The Slow Travel Manifesto
Most of us live fast-paced lives, driven by mantras of carpe diem and “work hard, play hard.” Our intense desire to maximize our experience portfolio and live life to the fullest is fueled by the idea that life is short and we have to move fast in order to cram everything in. We unconsciously favor quantity over quality - and it affects how we approach travel, as well. When the anticipation of arrival eclipses the journey itself and a demanding itinerary exhausts us until the anticipation of departure sets in, from where exactly do we derive meaning?
Slow travel, on the other hand, is a mindset that requires us to redefine our relationship to time, to see it as plentiful rather than scarce. It requires us to take a deep breath and say, “I have the time” or, more powerfully, “I will make the time.” It’s not about how far we go, how fast we arrive, and how much we see, but about the depth of our adventures, the warmth of our relationships, and our closeness to the world itself.
Travel can become an ordinary consumer good, a game of keeping up with our neighbors and prioritizing hit-and-run visits to trendy places that yield impressive profile pictures. Rather than fast food, travel should be savored like a long, five-course meal accompanied by fine red wine, eaten on a terrace at sunset with a few close friends. It can provide us a window into what lurks beneath the surface of a place. Hit-and-run tourism simply confirms what we think we know and teaches us what we knew we were already going to learn. We may stand in front of a famous monument and marvel how its “even more beautiful than the pictures,” but we lose out on learning what we couldn’t have predicted learning,
The usual tourist who parachutes into a country for 10 days winds up observing how people live their lives in other parts of the world; slow travelers stop observing from a distance, both a physical and cultural, and become part of the landscape. They develop relationships, learn the language, engage in the community, and speak intelligently about the place after they return home. They shop in local markets, drive the back roads, and put down their cameras in favor of conversation. They linger, guilt-free, because they have no checklist.
Slow travel is a mindset, one we can employ at home in our own countries, even in our own cities. We can spend Sunday exploring a new park, eating a lazy lunch at a small cafe we’ve never tried, or wandering into new art gallery to chat with the owner. We can practice smiling more easily, speaking readily with strangers, and going somewhere on bicycle instead of car. Fundamentally, it’s about doing even ordinary things with a purposeful energy. It’s about enthusiastically seeking out new things and new people. It’s about appreciation, openness, and engagement.
It’s about slowing down the pace of life so that we are not just gaining more experiences, but gaining more value in each experience. Slow travel reinvigorates us and elevates our level of curiosity about our communities - at home and throughout the world, reigniting our consciousness that every corner of its beautiful expanse possesses novelties and intricacies worth savoring.
A former NYC management consultant turned legal nomad, Elaina Elizabeth writes about the intersection of career, life, and travel for today’s 20-somethings. By day, she works to produce economic reports on emerging markets, currently based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Elaina has previously written for Thought Catalog, Escape The City, Project Eve, Go Overseas and Reach to Teach. Read more on her blog, Life Before 30 and see more photography from her slow travels at Beyond Borders Travel Photography