We didn’t always love slow travel.

Or at least we didn’t always know we loved slow travel. Our standard trip over the past couple of years has followed a pretty intense model and most have been the polar opposite of “slow” travel. We’ve tried to pack in as much as possible to the annual leave and public holidays available to us and that’s meant spreading that leave out throughout the year and smashing as much as possible into those trips away.

We’ve also had our 100 Things List as a bit of a goal which has meant a lot of our trips away over the past couple of years have been focused on ticking something off that list.

We still look back on all those trips fondly now but the hangover from all that fast-paced travel on the Monday morning back at work was often been pretty bad. We’ve come back from trips feeling like well, we need a holiday.

Often we’ve tried to get to as many countries as possible in one trip (as seeing new places is exciting for us and we want to see them all!). I think our record would be our Luxembourg to Koln to Amsterdam trip which involved a whirlwind tour of three countries in four days.

The canals of Amsterdam

The canals of Amsterdam…which we didn’t have much time to explore at all!

Our trip to Florence included a stop in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower but we only spent half a day there. Having a very short stop like that means we didn’t get any chance to get to know what it’s like to live there or what is great and unique about the place. All we’re left with is a token photo of the tower and memories of having to fight off tourists to get it.

leaning tower of Pisa

Now, we’re in no way complaining about these trips and know how lucky we are to be able to see all these place but we are becoming aware of what we’re missing out on by rushing around so much and what actually makes us happiest when travelling.

There have been some days on these otherwise hectic trips that have been at a much slower pace. Days where we wake up and start the day by strolling leisurely to a local cafe to spend a few hours drinking coffee & people watching. Days involving no plan at all and we just get lost exploring a new city with no set aim (still my favourite thing to do in a new city…often when you’re lost and off the beaten track is when you’ll find the coolest, most interesting stuff).

Putting slow travel into practice

We are happiest when we’re able to spend hours getting lost with no set destination, to sunbathe and laze by the pool, to stroll around the local markets, to drink far too many coffees, beers or wines in a local cafe, or just sit and watch the sun set. We’re happiest when we get to live like locals and really get to know what a place feels like. We want to think back on trips and remember how a place made us feel, not just how big the queues at the tourist attractions were. 

Our favourite trips are the ones where we’ve been able to do all of this and come out feeling like we really have a sense of what a place is like to live in.

We kept this goal of slow travel in mind when planning our 2015 trips to Iceland and the Maldives. We made sure we had rest days on our Iceland road trip and allowed 10 days to circumnavigate the country. Given it was our first slow travel trip, we still had lessons to learn and felt afterwards that we should have added a least an extra week to our road trip (especially when we decided to record a daily Vlog for the trip!). But we also came back knowing that changing to slow travel was definitely the right choice for us.

Godafoss Iceland

Luckily, we got it right with our trip to the Maldives (and we still managed to record some videos). It was our first real holiday where there weren’t a multitude of sites to see or things to tick off (an ideal honeymoon really!). I

t was just us and all we could do was relax, read books, swim, snorkel, sunbathe, go fishing using the best baitcaster under 200 and eat & drink to our hearts’ content. We came back from that trip so refreshed and with a really good idea of the kind of balance we needed to aim for with our future trips.

palm tree maldives beach

So how will we be planning trips in the future?

Some of the most obvious but best advice I’ve heard is simply to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

That’s actually a quote about financial trading but I think it applies quite well here too. We are happiest when we go slow and take our time rather than rush around like mad ticking things off a list.

There are also a few other benefits of going slower and being more flexible with our time. We can go see sights when they’re quieter, get to places that have odd opening hours, be open to unplanned adventures and also save some money. The cost of slower trips will usually work out for us as half or less what those shorter trips cost in terms of cost per day and that is unsurprising given the flights are a big chunk of the cost of a short trip.

Flying on a Friday night and coming back on Sunday is always more expensive than say, leaving Monday/Tuesday and coming back the following week (if completely flexible on days then there are some great deals on flights). The same goes for accommodation, prices can go way up for the weekend compared to during the week (especially around events like Oktoberfest) and you can often find discounts or deals that make staying in one place for longer a better financial option (e.g. book 4 nights get 1 for free).

Slow Travel = Cheaper

Slow Travel = More Relaxing

Slow Travel = Better, More Memorable Experiences

Our future travels are going to look a lot different with this in mind. We’re excited about these slower adventures and can’t wait to learn more about the wonderful world of camper trailers and other slow, longer term options for some of the big, exciting trips we’re planning.

What about you? Do you prefer those short, exciting weekends where you tick off a bunch of must see items off your bucket list? Or those slower, more relaxed days of chilling out and exploring without an itinerary?

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benefits of slow travel