As I've shared in the past, the longest vacation we've taken is about 2 weeks. Although each one of those trips were wonderful, we always felt rushed and had very tight schedules.
With a vacation deadline looming, we always felt like we had to pack in as many experiences as possible. Especially since it was unlikely we would ever return to a particular destination (there's so many places to explore!). As a result, there never seemed to be enough time to fully immerse ourselves in the local culture.
It seemed we had two choices. Continue to travel this way, or uproot and live abroad full-time. The latter option faded once little Max was born. Not because it isn't feasible, but because we want her to have a strong home base growing up.
Since little Max is an only child, we want to make sure she has the opportunity to build lifelong friendships, and stay close to her extended family.
We also want her to experience different cultures, and other ways of living.
In order to balance our desire for more immersive travel experiences, and a strong foundation at home, we needed to come up with a third option. This is where Slow Travel comes in.
As far as I know, there isn't a formal definition for what Slow Travel means. According to the internet, the term was originally coined by the founder of slowtrav.com. The basic idea is that this form of travel substitutes the typical rushed “follow the sightseeing guidebook” approach, with a more immersive relaxed experience.
The ultimate goal is to experience living like a local for an extended period of time.
You know what I mean…slow down and smell the roses…
Although there are no hard and fast rules on timing, I feel like a true Slow Travel experience should last longer than the typical 1-2 week vacation. It should also be less than 1 year, at which point I would consider that an expat assignment or full-time travel.
In our particular case, we've settled on a 2 month duration that coincides with our daughter's Summer break from school. In order to enrich the experience further, we also decided to spend the majority of that time at one particular location, with the occasional side trip.
That's essentially our definition of Slow Travel going forward. It's a practical compromise compared to the other two options mentioned earlier. At least for the next few years or so. We recognize that little Max won't be so little at some point, and would likely prefer to spend time with her friends in the Summers when she's a teenager.
In the meantime we intend on maximizing our time together as a family!
The Advantages of Slow Travel
We believe there will be some great benefits to traveling this way. Since this Summer will be our first experiment, I guess you can classify them as theoretical for now.
Although you could spend that amount of time in a hotel, the associated costs and comfort would be prohibitive. Slow travel allows you to access apartments which have 30 day minimum stay restrictions. Not only do they tend to be cheaper than alternative accommodations, but they also seem to be nicer in general.
When you're on a vacation for 1 week, you tend to eat out more. After all, the primary goal is to relax, not spend time cooking your meals. Part of the Slow Travel experience is to shop at local markets and try out new meals at home. It also cuts down quite a bit on your food budget. That option is of course not available at most hotels, but extended stay apartments will generally have fully equipped kitchens. This still won't keep us from splurging once in a while!
Ever wish you could go back to the same restaurant, or awesome park, or experience some other activity more than once. On a typical vacation, that luxury is not always possible. A Slow Travel trip means you can go back to your favorite restaurant or site multiple times, without the guilt of missing out on something else.
Off the Beaten Path
A Slow Travel experience gives you the opportunity to be more adventurous. You have time to wander around the various neighborhoods or surrounding towns. Getting lost becomes a goal not a time-sucking hinderance.
There's this desire in our culture today to take in as much as possible, as fast as possible. We're constantly bombarding ourselves with stimuli, and splitting our attention between multiple tasks. This applies to traveling as well. Slow Travel allows you the luxury and opportunity to just sit still and focus on the moment. It just takes the pressure off relaxing.
Soak in the Culture
There's more time to absorb some of the local nuances of your destination. Whether it's the language, food, or the locals themselves, Slow Travel opens up more occasions for chance encounters and learning opportunities.
When factoring in all costs, and spreading them out over longer periods, Slow Travel ends up costing about half as much per day as a typical vacation. Costs can vary quite a bit depending on where you choose to go, and how you spend your money, however Slow Travel will almost certainly be cheaper on a per-day basis than a short vacation. You simply get more for your money.
I'm sure we'll discover more benefits, and probably a few downsides to this type of travel over the next few years. I'll be sure to share them in follow up posts.
In the meantime, if you're interested in peaking in on our adventures, make sure to check out the Max Your Freedom Instagram Feed which has just officially launched to make up for a potential reduction in posting activity during the trip.
Readers, have you ever tried Slow Travel? Would you consider traveling this way, or do you think it's too cumbersome? Any other benefits I may have missed? How about potential pitfalls I should be aware of? Share your comments and thoughts below!