What is Slow Travel and 14 Ways to Fully Enjoy Your Destination

In this generation where fast-paced itineraries are pretty much dominating the travel scene, I must admit that I love seeing how slow travel is emerging as the antidote.

Some call it slow travel or slow tourism, while others like to refer to it as mindful travel.

No matter what you like to call it, slow traveling is a personal choice that prioritizes immersive experiences over a rushed itinerary or traveling for the ‘Gram.

It’s a compelling invitation to enjoy the journey and take it slow when exploring a destination.

Contrary to what many believe, slow travel is not a trend, but rather a lifestyle—a way of traveling with purpose.

woman standing on a rock mountain experiencing slow travel in the mountains

Experiences like scenic road trips, transformative journeys like the Camino de Santiago, and backpacking adventures are some examples of meaningful experiences that will tempt you to stay a little longer when you’re slowly traveling.

In this article, I’m sharing what I believe is the essence of traveling slowly as well as some ideas on how you can experience this unique way of traveling.

What is The Meaning of Slow Travel or Slow Tourism?

In simple terms, mindful or slow travel is about taking it all in. It’s about quality over quantity and taking the time to explore, connect, and discover culture, history, and people.

Instead of rushing through multiple cities eager to complete your bucket list of things to do and see, traveling slower allows you to genuinely enjoy every moment and immerse yourself in the destination.

Another great example is to embark on a transformative experience or a pilgrimage, like the Camino de Santiago, which has been on my mom’s bucket list for ages (Hi, Mom 👋🏼).

These types of experiences reward you with countless meaningful and life-changing experiences that contribute to your personal growth that can’t be achieved with traditional tourism.

an amputee hiking in shenandoah national park in the fall season

In slow travel, the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination, providing us with a meaningful travel experience.

Therefore, the decision to opt for a mindful experience when traveling is an intentional mindset for a slow-paced enjoyable experience.

Furthermore, it’s a deep desire to choose the road less traveled and explore off-the-beaten-path locations that bring more authentic experiences.

Overall, I think it’s great that travelers are seeking adventure travel and meaningful experiences as a way of escaping increasingly popular destinations.

It makes me happy to know that this is something we will continue to see more of!

downtown lexington in the late afternoon

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How Can You Embrace A Slow Traveling Mindset?

1. Choose the Right Destination

Opt for lesser-known locations, away from tourist hotspots, and extend your trip to include secondary cities. Visit smaller towns, quaint villages, and places with rich history.

Before selecting a travel destination, you can also check its sustainability score for eco-friendly options.

2. Support Local

Visit local businesses and markets, dine at local family-owned restaurants, take a cultural tour, and explore the possibilities of choosing local lodging options.

people walking in the local markets in tarpon springs

3. Embrace Sustainable Practices

Practice sustainable tourism and eco-tourism and be responsible when traveling. Opt for eco-conscious accommodations and be mindful of over-tourism.

14 Ways to Immerse Yourself in a Destination

Although there are many ways in which you can enjoy a mindful travel experience, here are my top choices of slow travel examples.

1. Take a Scenic Road Trip

Going on a road trip and allowing flexibility in your itinerary is an incredible opportunity to just go with the flow and discover what a destination has to offer.

You can pull off to the side of the road for an epic sunrise, take detours to explore hidden spots, and add spontaneity and joyful experiences to your trip.

A scenic road trip also provides the perfect opportunity to connect with the landscape at your own pace.

2. Stay in Airbnbs or Bed & Breakfasts

For places to stay when slow traveling, homestays like Airbnb or bed & breakfasts are pretty much the most authentic experience when it comes to lodging.

An intimate glamping experience by the river, a relaxing cabin in the mountains, a bright and airy beach house, or a bed & breakfast in a historic downtown can elevate your trip experience.

sitting on the porch in a cabin looking out at the great smoky mountains

3. Embrace Digital Detox

I think that disconnecting from the digital world is one of the most important aspects of mindful travel.

Reducing screen time allows you to fully engage with the surroundings of the places you visit and be present in every moment.

A digital detox also allows you to absorb the sights, sounds, and unique characteristics of a destination without any unnecessary distractions.

4. Hike or Bike Through Nature

Consider natural settings or destinations with picturesque landscapes to explore on foot or biking.

Whether it’s hiking in the desert or the forest or walking on the beach, exploring nature by foot or bicycle allows a deeper connection.

Hikes and nature walks also allow you to absorb all the beauty of off-the-beaten-path destinations.

woman hiking in the forest in north carolina during the winter time

5. Attend Cultural Festivals

Another great example of slow travel is to plan your trips around local cultural festivals and events of the destination you want to visit.

Local festivals can give you a unique and authentic glimpse into the traditions, music, and festivities of a destination.

Interacting with locals in this vibrant and joyous atmosphere is an incredible way to experience the culture of many beautiful places around the world.

