For those who haven’t heard of the slow travel movement, it is characterized by many of the same principles that define the slow food movement (environmental responsibility, sustainability, education, knowledge and enjoyment—to name a few.)
In essence, slow travel is about taking the opportunity (and the time) to connect to places, people and cultures.
The more I read about slow travel the more I realize that I’ve always been a slow traveler at heart.
One of my travel resolutions for 2011 is to cultivate this practice no matter where I find myself. Here are four general guidelines I’ve set forth for myself and other aspiring slow travelers.
Allow yourself to wander. Instead of packing in each day’s schedules with self-imposed commitments, take time to wander the streets (fields, mountains, beaches) of your destination. This is when true connection to culture and place happens.
Be open to chance encounters. Some of my best experiences while traveling have happened because I allowed myself enough time and freedom to interact with locals or “stumble upon” amazing cultural experiences.
Embrace a “less is more” philosophy. With all of the advances in transportation and technology, seeing and doing “everything” you want is now easier than ever. But when you force yourself to stick to a tight schedule you miss the things that you never knew you wanted to experience until you’re in the middle of experiencing them.
Engage with those around you and respect local customs. I like to learn about local customs before I visit a place (to avoid being the ugly American), but unless I speak the local language, I rarely engage with those around me. Even if you know the language, it can be daunting to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at a restaurant. However, the few times I’ve done so I’ve meet fascinating people who were able to teach me a lot about the place I was in.
Happy slow travels in 2011.