Trust us - travelling slowly is exactly what you need to do to fall in love with your next travel destination. We’re not about judging how people travel, only to show you that there’s another option! We’ve put together our Ultimate Guide to cut down all those myths about slow travel, tell you why we love it so much, and tell you how to slow travel to get you started!
Say bon voyage to the tourist crowds and join us on an in-depth journey. Keep reading to have all your questions answered, plus the best slow travel destinations recommendations and sustainable travel tips! Our ultimate guide is everything you need to begin your journey down the slow travel rabbit hole…
The slow travel basics
These are the questions we get all the time about slow travel; What is slow travel and how do I do it? The meaning of the word “slow travel” can seem obvious once you first see it, but we’re here to share all the info you need to really dig in and get your journey started.
What is slow travel?
Slow travel is a way of travelling that gets to the heart of why we love the journey. Go at your own pace to discover authentic experiences as you get off the beaten track and discover local gems. The slow traveler explores their dream destinations at their own pace, avoids the traps of mass tourism, and enjoys a rich travel experience. Keep reading to get all the info you need on the art of slow travel!
Where did slow travel come from?
Slow travel is a branch of the slow movement. You’ve probably seen the slow fashion movement that pushes against mass production of clothes in fast fashion. Maybe our foodie friends know slow food restaurants, which focus on local and seasonal dishes for authentic experiences rather than mass produced meals. Slow travel originates from the “slow food movement”, which got its start in Italy as a protest against McDonald’s.
Some define slow travel as public transport or taking months to explore one place. None of those definitions are exactly wrong, but they miss out on what makes slow travel so great. Whether you’re enjoying a 2 day city break or taking a road trip across Europe, any trip can become a slow travel trip as long as you stick to the intention and our top tips.
Who goes slow traveling?
You might have gone on a slow travel-like trip without even realising. Backpacking, camping, and hyper focused city trips all fall under the beautiful umbrella of slow travel. The slow travel movement is an accessible movement for all from students on a budget, luxury travellers, and retirees. No two slow travellers look alike! Slow travel has nothing to do with age or your income. It’s all about what experience you want out of traveling.
Since you can really customise a slow travel trip and delve in deep to a local culture, we find that slow travel is the best option for many solo travellers and those interested in getting a full and authentic experience of their destination.
Are slow travel and sustainable travel the same thing?
Eco conscious travel or sustainable travel does have some overlap with slow travel. But they’re not exactly the same thing. By moving away from mass tourism and into more sustainable practices, slow travel is by its nature more eco-friendly than other trips. Unlike the usual sustainable travel tips though, slow travel has its own mentality.
While sustainable travel focuses on the effect that trips have on the environment, slow travel looks more inward. All those busy trips, crowded places, and wanderlust social media posts can have a negative effect on our mental health. In slowing the pace and taking things one step at a time, slow travel is (in our opinion!) a better experience for all involved - you and the planet!
Can slow travel be luxurious?
You can absolutely make slow travel trips on a higher budget. We know there’s this myth that slow travel is all about backpacking and while that type of thing does fall under slow travel, that’s not all it's about. Taste local expensive food, stay at luxury Airbnbs, and discover the best of the local culture on a luxury budget that’s right for you.
Our top 5 reasons to travel slowly!
Now you know what slow travel is all about. But have we convinced you to plan your next trip in the slow travel way? We’ve got all the reasons why you should hop onto the slow travel movement right here to get you thinking.
You support the local economy
Hey, big spenders! There’s just something nice about going to your local market and actually meeting the sellers. Slow is that, but on an even bigger scale. Major travel companies do have a habit of pushing you to major tourist spots and always giving you popular itineraries. We’re not saying that’s a bad option if that’s what you want from your travels, but slow travel gives you a local and authentic option.
By travelling slowly, you’ll probably be spending more time in one place. Dive in deep to the local scene to discover hidden gems, restaurants, and local events. You’ll be giving your hard-earned cash to smaller businesses and local artisans who need the money a fair bit more than your average top 100 travel company.
Slow travel can keep your budget low
We all want to travel more often! Slow travel helps to keep your travel costs down by focusing on one place and its surrounding area. You don't need a bunch of flights or train tickets to get the most out of your journey. Of course, if you’ve got a higher budget there’s plenty of slow travel destinations, hotels, and things to do for you as well!
Many digital nomads (those who work remotely while travelling) are often slow travellers. Taking a slower pace by spending more time in one area before moving onto your next destination keeps your transport costs much lower. And, of course, you get all the benefits of seeing the most of your next travel destination.
Slow travel can help the environment
Slow travel trips can involve public transport or some other sustainable way of travelling. Public releases way less emissions than the average plane! Slow travel can be done via the plane too, so long as you take your time at the destination, search for hidden gems, and keep your focus on the local culture.
