As Pulitzer-winning journalist, Paul Salopek, explained in an interview with Conde Nast Traveller, “There’s been no other way but ‘slow travel’ for 99% of our history”. Having said that, slow travel has certainly seen a resurgence in recent times due to a timely combination of factors.
Take the Covid-19 pandemic. Global travel bans limited our ability to simply jump on a plane and touch down in the Maldives 12 hours later. Instead, we were forced to get creative with holidays. Many looked to the outdoors for inspiration — cycling, running, hiking or camping their way through this difficult period. It follows that many of us gained a newfound appreciation for time spent on our own two feet, immersed in the environment.
Coupled with this is a wider disenchantment with the fast-paced nature of modern living. After all, travel is supposed to be a liberating experience. But when your Day 2 itinerary in Rome is full to the brim, it can be hard to fully appreciate the essence of the Eternal City. Slow travellers are less impelled by the need to squeeze everything in. They want to switch off from the clock and go at their own pace.
The damaging implications of mass tourism have further highlighted the need for ethical modes of travel. From the water crisis afflicting Angkor Wat to the gradually sinking city of Venice, an ever-increasing influx of visitors is partly to blame. In contrast, slow travel promotes carbon-conscious transport like walking or taking a train and respect for the environment. Lots of slow travel tours also now offer cohorts the chance to engage in positive social activities like small-scale infrastructure projects.
So is travel slowing down? Thomas Power, co-founder and CEO of sustainable holidaymaker, Pura Aventura, summarises: “We’re seeing a strong trend toward destinations that are off-the-beaten-track and away from the busy tourist spots… Staying in an area for longer gives people more time to discover that little local bar, a weekly market or the sandy beach hidden away down a track”.