For the past three weeks, we’ve been enjoying exploring the beautiful country of Costa Rica. In that short time, we ziplined through canopies, hiked through a rainforest, rafted down a river, made chocolate, and even swam in hot springs. We’ve been going at a much faster pace than the usual slow traveling that we do. And I have to admit, even though we had a good time in Costa Rica, we are exhausted!
My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Costa Rica ten years ago, so when we thought about where we wanted to visit during our around the world trip, we knew Costa Rica had to be on our list. Originally, we planned to spend two months in Costa Rica, but because of how much we liked Mexico (and how much more expensive Costa Rica is compared to Mexico), we decided to shorten our time in Costa Rica in order to spend more time in Mexico. As a result, instead of having a slow travel experience in Costa Rica, we ended up doing more fast travel.
This post was updated on May 21, 2020.
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What is slow travel
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “what is slow travel?” Essentially, it is traveling at a slower pace. Slow travel is spending an extended amount of time in one destination, in order to get a deeper understanding of that place. For traveling families like us, slow traveling also allows us to minimize our travel costs. Rather than spending a lot of our money on transportation costs, we can spend it on experiences instead.
Another way of understanding what is slow travel, is to look at what isn’t slow travel. To our family, slow travel is not hopping into a destination and checking off multiple attractions on your list. It is not packing in as many cities and sights as you can into a three week vacation. And it isn’t about traveling to a new city or country every two or three days. To us, the slow travel experience is about taking your time in a place, and looking beyond just the tourist spots.
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Why our family enjoys slow traveling
Traveling slowly means we get to spend more time in one place. We don’t feel rushed. We don’t feel the need to cram as many activities into one day. And we have the time to go back to places if we want to.
There are so many reasons why we prefer slow traveling. Here are just three of the main reasons.
1. Ability to work and travel
For one thing, this type of travel allows us to work while we’re traveling. If we’re moving to a new place every few days, we don’t always have time to sit down and get work done.
It’s hard to schedule meetings or set a routine because we can’t always predict what things will be like in our next destination. But if we travel more slowly, we can better plan out our work days, so that we can be productive and earn income to help sustain our travels.
2. More opportunities for rest
Another reason why we enjoy slow traveling is that it makes our days feel less exhausting. If we’re visiting places for only a few days at a time, we don’t often have time for chill out days. And believe me, our family needs chill out days!
While we were in Costa Rica, we were essentially doing an activity almost every single day. And during the days that we weren’t doing activities, we were most likely traveling. We had very few chill out days, and towards the end of our trip, I could tell that we were all feeling a little bit more cranky and short with each other than usual.
3. A chance to take our time and enjoy the experience
When we travel more slowly, we can spread out our activities more. We can spend our week doing work, and reserve the weekends for exploring. This helps us feel less rushed. And it also helps us enjoy our time together a bit more.
Slow tourism also helps us gain a little more insight into a destination and culture than what we would have gotten by only spending a few days in a place. For example, when we were visiting the West Midlands in England, spending more time there really gave us an opportunity to dig into and learn about the industrial history of the region.
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Is slow traveling more sustainable?
Slow traveling isn’t just better for our family personally. I would posit to say that it’s better for the travel industry in general.
In some ways, I think slow tourism is a much more sustainable way to travel. It may not seem obvious, but slow traveling can be a lot more environmentally friendly than traveling fast.
1. Lowering your carbon footprint
By visiting only one destination, you’re cutting down on the amount of carbon and energy you’re consuming by traveling from place to place. Even if you’re just doing a three week vacation, your carbon footprint is much lower if you’re only visiting one city, instead of three or four in that same time period.
2. Supporting the local economy
Another reason why I think slow tourism is more sustainable is that it allows you to support the local economy better. When you’re traveling fast, you’re more likely to stick to just the tourist spots. It’s more convenient to eat at the restaurants near to your hotel.
But if you’re traveling slow, you’ll have more time to discover the non-tourist spots in the city. You can shop at local markets for your meals, and frequent more locally owned businesses.
3. Saving your vacation days
One final thing to note about the sustainability of slow traveling is that if you have a job that allows you to work remotely, you can work while you travel. In this way, slow tourism is also more sustainable to you, as the traveler.
Rather than taking up vacation days, you’re having the travel experience and working at the same time. You can essentially earn money while you’re traveling.
How families can practice slow traveling
I know that not all families have the ability to take off for months at a time, even if they do have a job that allows them to work remotely. But there are still ways for families to have a slow travel experience, even if it’s just during a two or three week vacation.
1. Decrease the number of destinations
My main advice is to choose one destination to visit, rather than multiple destinations. If you’re traveling to another country, choose one city to spend a few weeks in. Really take time to experience that city.
If you’re looking for a quick read to learn more about slow traveling, check out The Art of Slow Travel.
2. Stay at a vacation rental rather than a hotel
Rent an apartment through Airbnb or Booking, and make your meals with food that you bought at the local markets. (Make your travels even more sustainable by bringing along foldable reusable grocery tote bags instead of relying on plastic bags!)
Spend a day hanging out at a park and observing local families. Go to a public library and spend an afternoon reading books with your kids.
3. Extend your travel days by working remotely
If you’re lucky enough to have a job that you can do remotely, talk to your boss about the possibility of working remotely for an extended period of time. And then use that time to live in another place. Hire a local nanny to watch your kids while you work, or enroll them at a local school (if they speak the same language).
Curious about the digital nomad lifestyle with kids? Read this post to find out what it’s like.
Starting small, and working your way up
If you’re new to the whole idea of slow traveling, start out small and see how your family likes it. Take multiple weekend trips to a city near year home, so you get an idea of what slow traveling might feel like. Choose a city that you’ve already visited before, and that you’re familiar with.
Taking small steps allows you to dive into a new way of traveling without feeling overwhelmed. Who knows, it may end up being the only way you travel from now on!
What is slow travel for your family? Share your thoughts on slow traveling in the comments!
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