Slow travel secrets

Slow travel is not just about dashing from place to place, ticking things off a to-do list. It's about immersing yourself in a destination. It's about savouring the moments – from the simple to the sublime

Friends of mine visited Italy recently with their teenage kids. It was the height of summer and jostling with the huge crowds of sightseers, they all soon felt overwhelmed by the heat and the press of the tourists. How to best spend the time they had in Rome? The Colosseum ... The Trevi Fountain ... The temptation is to press on with the tick list of things you must do, regardless of how unpleasant the experience might be. The things is, as soon my friends gave up going to the major tourist spots and started exploring down the quieter side streets they straight away started having a better time. And what's more, they quickly discovered fabulous old ruins to explore, friendly locals and a feeling of connecting with something real.

Off the tourist trail they found interesting old ruined temples and ancient churches. Even better they met friendly locals. One day they hired bikes and got out of Rome, riding out into the nearby countryside. It was very hot day so they stopped at a café to buy some water – the café owner gave them coffee and homemade biscuits. He was incredibly friendly – sitting and talking with them for some time. Compared to the hustle and stress of trying to tick off the main attractions, these moments felt like they were really starting to connect with the country and its people.

Here are a few more secrets to learning to travel slow:

  • Aim where possible to stay in the same place for a while to develop a deep connection with it.

  • Even if you are visiting for just a short time, go walking and take time explore places on foot. You'll see and experience so much more.

  • Learn to resist the temptation to cram in as much activity as you can.

  • Frequent local places, spending time with locals and discovering their habits and customs. For instance, find out where the local markets are or where the local park is. Doing this can turn a regular trip into a slow travel experience.

  • The key is to take your time and be carried along.

  • The more you put into a visit to a new place, the more you will notice and appreciate when you are there, enjoying the place on a deeper level.

  • Read up about the history of the area you are going to visit

  • Watch movies that were located there

Last year I was lucky enough to have a week to explore New York. It was my first time to that famous city and there are so many things to see and do it could have felt paralysing. I decided to go for a mixture of galleries and local attractions, together with time simply spent wandered the city's streets and parks.

New York has been shaped indelibly by the generations of immigrants who have passed through. With as many as 800 languages spoken it’s also the most linguistically diverse.

The city exists in a constant state of reinvention, and gentrification of old neighbourhoods such as the Lower East Side means you have to slow down and look a little harder for traces of the past. Every street tells a thousand stories, if only there is time to hear them. See here for more about my slow adventure in New York.

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