If you haven’t heard of the slow travel trend, your own roaming soul might have already been trying to steer you towards it. Have you ever gotten exhausted just trying to keep up with your itinerary of sightseeing at tourist centers, hitting all your checklist items, felt like something was maybe lacking, and you wanted to have a deeper, richer experience? Then you already understand the move to slow travel and slow tourism.
The History of the Slow Travel Movement
Actually, the slow travel movement has its origins in Italy. Slow tourism is a natural extension of the slow food movement, which was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrini in 1986, promoting local farming, local food production and traditional cooking. Slow food was a reaction to tourism itself, which had unintentionally created a shift toward chain restaurants and larger establishments, threatening to eclipse the smaller local businesses and reduce their profits. With threats of economic and cultural loss, the slow food movement quickly became popular and spread across most of Europe through the ’90s.
Official Slow Towns and Cities
Then, in 1999, a mayor in Chianti, Tuscany, proposed a charter organization called Cittaslow. The organization, inspired by a man named Paolo Saturnini, has a 50-point list of aims to make life better in local towns and cities and maintain local diversity and uniqueness, provide high-quality local food and drink, inspire healthier lifestyles, and protect the environment. We can imagine that this movement, as well as a reaction against traditional tourism and how it was changing the cities and towns. (This is also why you might see the term eco trip or eco-friendly travel, which are about preserving local cultural areas.) There are now 287 official Cittaslow towns and cities in 33 countries that continually work toward preserving these values.
Benefits of Slow Travel
Understanding the origin of slow tourism, it’s clear the benefit is for preserving the local culture and not necessarily the traveler’s immediate desires. It’s sort of about how to be a good tourist, but it still benefits you because you don’t want to set off for far-flung locations and just see a bunch of chain businesses. You want to have an experience. You want to travel to find something different. Maybe you want to transform your life eat-pray-love style, or maybe you don’t, but we really don’t want to let our roaming change the unique landscapes we’re going to. We want that discovery of a different culture and its food and traditions. It’s unintentional, but it happens, so this is how slow travel movement also benefits the traveler. As a midlife traveler who loves Southwest Europe, I aim not to overlook myself in my travels. I never try to cover more than 3 regions in a place. You may also save your cash by staying in fewer locations.
Embracing the Slow Travel Mindset
So, let’s break it down a little more. Slow travel is really a mindset that you adopt, not a thing that’s imposed on you. Once you understand it, though, you’ll find it’s really the experience that you want. When you sync in to slow travel and develop that “slow” mindset, you’re focusing on the quality of your experience, not the number of locations you can grab a souvenir and a quick meal when you’re going from place to place. Yes, it means that you will see fewer places and cover less ground. Yes, it means that you will have fewer photo ops. So, it is really not something you do, it’s sort of undoing the way you used to travel. Or for others, it’s not changing at all, it’s just beeing. I have never been a huge fan of having loads of programmed tours for my travels. I rather get lost and end up at happy hour. I love to people watch at coffee shops, piazzas and old bars. I love to imagine what it is like to live in that place.
There’s Always Another Trip
You’ve decided that you want to have a more quality traveling experience. So, now what? How do you change your mindset? Well, with any kind of change, it can help to have a mantra to keep you on track to the paradigm shift. Many slow travelers adopt the saying, “There’s always another trip.” This helps reduce the anxiety of not seeing as many things or going as many places as you’re used to. A little moment of meditation may be needed during the trip, taking a breath to center yourself, because habits are hard to break, and that’s okay. Remember to focus more on personal connections, the stories, savoring the food, taking the time getting to know a place, and letting it make its impression on you. That’s something that’s going to actually change you, deep down, and last a lifetime.
Speaking of other trips, check out some other blog posts where we feature our slow travels:
What are your favorite best slow travel destinations?