You meet new people
Yes, you will meet new people however you travel! But we’ve found the slow travel community to be super welcoming. As you join in on sustainable travel groups and hunt down the best local things to in your area, you’ll find yourself surrounded by people who share the same mindset. You’re not just one in a crowd of tourists - you become an explorer ready to find the next gem.
Of course, if you’re hunting down authentic experiences there’s nothing better than getting tips from locals. Mass tourism might bring in the money, but it can have backlash. But you’re actually here for an authentic trip, in our experience, locals are way more friendly once you express that especially in places where tourism has had some downsides.
Remember why you love to travel
Have you ever been stuck in the airport wishing you were back in bed? Have you ever arrived at a destination you thought was beautiful on social media, but you arrive and there’s just a queue of people taking photos?
Slow travel gets to the core of why we fell in love with travelling in the first place.
Not to sound like a boomer, but when you travel just for travel's sake then it loses a lot of its magic. The local food that just melts in your mouth. Discovering the amazing places and hidden gems no one tells you about. Relax in the forest, up a mountain, or even in the Roman ruins inside a city park! Slow travel is about having a truly immersive travel experience. Escape your normal life and totally immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a new place, of a new culture.
Whatever you love about travelling, slow travel will dial it up to 11. So what are the types of slow travel journeys and where should you go? Here are our top recommendations!
The types of slow travel journeys
Slow travel is more of a mindset than a pigeon hole category, but there are some holiday types that fall naturally into this type of travel. Road trips, backpacking, cycling journeys, and camping, can all be types of slow travel trips.
So long as you’re seeking out authentic experiences and taking your time, you can make any journey into a slow travel one. But here are some of our favourite easy slow travel trip types to give you some ideas.
Hop in your car and drive wherever you want! Road trips are an easy way of getting the group together and getting around to your dream destinations. Take a road trip across Europe, America, and more. Driving might not seem sustainable at first glance, but it’s better than taking the plane to each stop! Make sure to stop along the way at the best local places! Along the road, you’re sure to find a hidden gem or two.
Nothing is slower and more beautiful than getting around on foot. Take your time climbing to the mountain top and enjoy the view! Is there anything more authentic than Mother Nature? Feel the rocky cliffs and rivers beneath your feet on a slow travel backpacking trip. You can go backpacking almost anywhere. Some countries, like Thailand and Sri Lanka, have seen a major increase in the number of backpackers paying them a visit. We actually recommend visiting a less popular country for backpacking to avoid crowds and have the least touristy experience possible.
A solid choice for any traveller! Pitch up a tent and sleep under the stars surrounded by nature. Camping is a great choice as sites tend to be not far off great slow travel attractions. It’s good to take it slow sometimes and just enjoy your time with family and friends! Use your tent as a starting point on your adventure as you make your way to the national parks or nearby cities. We actually think camping is an underrated option, especially when there’s more options than you’d expect in the camping world.
Campsites are one of the most sustainable places to stay on your holiday, but to really max out those slow travel points we’ve found Pitchup to be super handy to find campsites in Europe that use renewable energy.
Get on your bike and get peddling! Why wait for your flight or get stuck in the crowd, when you can peddle past them all? Explore your next destination on wheels. You’ll cycle through national parks, to castles, ruins, and make your way through the cities. Some countries are a lot better for cycling trips than others, so keep reading to find the best slow travel destinations!
Follow the tracks across the country, across continents even! On the train, you can travel affordably and sustainably across country borders. You’ll be literally travelling more slowly and taking more time to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Europe is a super popular destination for train journeys. Check out our slow travel destinations below to get some ideas going…
Our top slow travel destinations
You can slow travel anywhere in the world. But at Live the World we absolutely love Europe for slow travel beginners. Here are our top slow travel destinations in Europe, plus the best things to do for each country. Take your pick!
Known for its windmills and tulips, the Netherlands is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. SUP your way across the canals of Amsterdam, hike the beaches of the less travelled but unique Frisian Islands, or even pick out plastic as you sail across the rivers. The Netherlands is the perfect destination for a cycling trip, a city day trip, and more.
Amsterdam is the major tourist attraction, but other cities have great activities to offer too. Check out our map to find the best slow travel places to go!
The heart of Europe! Belgium is an underrated destination full of hidden gems and gorgeous city trips. Belgium has some of the prettiest castles and nature reserves you’d never know if you didn’t see it for yourself. A perfect pick for a road trip through Europe and city breaks, Belgium is one of our top slow travel destinations.
Follow our 2 day itinerary in Brussels for a slow travel experience in Belgium’s capital!
