui!

“Oh, NON! We have no time.”

You want to be able to say “Oui!

If You Fall in Love, You Can Visit Again

Say it with me, “I can come back.” And I promise, if you love it, you will!

We may always have a bit of FOMO, because by going back to Bulgaria for the 6th time, I am saying “not now” to Thailand or any number of other trips. However, nothing beats the connection that draws you back.

Maybe you feel like you won’t ever have the money again, or the time off again, but priorities can shift.

I assure you that we are far from rich (Google says low middle class) but we always make space to travel.

A woman and little daughter holding hands on the beach, silhouetted by the setting sun over the ocean in Albufeira Portugal.
A beach in Albufeira, Portugal.

How Long Is Slow Travel?

The misconception about slow travel that if you are in a place for a certain time period, it is automatically slow travel.

This is not the case!

As I mentioned earlier, 48 hours could be ample time to experience a quiet life in a country village.

A week in Paris jam-packed with tours and day trips to Versailles or Mont St. Michel would still be fast travel.

We have done a long layover in Vienna where we took things very slow, and a four day trip to tiny Sintra that wasn’t slow enough!

It is a state of being and connection with your surroundings.

When you read: “Two weeks minimum in any location.” I have to strongly disagree with that!

Sitting somewhere and waiting for your two weeks to dwindle down, is not really the point.

Is Slow Travel just a trend?

Nope! Or at least I don’t think so.

It is here to stay, and for some, has always been.

Perhaps the most famous slow traveller is Rick Steves. When I was younger I didn’t understand why he was wasting his time in all these piddling little villages when there was “nothing” there. I guess you could say I’ve changed my tune! 

A photo from the hill above Balchik Palace Bulgaria, overlooking the blue green waters of the Black sea at sunset.
Allowing Bulgaria to surprise us in the Balchik Region

I’m not hating on Instagram. I share my pictures as much as the next girl, but slow travel is definitely the antithesis to an “Influencer’s” 24 hours in Dubai. 

Travel inspires and enriches. It should never be a competition.

Extra Perks of Slow Travel

Save Time

It’s funny that the spirit of fast travel is to maximize time and see the most things, but it also wastes the most time.

Remember the trip to Europe I mentioned with only one or two days per location?

What we had failed to realize was just how much time would be spent travelling between cities, and even simple things like packing up, checking out, and often, waiting to check in at the next place.

A little girl inside a tram reads a map.

I don’t know if you have spent a lot of time moving around with your luggage, but it’s hardly a way to experience local culture!

(although the lighter you pack, the easier that becomes.)

The less time you spend leaving a place and going somewhere new, the more time you have for meaningful experiences. I know I said the joy is in the journey, and it is, but some parts are still better than others.

Save Money

Along with burning through precious vacation hours, moving around costs you precious money.

Depending on where you are, the transportation may not be a big expense, but everything adds up.

Extra time between accommodations also means that you will be forced to eat out. Maybe that is your plan anyways, but for most budget travellers making most of your own food is the easiest way to cut back on spending.

Avoid Crowds

I hate crowds. I have anxiety, and a crowd is enough to make me nope out of something pretty quickly.

A picture of Trevi fountain in Rome with a large crowd around it. Arrows point out the crowd. A thought bubble comes from the main sculpture in the fountain and says "no thank you."
I would like a barrier fountain too

The amazing thing about slow travel, is that while you wander and discover, you are far less likely to end up in the same place as everyone else!

Again, I’m not saying you can’t see the Eiffel Tower! Those headliner experiences are still amazing. Just saying that the time in between will take you off the beaten path.

Less Stress and Anxiety

Across the board, people who enjoy slow travel say that they feel much less stressed and anxious on their trips.

This is mostly because moving around is stressful!

There are trains and buses to catch and checkout times to adhere to. There are taxi drivers to negotiate with, and let’s not forget, ample opportunity to get lost!

Every day that you don’t have to be anywhere is infinitely more relaxing than a transit day. Fast travellers and slow travellers can agree on that!

Hopefully the next time you get lost, you did it on purpose in Venice, and you have nowhere else to be.

Can You Slow Travel With Kids?

Slow travel is THE BEST way to travel with kids!

A little girl in a pink coat sits in a pink coin operated car next to a figure of Hello Kitty, in Lagos Portugal.
We had fun trying every ride-on toy we found in Portugal

Having a family automatically makes moving fast and strict schedules more difficult, but I think it really adds to the taste of living somewhere else!

Being in a new place with your kids, and doing bits of your daily routine, is a great experience.

This time, when little tot pants end up in the trash outside a Supermarket – after a public poo explosion – the supermarket is in Portugal. And the pants-less wonder gets loaded back into the Fiat for the drive “home” to a little apartment above a shop. 

See what I mean? Routine, but better.

We have also had way more enjoyable experiences with locals since we became parents.

People love taking time out to engage with kids, especially when they have such a pure appreciation for new cultures.

Kids also love being able to see something and immediately go check it out! With travelling slower, we have the time to follow their natural curiosity. 

In What Situation Is Slow Travel Enjoyable?

This actual query made me laugh. I think someone is asking “…but, what’s the point?”

Of course after reading all of this you will know that I always enjoy slow travel! Where would it not make sense?

By definition it can be done anywhere and in any time frame. I think there is always room to change your pace and practice mindfulness.

However, fast travel makes sense in overly crowded places, where you want to see a few things and get out!

Same goes for very expensive cities, where you can’t afford to stay for long.

A woman with blonde hair twisted tightly into a bun, looks through a diamond shaped fence onto St. Mark's square and the roofs of Venice below.
You might not want to spend weeks in pricey and crowded Venice

It also makes sense if you are on a convenient layover and know of a few things you could get out and do.

Along the same line, you could be passing through somewhere and take a quick look around to see if it’s worth coming back.

You could also say that we switched it up from slow travel to fast travel in the places that we decided weren’t for us and then moved on (it happens!)

Is Slow Travel Boring?

It’s not!

Are you constantly bored back at home, especially on your days off?

Probably not.

If you are finding it boring, then add whatever exploration and activities you want to!

If you feel done in a place, or you just aren’t connecting with it, feel free to move on.

There is no reason to stay somewhere and force yourself to love it! Find a place that you really enjoy being.

I recently read someone’s thoughts about slow travel, and they expressed that it wasn’t for them because they really enjoy the actual process of travelling.

For them the enjoyable part of travelling is taking a long train journey, passing through villages on a bus, or self driving through the countryside.

A cream coloured Fiat 500 stopped on the side of the road looking across a ravine to the town of Silves Portugal.

I would actually argue that this is slow travel in it’s own way.

This person has really found joy in the journey, and they aren’t moving around quickly to tick things off the list or get on to the next museum.

Are you convinced to try slow travel? Or are you already there?

Meaningful” isn’t a reflection of how you travel, or the length of time, it’s dependent on your ability to appreciate what’s around you.

Practice makes perfect, so the better you are at finding meaning in every day, the more meaningful and memorable your travels will be.

Enter a quote from the travel sub on Reddit:

“Yes, giant European cathedrals are amazing…but a deeper experience will surely be found in one of the random campgrounds where I’ll meet some friendly Frenchies, who parle the Anglais, and we share a couple bottles of wine and talk about the impending doom of life as we know it.” – u/Oax_Mike

Maybe not how I would have phrased it, but eloquent in it’s own way.

Happy Travels!

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