How to Plan a Slow Getaway
I often get asked about my interest in slow travel. What is slow travel and how do you do it? People tend to think that it’s a fad, but it is in fact the complete opposite. It’s all about rediscovering the way that we used to travel, before it became a competition. It’s more sustainable, more immersive and more memorable than mindlessly marching around a city with a guidebook and a selfie stick.
Ultimately, it’s about quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter how many places you visit, how much you can squeeze into a short break or how many photos you take – it’s your individual experiences that you should be focusing on. Social media has turned travel into a race to see as much as possible in as little time; slow travel is about reclaiming that time and allowing yourself to experience the places that you visit at a much slower pace.
I always come back to the same examples when discussing how you can slow down. Rather than rushing through meals, linger over your food and savour every mouthful. Stay clear of organised tours and discover a city for yourself, wandering around the streets and allowing yourself to get lost. Let go of the idea that you have to visit all of the art galleries and spend as much time as you like admiring the works in just the one. Throw away your guidebook and seek out the places where the locals congregate. What is the point in seeing the world in exactly the same way as everyone else? Take the time to discover your destination for yourself.
So, how do you plan a slow getaway?
Your first task is to select your destination, being wary that some places are better suited to this style of travelling than others. It’s possible to adopt a slower pace of travel absolutely anywhere, but if this is your first time ditching the guidebook, I would recommend avoiding sprawling cities such as London or New York that may seem intimidating.
Scandinavian cities are my absolute favourite for slow exploring, perhaps because they just seem well equipped with their myriads of cafes and green spaces. Copenhagen is my favourite slow city to date, its residents effortlessly embracing a slower pace of life. Everyone cycles to get around and there are endless options for indoor & outdoor places to sit and relax.
Of course, coastal destinations work well, as what can be slower than spending a week unwinding on a beach? Countryside and wilderness locations are also ideal, but be wary of setting your pace and not trying to cram in too many activities. And road trips are probably my preferred form of slow holidays, allowing you the freedom to travel at your own pace while visiting a variety of destinations.
Once you’ve settled on a destination, decide how you are going to get there. Travelling slow doesn’t mean literally, although I much prefer a road trip or train journey than boarding a flight. Not only are you reducing your carbon footprint by opting not to fly, but you can make your journey part of the adventure. There’s nothing more romantic than gazing out of the window of a train, admiring the landscapes passing by.
If you only have a short amount of time to travel (as I often do), flying can still be the most convenient way to reach your destination. Try to offset your carbon footprint when you arrive by dining in restaurants frequented by locals, staying in guest houses rather than big chain hotels and getting around on foot.
It’s what you do when you’re there and how you plan your time that qualifies your trip as ‘slow’. I do my research before I travel, browsing my destination on Instagram and perhaps reaching out to locals for their personal tips. Although I look to Instagram for inspiration, I tend to stay clear of anywhere that looks like a tourist trap, unless it is of particular interest to me. I don’t want to fight the crowds and queue up just to take the same photograph as everyone else – I learned that lesson in Santorini when I realised the truth behind the beautiful photographs was hordes of selfie-stick wielding tourists.
I tend to make a small list of places that I really want to visit, then break them up by day so that I don’t overwhelm myself. I then research the areas that I will be visiting and see if there is anything else that interests me in that area. So, if I have dedicated a day to visiting an art gallery, I might note a nearby park and café. If I end up enthralled by the gallery and don’t want to leave, or happen upon a different café that I like the look of, I go with the flow. Allowing just one key activity or place to see per day means that you won’t be rushing around and allows flexibility to stumble upon other things that catch your eye.
Of course, your accommodation is just as important as the other elements of your trip. I tend to decide upon where to stay dependent on the type of holiday I am on. If my trip is focused around sitting on beaches and swimming in the sea, I’m really not fussy. I find the nearest Airbnb to the beach and barely spend any time indoors. For city breaks, I spend time researching which neighbourhood I will be spending most of my time in, usually shunning city centres in favour of residential areas with interesting cafes and shops. When on a road trip or staying in the countryside, I’m looking for cosy little cabins in scenic locations.
You don’t have to avoid hotels to travel slow, but I’m not really a hotel person. I like having the freedom of being able to cook my own meals, dine wherever I want and having my own outdoor space. I don’t like being constrained by other people’s timings, such as when to eat breakfast or when I can go for a swim.
And the final consideration when planning a slow getaway, and possibly the most important one: who to travel with. I’m lucky that my boyfriend likes to travel at a similar pace to myself, if not slower. He doesn’t like rushing around and actually can be known to slow me down a little bit too much. My idea of a slow getaway isn’t lounging around a pool all day; I like to explore, just not to rush. My preferred travel companions are those who adopt a similar pace or don’t get offended when I take myself off for a wander.
It can be tricky to get this balance right. If you’re travelling with someone whose pace doesn’t match your own, you’re going to end up arguing. Discuss your travel plans in detail with your companion prior to booking, attempting to determine whether or not you both want to get the same thing out of your trip.
I’m currently writing an e-book about slow living, with a chapter dedicated to slow travel, where I’ll delve deeper into the subject. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below.
Photo of me by Amra Sariya