- The Americas
- Greek Islands
What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the term slow travel?
For me, today, it conjured up a vision of someone walking through a field of wild flowers, hugging the contours of a gentle hill on a sunny spring day. I don’t know where it is, probably somewhere bordering the Mediterranean.
On another day I look through the eyes of someone people-watching whilst sipping a glass of red wine at a bar/café/restaurant on a bustling historic plaza.
On yet another day, it might be propping up the scarred wooden bar in a sultry Cuban club nursing mojitos whilst enviously watching people salsa sexily as though their limbs are fluid.
I’ve read a lot of articles that outline what slow travel is. Don’t travel by plane, spend months rather than hours in a place, get involved with the community, learn a hobby and so on.
When anyone comes up with a hard and fast formula for slow travel it seems to me they’ve sort of missed the point.
But people like labels – whether it’s to attach to themselves to establish their credibility or to stick on someone else to illustrate a lack of travel savviness: Seasoned travellers, inexperienced travellers, tourists, backpackers, flashpackers, stamps in a passport, air miles clocked up… slow travellers.
The thing is, labels are far too one dimensional. Sticking a label on a donkey that says it’s a zebra doesn’t make it so. I know people who travel constantly who see nothing except their own reflection and I know people who travel solely for holidays/vacations who see everything.
Some people equate slow travel with tranquillity – peace, quiet and sleepy villages; as though absorbing a place can only be done somewhere where the soundtrack comes from the mouth of our feathered friends and not from the electrifying guitar strings of a local rock band.
We’ve spent hours in the middle of a throng in Spanish plazas listening to musicians perform to audiences made up of mainly locals, enjoying the atmosphere nearly as much as the music.
Who says slow travel can’t be noisy?
If slow travel is about getting to know a place, a night in a bar in an inner city can be far more illuminating than a month spent in a house in a characterless suburb.
Who says slow travel can’t be short-lived and gritty?
I live in a place where people flock to spend the winter, some sticking to the same routine day in day out – year after year. They don’t explore and they certainly don’t get to know the destination very well. However, their way of travelling fits quite a few of the descriptions of slow travel I’ve read. But to me they represent the antithesis of slow travel.
Who says slow travel means doing nothing or at the speed of a sloth?
I really like the idea of slow travel. It lies at the opposite end of the travel spectrum from the style that notches up as many destinations around the world as quickly as possible as though collecting points for a badge of honour. In a world of instant gratification, it is immensely satisfying to slow things down, to take time to appreciate all that is good, and sometimes bad, about travel. It’s difficult to achieve that if running about with a tick list. Sharing the world is good, but sharing it instead of experiencing it… well, that’s a recipe for missing the best bits.
In the end, slow travel is a state of mind – either you’re tuned in or you aren’t – that can mean different things to different people. We can travel down many different roads to get to the same destination and how we do it, eyes wide open with awe and wonder, makes it a wonderful and exhilarating personal journey. That’s the beauty of fluid concepts.
I know what slow travel means to me. The time I spend in a place isn’t necessarily important, it’s what I do with the time that is. It’s like the difference between drinking a glass of wine and the whole bottle. The glass and the contents of the bottle both taste the same so I experience similar sensations, one just happens to last that little bit longer.
What it means to someone else might be something completely different and that’s absolutely fine.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+