Are holidays a repeat of daily life with to-do lists of activities? Do you need a holiday to recover from your holiday? If so - stop, breathe and think about a 'slow' holiday, perfect for resetting your life. Travelling slowly creates lifelong memories and can even help your destination community. Slow holidays first took off a couple of years ago but with life becoming increasingly anxiety-inducing, 'slow' is looking even more desirable. Forget four cities in a week with a guidebook in hand. Instead, 'slow' down and savour the world around you.
Truly relaxing: Really connect with your destination, and life immediately becomes less rushed. Discover so much more while strangers may just become friends. Forget the pace of your own daily routine and within days, you'll slip into the pace of a different culture. Boost the relaxation quota with activities such as yoga and craft workshops.
Sustainable: Slow travel is easier on the environment. Trains are an eco-friendly alternative to planes while bicycles and walking are definitely better in so many ways than seeing the world through a car window. Slow holidays can positively impact on a destination so you leave beneficial footprints rather than carbon ones!
Economical: Travelling slowly can be kinder on your pocket. Staying in one place is cheaper than repeatedly moving on. Look for self-catering cottages, houses or apartments with good cleaning guidelines in place. And, preparing your own meals is definitely cheaper than dining in guidebook-recommended restaurants.
Challenging (in a good way): Immersing yourself in new cultures is more challenging than just skimming the 'tourist' surface but, so much more rewarding. Make an effort to overcome language and culture differences and you'll find real connections. You may come home with lifelong friends rather than typical souvenirs
Beneficial for local communities: Forget the 'top-ten' things in the tourist guide. After all, one museum can sometimes look very much like another - join in with local community events and take time to chat when you stop for coffee or shop in a local store. Your interest may be rewarded with an invitation to a local event, local shopping knowledge or even an invitation to a traditional family meal.
Best way to benefit from a slow holiday: Step away from your daily life and connect with your destination.
Slow transport: Whether it's getting to your destination or moving around once there, travel as slowly as possible and always take the most direct route to reduce your carbon footprint. Trains chug their way across most of the world's continents but choose Europe and you can usually get there by train as well. Steam travel is romantic and nostalgic so travel by train through Saxon Germany and be transported back to a slower more Baroque way of life. Walking and cycling put you close to nature in the countryside or hidden gems in cities. And, there's nothing quite as relaxing as cruising past glaciers in Alaska, along the River Loire in France or along the Kennet and Avon Canal in England.
Slow eating: Slow travel grew out of the 'slow eating' movement in Italy, a country ideal for a slow eating holiday experience. Seek out regional ingredients and drinks, ask the advice of local shopkeepers and enjoy the experience of cooking your own meals. Relax and enjoy the process without the need for clock-watching and maybe, invite some of your new-found friends.
Slow culture: If you can't resist dipping into the guidebook, choose just one destination and really immerse yourself in it. Focus on one artist and spend a day learning as much as you can about them in a gallery. Discover Goya in the Museo del Prado or the surreal world of Salvador Dalí in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, both in Madrid.
Slow activities: There's nothing quite as slow as taking a pilgrimage on foot. Follow Spain's Camino de Santiago or the quieter Via Francigena in Italy and exercise both body and soul. Book a painting holiday in Malawi or Zambia and bring back your own pictures of wild animals rather than photos or head to Thailand for a relaxing yoga retreat.
Somewhere remote: You don't have to cross the globe for remote destinations. Europe has plenty. Spain's Costa del Sol is always busy so head inland to the remote Alpujarras around Granada. Absorb the aromas and flavours of lemons, oranges, figs and almond while staying in whitewashed fincas or even cave-dwellings! Immerse yourself in the rhythms of the olive season or local silk-weaving and wine-making.
Join a community activity: Each year, Himalayan shepherds or anwals take their goats and sheep into the high pastures of the Saryu and Pindar Valleys. Join this annual animal trek, walk alongside them and stay in community-owned guesthouses. The views are spectacular and you're supporting the local economy. Enjoy a similar experience by walking with Berber Nomads in Morocco on their seasonal migration. Something they've been doing for over 4,000 years.
Take to the water: Head to the Swedish archipelago of St Anna and take a kayaking and wild camping holiday. Set your own timetable as you navigate the myriad islands with just eagles, seals and the occasional fishermen to interrupt the slow pace of life.
On your doorstep: Do you live in a big city? Have you really explored it or are you always rushing from A to B? Then, invest in a guidebook and look at your surroundings through new eyes. You might even discover a new community or activity that can become a part of your life.
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