Backpack in the Czech Republic to enjoy a central European location with gorgeous mountains on its border like Sněžka. Take a city break in Prague to uncover hidden gems in its castle, local markets, and so much more. Prague is the #1 stop in the Czech Republic, but there’s great places across the country too like the beautiful city of Czechy Krumlov.
Our top tips on how to travel slowly
After racking our brains and hunting down the top experts in the eco-travel field, we’ve got all the best slow travel tips just for you. From ditching the packed itineraries to bamboo cutlery, these are the top tips from experts. Read even more tips on how to travel sustainably here.
1. Buy local
This top tip came up no matter who we asked! So often, tourists will stroll by all the local and independent shops and gather at only the major centres. Of course, you’re helping out the locals this way. But you’re also keeping your carbon footprint low, by reducing all the miles goods have to travel when you shop locally. We’ve found some surprises at farmers markets, from gorgeous flowers in Prague to handmade wooden clogs in the Netherlands. Check out our map to find local trading posts!
2. Do what you can, when you can
When you’re trying to do right by the environment and yourself, it’s easy to get a bit depressed about climate change. We spoke to Coren Munday, founder of bamboo cutlery company SeaForYourselfco, to get her perspective on slow travel. Coren, like so many of us travellers, was shocked by all the plastic she saw on the beach. When you’re in that situation, what can you do about it?
Coren let us know that, in the true spirit of slow travel, it’s best to focus on the here and now. Do what you can! Whether that’s picking up some plastic bottles as you backpack, swapping to bamboo cutlery, or simply taking a bag with you when you travel so you don’t leave your rubbish behind. Every little bit helps!
3. Electric Detox
OK, hear us out. We know how handy our gadgets can be when you’re in a whole new world. Our friends at IndieCampers let us know how important taking some time off can be, though. Take a break from your phone and social media! I actually tried this out on a recent trip to Nottingham. It was weird going without my laptop and phone most of the time, and sometimes I did have to use my phone just to get directions. If, like me, you’re not quite ready to go cold turkey then just turn off your notifications and enjoy a stress-free day without refreshing your email inbox!
4. Give back
The mindset of slow travel doesn’t start and end with just one person. You can spread the mindset of slow travel by giving back as you go. We don’t just mean money, though supporting local artists and events does go a long way. We mean supporting the local culture and community. Whether that’s chatting to the locals in their language when you can, supporting local businesses, or volunteering on projects around the world, you can travel in a way that isn’t all take. Sometimes we need to give back too!
5. Take it slow - literally
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Slow travel doesn’t just mean sticking to the train. But! We’d be lying if we didn’t include this top tip. After all, public transport is one of the best ways to get around depending on where you go.
The main thing is not to rush about from place to place. If you’re in a rush, then you’re not enjoying the journey. You could be in the most beautiful place in the world, but if you’ve been jostled about by the tourist crowd, honked at in traffic, and need to go to the next activity in an hour, then it doesn’t seem that pretty. It’s important to take things at your own pace, so you can really enjoy your experiences.
Everything you need to pack for a slow travel journey
Alright, you’ve picked your destination and you basically now have a degree in slow travel. You’re ready to go. But what are the essentials to pack for a slow travel trip? Of course, having an umbrella, jacket, and spare bag for waste, are always needed. We’ve put together a list of the best things to bring!
While you’re out exploring, you’re sure to find beautiful places and hidden gems. Get your phone camera or DSLR ready for your best shot. Slow travel is all about taking your time and enjoying the moment. What’s more slow travel than capturing the moment forever on film? The big thing to remember is the intention. If you get caught up just taking photos to show people later, then you’re not enjoying the trip anymore. Use your camera to help you remember what you love later - don’t make the camera the star of the trip.
2. Portable phone charger
Sometimes you’ll be out hiking and your phone will run out of battery and, next thing you know, you’re following a random sign to the nearest village in the hopes of getting directions. Don’t be like me. Learn from all the mistakes of trekkers before you and bring along a portable phone charger to save yourself the stress. Perfect too for group campaign trips and city day trips. You’ll never regret bringing one of these guys along.
3. Cross body bag
Nearly every traveller under the sun has one of these for a reason. Keep an eye on your most important belongings without lugging around a massive bag as you go. Crossbody bags are a great pick for day trips in the city and hikes too (easy access to snacks!). You can get ‘em second hand, but sometimes you just want to splash out and get something nice. For a more luxury budget with a slow fashion heart, check out STOW.
4. A notepad
Here’s a tip from me. When you’re in the pub, you’re not going to remember all the recommendations locals give you. And they give you plenty. Use the note app on your phone or go back to basics with pen and paper, to keep track of the ever growing list of things to do in the local area. You can also double up your notepad as a travelling journal. Look back on those memories years from now!
