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slow travel

noun [uncountable]

travelling long distances over land and sea rather than by plane, especially because you are concerned about the environment or because you want to spend time enjoying the journey

slow traveller (US slow traveler)

noun [countable]

'This is slow travel, which, rather like 'slow food', is quickly catching on, and it is an unbeatable way to go on holiday. While flying is a method of transport, taking a train is travel in its widest sense, in the same way that cycling or walking through a town enables you to see things that drivers miss completely.'

The Independent 7th April 2007

'Renting a house or an apartment for a few weeks rather than dashing around from hotel to hotel is a natural choice for the slow traveller.'

Calgary Herald April 2007

If you feel like you're living life too much in the fast lane, why not think about opting for the slow lane when you take your holidays? Instead of jumping on a plane and just a few hours later taking a disorientated walk around your chosen destination, you could spend several days, or even weeks, trundling over land and sea, enjoying the views as you go, and all this safe in the knowledge that you're helping to protect the environment – enter the world of slow travel.

often, slow travellers make the journey part of their holiday, lingering a while in the places they pass

Slow travel basically involves swapping fast but environmentally-damaging plane journeys for slower but less polluting trains, cars, boats, bikes, or just about any form of transport which enables you to reach your destination without flying.

However, though concern about the environment is an important motivation for slow travel, followers (correspondingly known as slow travellers) would say that it is equally to do with getting the most out of the 'experience' of the journey. The principle is simple: if you travel more slowly, you see more, so rather than an airport terminal and miles of white clouds, you get to see all those places in between your home and destination. Often, slow travellers make the journey part of their holiday, lingering a while in the places they pass. But even if they travel direct to their destination, they'd argue that they have a stronger sense of the distance they have travelled and any corresponding changes in culture and environment, making them more 'acclimatized' when they reach their final destination. And once they 'get there', slow travellers favour week-long apartment / house rentals where they immerse themselves in the local culture, rather than dashing from hotel to hotel and rushing through a list of 'must-see' tourist spots.

Slow travelling doesn't necessarily mean travelling less; in fact, quite the opposite, it often means travelling more, because slow travellers take longer over their journeys and consequently spend more time away than conventional holidaymakers. Critics of the concept would argue that not everyone has the luxury of being able to spend an extended time away, or can afford to – slow travel is not only slower, but often more expensive and difficult to arrange.

Background – slow travel

The expression slow travel was coined in 2000 by Pauline Kenny, founder of slowtrav.com, a website dedicated to promoting the concept, which in its original sense was not primarily about eco-friendly travelling, but more about taking time to value the experience of being somewhere different. The term takes inspiration from the expression slow food – the idea being that, just as slow foodies advocate savouring carefully-prepared food, slow travellers adopt a more thoughtful approach to enjoying their travels. A related concept is slow city, a city which promotes a healthy environment and locally-produced food. All three expressions tie in with what is now sometimes referred to as the Slow Movement, a cultural shift towards slowing down the pace of 21st century life.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 16th July 2007.

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