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Trend Watch Slow Travel: Experiencing the world instead of just seeing it

Slow Travel takes us back to the roots of travel: it's the subtle difference of not merely having seen a place, but having experienced it.

May 1, 2022

The desire to travel is great. Possibly even greater than ever before. However, the way we travel has fundamentally changed in recent years. A heightened awareness of safety and health has caused us to completely rethink our priorities. Perhaps it's also partly because, after a long hiatus, we've come to appreciate even more being in the privileged position of being able to travel the world. Whatever the reason, our expectations of travel have changed. The gap between tourists and travelers is widening. While some are stressed about checking one sight after another off their list, others want to immerse themselves in the local culture of a destination and get a feel for local life. The important sights can wait, there are more important things to experience. And so the Slow Travel trend was born.

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Simply shift down one, two or even three gears. With Slow Travel, sometimes the journey is the destination. © S. Migaj/Unsplash

What exactly does Slow Travel mean?

Slow Travel is all about connection: to the culture of a place, its people, food and art. You want to have an educational experience that touches you on an emotional level and broadens your horizons. Likewise, Slow Travel is about protecting the local environment and being sustainable towards the nature of a destination. One wants to perceive a place in the process, but not literally consume it.

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A city trip can also be in line with the Slow Travel principle. The important thing is not where, but how. © Alex Vasey/Unsplash

However, slow travel does not necessarily mean that a trip has to last several weeks. Even a short trip over the weekend can meet these requirements. It's less about which place you visit, but how you perceive it.

Immersing yourself in local life and just getting lost is a great way to expand your horizons. © Max Libertine/Unsplash

Off the beaten track

A great way to experience a destination like a local is to not nestle right in the center and not primarily stay in popular tourist hotspots.

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Even a small fishing village can be a memorable destination when you immerse yourself in local life. © Vincent Giersch/Unsplash

Looking for accommodation in a residential area and seeing local life there can be very revealing about the identity of a place. Sometimes it also helps not to be shy, jump over your own shadow and seek a conversation with locals. Chances are very high that local people are happy when travelers show real interest in their lives and homes.

Slow Travel

Away from the sights, you get a feel for local life. © Alex Pleskovich/Unsplash

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

If anything is inextricably linked to the identity of a place, it is food. The history of traditional dishes often goes back unexpectedly far and is incredibly revealing about the people and their customs. If you choose a restaurant frequented mainly by locals, you have a much better chance of enjoying authentic regional cuisine. Here, too, courage often pays off: instead of always ordering what you're sure you'll like, dare to try something completely new and challenge your taste buds a little. Asking the staff for a recommendation can also help in decision-making and getting travelers to enjoy a new culinary experience.

The fanciest places aren't always the best: if you eat where the locals are, you're guaranteed an authentic experience. © Marialaura Gionfriddo/Unsplash

After all, Italian cuisine is much more than just pizza and pasta - and even here there are usually huge differences between the variants that are popular with tourists and locals. The same is pretty much true of any country's cuisine. You just have to be open-minded enough to leave your comfort zone. Small tip: After eating in a restaurant, asking to briefly speak with the chef offers further insight into the preparation and history of a dish. After all, who doesn't enjoy receiving compliments and chatting with interested people about their talents?

Have you ever tried spaghetti ai Ricci di Mare? Pasta with sea urchins is a delicious delicacy in Italy that you might not enjoy without the recommendation of locals. © Shutterstock

Next time then

It's a feeling that everyone knows: the day is drawing to a close, but the to-do list is far from being completely checked off. Instead of sprinting from one point to the next, you can simply linger and let the list be a list. The point of slow travel is not to experience a place in its entirety, but simply to perceive its essence. Every day has a limited number of hours - and that's okay. An important part of Slow Travel is learning to not have a plan and to see where the journey takes you. And what you don't get to this time, you just save for next time. Once you've built a connection to a place, it's nice to have a reason to come back.

Venice has endless things to offer aside from the famous sights, so it's worth it just to explore the numerous narrow streets and see what the Venetians are up to in their everyday lives. The Rialto Bridge will still be there next time, I promise. © Ludovico Lovisetto/Unsplash

Recommended reading: Ask a Local - Tips for Madeira from Nini Andrade Silva

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