Forget taking quick trips or drawn out tours with stops in every capital city. 2016 is the year of slow travel – and here’s why you need to jump on the trend.
Slow travel is the perfect euphemism for my laziness.
I’ve never been one of those people who can travel for great, long stints at a time. The longest I’ve ever been on the road for is two months. Trust me, I planned to stay longer; but after endless train stations and airports and hostel check-ins, new faces, new smells and new scenery, I cut my trip short and headed back home (which, at the time, was Granada, Spain).
Ten days later my feet regained their itch, and I was off for a week in Portugal, a little while in Norway and New Years Eve in Berlin – all with breaks at my home base in between.
Slow travel is the best way of doing things – it’s relaxed, immersive, and cost effective. I recently had a friend drop a couple of grand on a whirlwind, European bus tour. Sure, she got to see way more of the continent that I ever have in a short 21-day period, but by the end of it her nerves were left frayed, and her energy down to none.
Slow travel allows you to really get a feel for the place, its people and its ways of doing things. Here’s why you need to embrace the slow pace and make 2016 the year for taking travel easy…
1. It’s the age of AirBnb
Forget your standard hotel booking, 2016 is the time for taking over other people’s homes. AirBnb lets you rent a room, a flat, or an entire house, in your destination of choice. Short-term, it can often be as pricey as a hotel room, but if you’re slow travelling it can be way more cost effective and comfortable.
Staying for a month or more means you can live like a local; get to know the local coffee store owner, decipher the newspapers on a Sunday morning, pick up your fruit and veg from the grocer on the corner. Save time for sightseeing and snapping photos, of course, but don’t do it all in a three-day period.
2. Digital ‘nomadism’ is the way of the future
You no longer have to be chained to the office cubicle to make a living – a laptop and a quiet space is all you need. More and more professionals are jumping onto the digital nomad bandwagon, and using it as a way to fund their slow travel around the globe.
If you’re good at something marketable online, for example, blogging, web development, copywriting or graphic deisgn, it’s not hard to carve out a niche on the internet and start making some (often tax-free) money.
Plus, digital nomad share houses are springing up all over the world, where slow travelling entrepreneurs can share the rent (and ideas) with other like minded workers around them.
A great place to start is by joining a Facebook group, such as Digital Nomads Around the World, where you can find ideas and inspiration to kick-start a slow travel start up.
3. It’s easier than ever before to work and live abroad
This is the category I fall into. My first experience of ‘slow travel’ was a university year abroad in Spain. Three years later, I still live here – but this time with an actual job. I’m one of the lucky few non-European citizens who’s found a loophole (or cried to enough bureaucrats) and managed to get legal permission to work.
If you’re already a European citizen – well, I both hate you and envy you – but you’re lucky enough to be able to live and work across the continent. And if you’re not – where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Teaching programs, such as Auxiliares de Conversación in Spain, can provide you with a long term student visa and a monthly stipend, and are increasingly popular across the world. There’s also au-pairing, internships, and ‘under the table’ paid work in English teaching, hotels and bars.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already at a huge advantage – more and more foreign companies are reaching out for fluent English speakers to join their ranks.
Plus, if you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit, several countries make it easy for you to get a long-term residency if you start a business, such as New Zealand, Hong Kong and Panama, to name just a tiny few.
4. Budget airlines keep getting cheaper and cheaper
There are two categories of slow travel:
a) Gradually moving from one place to the next, without any set home base, and;
b) Living abroad in one location, but taking regular trips to others
I fall into the second, which has both its pros and cons. I get to keep all my stuff somewhere, but I still have commitments and responsibilities.
But, with the crazy popularity of budget airlines over the past decade, it’s now becoming cheaper and cheaper to fly return from where ever you are. Sure, they can be really stingy (I booked a flight to Budapest next month where the airline made me pay €14 for hand luggage. Hang luggage.), but if you’re savvy about it, the savings can really ad up.
I use flight comparison tools such as Skyscanner to gauge the best dates to fly. I also pay attention to budget airline ‘upgrades’ – often they come to the same price as adding checked baggage to a standard fare, but include extra benefits such as priority boarding and extra legroom seats.
5. Beat the boring. Experience life somewhere different.
This is perhaps the most compelling argument for slow travel.
How much do you really know a city from the 437 photos you uploaded on Facebook? Slow travel means you can get more than just a taste for a foreign land – you can take a big, juicy bite, savour all the flavours and feel satisfied at the end.
I can tell you from experience that your life will be enriched in ways you never thought possible. Living abroad has taught me a new language, made me part of a new culture, and given me a new appreciation for the world I thought I once knew. I’m braver for it – once afraid to speak to strangers (and yes, that included throughout my journalism degree. I was a constant nervous wreck), I can now converse with new people in two different languages.
Do yourself a favour in 2016. Go somewhere – anywhere – and stay for more than a month. Become a part of that place, and let it become a part of you.
Make next year the year of slow travel.
What do you think of slow travel? Is it a better way to see the world, or do you prefer shorter trips? I want to hear all about it in the comments. Go on. You know you want to.