Slow traveling doesn’t have to be a complicated concept. Simply put, it’s about choosing to be fully present in your travel experiences. So whether it’s living like a local in a small town for a month, or just hanging out at a sidewalk cafe in a big city for a weekend–the goal is to relax and enjoy the experience.
Let me illustrate it better with two examples:
- Regina has 24 hours to see beautiful Paris. On her itinerary is the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. Regina checked everything off her list and can now say, “I saw Paris!”
- Sarah also has 24 hours to see the city of love. She decides that 24 hours isn’t enough time to see Paris. Since she is a slow traveling kind of girl, she wants to experience the city not just see it. So Sarah decides she will just see a few things but spend more time at each. Since she loves art, she will take the whole day and see the Louvre. If there is enough time after maybe a ride up the Eiffel Tower. But she definitely wants to sit outside at a typical French cafe and watch the city. Sarah also checked everything off her list!
Now tell me who saw Paris? Regina or Sarah? Obviously, you know where I am going with this, right? They both saw Paris. But one was fully present in her experience and one was trying to just check things off her list.
I will be the first to admit, in this fastpaced Instagram world, it is hard to slow down and even harder to trim your itinerary into manageable pieces. Mike and I have been very guilty of that and used to travel this way. In fact, we talk all about the turning point here. But, those days are long gone now and we haven’t looked back.
How we choose a destination?
This guide will focus mostly on the small town destination since that is our preference. What we look for– is a place that will allow us to slow down and immerse ourselves in the local culture. For us, that usually means longer stays. In big cities, there can be too many people and too much rushing around. But we have slow traveled in big cities like Paris, Dublin, Edinburgh, Venice, Rome, and Florence and enjoyed it just the same.
Our first preference is always the quaint little town. If you decide to choose a small town, then here are a few things to look for in a destination.
- Sense of community
- Proximity to other areas
- Suitable Airbnb’s
- Local markets
Some of the best slow travel destinations are towns and villages with a population of fewer than 10,000 people. With more than that, it starts to lose its sense of community and small town feeling.
A big part of slow traveling at least for us– is renting a car. It gives us the flexibility to go wherever we want–whenever we want. So drivability means how close and easy it is to get to the main roads. So we look for places that you can get to the main thoroughfare quickly.
Sense of community
Slow traveling and living like locals means being a part of the community while you are there. One good place to do that is the local pub or bar. I know what your thinking…disco lights and drunken Millennials (no offense kids). Nope, not at all.
In the small towns, they are just places for locals to congregate, eat and chat. We have struck up many a conversation in a local pub. So when choosing a destination, we try to make sure there is a pub, bar, restaurant in the area.
We also look at the local Calendar for fun things to do. We attended a Celidah in Dornoch once and had the best time ever. The local women pulled me out on the dance floor and were twirling me around in no time.
Proximity to other areas
We love to explore by car and plan many day trips when we slow travel. So wherever we stay, it needs to be within a 2-hour drive of the sights and things to do.
We have found that Airbnb’s fit our slow travel lifestyle the best. There are a few reasons for that. The big reason is–we are not big foodies and restaurant food every night is just not appealing. I would much rather cook so we can eat healthy foods and stick as close to a vegan diet as possible.
The other important reason is the washer and dryer. A month on the road doesn’t mean you need to bring a month of clothes. We try to bring about 5 days of clothes. Which means if you want to wear them clean, you will need to wash them. Hence, the washer dryer requirement.
Obviously, since we cook while slow traveling, we need to buy food. We have found some of the best food and produce at local markets in Venice, England, France, and Scotland. We just use google translate if the signs and labels are not in English.
One of the other tricks we use to find a slow travel destination is Google Earth. We will put our potential destination in and then look around to see where everything is, if it all fits, then that’s the place.
So have we convinced you to slow travel yet? It really is the best way to travel and I hope this simple little guide helps you to choose your next slow travel destination.
In my next posts, I will give you some slow travel destinations for Scotland, France, and Ireland. So stay tuned! Until then….
Happy Trails 👣