5. A map or guide
Having an actual map or guide is handy if you have poor connection. But we don’t just mean that. Use our map and guide to find things to do near you that are recommended by locals. Dive in deep on your slow travel trip and find activities to fit your interests, not just the “top ten essentials to do” that you’ll find on every blog list. Keep reading to find our top things to do wherever you go for the best slow travel trip ever!
The best things to do on a slow travel trip
So, you banished your former ideas about travel and you’ve got our travel guide at the ready. But what do slow travelers do on their trips? We’re finishing up our ultimate guide to slow travel with some ideas to get your trip planning started.
1. Take a hike
Hiking is booming and for good reason! Slow things down by travelling on foot. You never know what you’ll find. We’ve seen hikes marked by artsy sculptures, a walking trail through a witchy village, or go for a classic woodland trail. Whatever flavour of hike you pick, you’ll be enjoying the local nature and taking a breath of fresh air.
Where to hike
You can always find a good hike at the nearest national park, but we recommend using our map to find the best hikes and tips to make your trek the best one yet. You can find some good walks not too far from the city too!
2. Explore the markets
We will keep on banging this drum. There’s no point going to a city just to explore the major shops. Sure, you’ll find some goodies there but you’re not really picking up the local vibe. Head on down to the local market to meet the artisans, the farmers, and so much more. Blend in with the local crowd!
3. Find hidden gems
A slow travel trip is best when it includes a hidden place or two. Keep your eyes peeled for those places by asking the locals and checking out hidden gems on our map in Belgium, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and more to come soon! What we love about hidden gems is that they can be anything from a 19th century castle in the Netherlands to an alleyway covered in amazing street art.
4. Taste it!
Don’t forget to taste the local food and try out the beer and wine. Take a brewery tour, book a wine tasting, and discover local spots on our map! We’ve found amazing local food trucks, rooftop bars, and even little wineries across our favourite destinations.
Where to eat
While you’ll always find plenty of cafes and restaurants in the city centre, they’re usually not the most authentic. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re tourist traps! Wander out a little further to find the best options in the city.
5. Go sailing!
OK, this one depends where you are but if you’re near a lake or river then you can’t go wrong by renting a boat. Sail out onto the waters and feel that sea - or river! - breeze. Want to be even more active? You can always go canoeing or grab a SUP board. SUP is basically stand-up paddle boarding! We’ve even found SUP rentals in the canals of the Netherlands.
6. Bring your bike
Join the locals on the wheels. Slow down your travels by taking yourself from place to place. Sustainable, convenient, and a great thing to do, biking is one activity you have to add to your slow travel checklist. Cycle your way across nature reserves, past the cities, or even follow along a local ice skating route.
Our slow travel book recs
Need further reading? Want some more inspiration? We’re not here to give you homework, but you don’t have to take our word for it on how great slow travel is. Delve in deeper into the slow travel movement and community alongside these writers, backpackers, trekkers, and more. Discover new destinations and tips in their pages, then go out and explore for yourself!
The Art of Slow Travel by Bhavana Gesota
Read the true story and personal experiences of passionate slow traveller Bhavana Gesota. When I was reading this book, I was amazed by how deeply Gesota experienced each place she visited. But this book doesn’t just focus on the places. The Art of Slow Travel is one of the best travel books you can read as it actually goes into the internal journey we go on when we travel.
Slow Travel: A Movement by Penny Watson
This is your basic introduction to slow travel. Best for inspiration rather than a how-to guide, this book might not have all the answers you need to understand slow travel but it will pull you in and leave you wanting more. Discover beautiful places, tips, and tour company recommendations. We recommend Watson’s books for beginners to slow travel! Thanks to its fairly recent publication in 2019 and iconic photos, this book always ranks highly and our booklist would not be complete without it.
The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran
This book is essentially a longish essay on why you should slow travel. Reflect on why we should travel and if we have lost that purpose… Keiran’s book is best for those interested in the mindset of slow travel and the philosophy behind it. Some of the best parts of the book are Keiran’s adventures and anecdotes from his travels across the UK and Europe. More limited in location than The Art of Slow Travel by Bhavana Gesota, but still an interesting read.
Fancy embracing the slow travel way on your next trip? Check out our map for 100s of local, authentic activities that’ll perfectly fit a slower style. Find the best activities for you on our map! Psst! Try selecting Green Horizons and Local Trading Posts for some of our slow travel faves…
If your chosen slow travel destination isn’t there yet, don’t worry, we’re working on it! Follow our socials to be the first to know when we launch a new destination. In the meantime, happy (slow) travelling!