Choices. In travel we have many of them, which is what makes the lifestyle so very liberating in the first place. The debate between slow vs. fast travel is one which really boils down to personal choice. Some of us don’t have the opportunity to travel as much as we’d like, so choose to pack our travels full of different stops to optimize our time. Others choose to immerse themselves in a place, and will happily stay there for weeks or months instead of moving on.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both slow and fast travel, but above all – it’s still travel. Anyone who decides to walk out of their normal life one day, put on a backpack or pack a suitcase, and go into the world to seek new horizons, whether they do it slow or fast, is my hero.
If you’ve not yet made the decision between taking it easy or really hitting the road full throttle, here’s a quick guide to slow vs. fast travel.
When most of us start traveling on more of a long term basis, we start by making our way through several countries in one trip. Whether it be interrailing around Europe, taking buses around South America, or backpacking through Southeast Asia, it’s our first time out really seeing the world so we like to get a move on. The obvious benefit of this kind of travel is that you end up seeing so much of the world in a short space of time, especially when you’re in a place that’s packed full of different countries, like Europe. You experience something new every day, try different foods for every meal, and you can wake up in one country and go to bed in another in one single day. It’s safe to say, there is never a dull moment.
This style of travel is exhilarating, and if it’s your first travel experience it will no doubt give you the travel bug. All those new experiences can be very life affirming, change you in so many ways, and open your eyes to all kinds of things in a very short space of time. If you’re looking to really bump up your visited destinations list and want to see as much of the world as possible, this is the style of travel for you.
The main drawbacks of traveling like this, some say, is that you can never really get to know a place in such a short space of time. Yes, you can see the main sights and say you’ve stood in front of them, but do you really know what that place is like, what makes it tick? This of course depends on what you actually do during your time in that place, but if you’re simply there for a few days, you see the sights and move on. There’s no connection, and if you’re doing a trip with many stops, that place will just merge into others in your memory and become a blur.
The other disadvantage of traveling quickly is that it is absolutely exhausting. Even if you have the smallest amount of luggage, picking it all up and moving on every few days can really drain you to the point where all you want to do is be at home. You have the same conversations with the same people in every city you move on to, and the phrase ‘If I see one more amazing cathedral, I’ll scream’ will definitely pass through your mind at least once.
These disadvantages might not rear their ugly head for a long while, and for the very few they might not appear at all. But, if you do choose the travel like this on a long term basis, I can almost guarantee that you will feel this way at some point or another, which might make you think about taking it easy for a while.
To begin with, slow travel gives you that opportunity to really connect with a place. You can get to know its people, food, hidden places, and local secrets. The more time you spend in one spot the more you can appreciate it and gain a greater sense of its identity. You can come back from your journey really knowing what it’s like to live in that place, and you will most definitely leave a part of yourself there.
Instead of having to pick and choose between the sights and things you want to see, slow travel allows you to take the time to see them all. If you’re only in one place for a few days there is no way you can pack in all those things. With slow travel, you can see all those iconic sights, and have time to spare to find the more offbeat spots that most tourists miss. Most of the time, those are the absolute gems.
If you’re very keen to see the world, sometimes it takes a while to learn how to see it slowly. Once you’ve got the travel bug, it’s easy to get itchy feet and constantly yearn for new horizons. Slow travel can be frustrating sometimes if you’re someone who is constantly dreaming of new destinations. This is why it’s not the style for everyone, as it does require a certain level of patience and contentment in your surroundings.
A disadvantage for many is that they simply don’t have the time. Unless you decide to take the leap into full time travel, you don’t have much of an option to spend lots of time in one place so you make do with taking quick trips. Traveling slowly does take a certain level of commitment, and if you’re simply traveling during your vacation time it’s not the best option for you.
Slow travel doesn’t mean spending months in one place. It can simply mean spending a couple of weeks in one city instead of 3 days, or choosing just a few stops on your next trip instead of trying to cram in as many as possible. If you’re eager to see as much of the world as possible with limited time, go out and race through it if you’re happy with doing it that way – at least you’re getting out there and doing it.
I think it’s probably fairly obvious by now which style I prefer, as after four years of making my life about travel and having experienced both of these, slow travel is definitely the option for me. While I will, of course, be doing quick trips in the future, I want to really immerse myself in my travel choices, and get to know the identity of a place. I’ve been to cities and can’t even remember what they look like because they were packed into one trip. Having now lived and worked in two cities for more than 6 months, I know that slow travel is really where my heart is at.
Where do you sit on the Slow vs. Fast Travel debate?