6. Travel During Off-Peak Seasons

This is something that I’m intentionally aware of when planning our travels, especially when visiting National Parks or popular destinations.

Not only does traveling on shoulder seasons allow for fewer crowds, but it’s also the best way to enjoy your trip without stress.

When you travel during off-peak season, you have the opportunity to see the charm and characteristics of a destination.

Visiting a place that is not overrun by tourists can result in a rewarding and authentic experience.

traveling to the beach in off-peak season

7. Go on a Spiritual Journey or Pilgrimage

As I mentioned before, Camino de Santiago came to my mind when writing this article as it’s one great example of slow traveling.

As a traveler, this type of journey through cities offers an incomparable reflective experience for your soul both mentally and physically.

Other journeys such as thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, can be incredible adventures of a lifetime.

The landscapes, traditions, and fellow travelers and thru-hikers along the way will take part in a life-changing experience that’s a true example of what meaningful travel is.

8. Backpacking Adventures

Backpacking trips (backcountry) are a popular way of travel for outdoor enthusiasts that encourage a minimalist and immersive travel experience in the great outdoors.

The great thing about backpacking is that by planning accordingly, you can consider a more flexible itinerary to allow space for exploring and taking pictures of lesser-known hidden spots along the way.

ole's place old gas station abandoned on state route 24 in utah

9. Explore a Location by Train

Train travel has gained quite a popularity in the last few years and I’m here for it.

Not only does traveling by train provide breathtaking scenic views but it also provides an opportunity to glimpse at unique landscapes that you may not be able to see by foot or car.

The leisurely pace and opportunity to hop on and off at different stops is an amazing way to experience places to visit that are not commonly on a typical tourist’s radar.

10. Culinary Experience

Nowadays, more and more travelers are in for the culinary experiences of their destination and are not afraid to try something new.

I was reading up on this recent study from booking.com and it reveals that a whopping 81% of travelers are interested in indigenous cuisine.

greek indigenous cuisine in tarpon springs florida

And I get that! It’s no secret that food is one of the best ways to indulge in the culture of a different place. And of course, we’re not ones to complain!

I’ve also found this to be one of the reasons why slow tourism encourages you to learn about the culture of a destination by exploring its local culinary scene.

Visiting local markets, indulging in street food, and dining at authentic local eateries can enhance your travel experience in each destination.

11. Take a Walking Tour

When you think about slow travel, walking tours are like the gold standard. They embody the idea of leisurely adventure that captures the essence of a destination.

By going on a walking tour when traveling, you can check out landmarks, explore the streets, and absorb the atmosphere.

It’s also a great way of diving into a place’s history since you get to listen to intriguing stories and tidbits that are mostly known by the locals.

12. Cultural Monuments and Historic Sites

As slow travelers, you take an interest in visiting historic sites to learn the history and significance behind a destination’s iconic landmarks.

Exploring historic sites and ancient architecture gives you a better understanding of the aspects of the cultural heritage of the destination you’re visiting.

It also grounds you in many ways, like recognizing that you are a part of something greater and that the world’s history is somehow connected with our own.

man standing in front of the natural bridge state park building

13. Visit a Local Winery

A wine-tasting experience or a wine tour at a local winery can provide an amazing sensory experience, even for non-drinkers like myself.

Traveling to wine country or visiting wineries is also a great way to create deeper connections with the people you are traveling with.

Furthermore, wine regions are typically situated in places with great scenery and breathtaking landscapes that allow you to naturally unwind and enjoy the experience.

14. Chase Waterfalls

Waterfalls are the epitome of off-the-beaten-path locations that can add up to more rewarding experiences.

The beautiful landscapes, navigating through the trails, tracing the sound of the falling water, and feeling the mist on my face are some of my favorite things about exploring waterfalls.

In many ways, chasing waterfalls kind of becomes like a metaphor for slow travel—it’s about the adventure of getting there, and not just snapping a pic and moving on.

standing in front of the soco falls in north carolina

Each waterfall becomes a destination in itself and a mindful travel experience where you can deeply connect with nature and be present in the moment.

Whether it’s hiking to remote falls or discovering cascades, chasing waterfalls provides an awe-inspiring adventure that uplifts your senses.

Final Thoughts on Embracing a Slow Travel Experience

As you might already figured out, slow travel is the complete opposite of the typical travel frenzy we are seeing these days.

I’ve realized that the generation we’re living in travels for others instead of for themselves.

It’s sad to know how many people choose their travel destinations solely based on the potential boost it can bring to their social media following and engagement.

People have forgotten how to live in the moment and how to make memories.

couple inside a Jeep by the beach with the top off

They are mistakenly taking for granted the many incredible discoveries and experiences that life can offer.

Hence my affinity for slower travel—because it’s about taking it easy, embracing the journey, and living the heck out of the adventure!

So next time you’re planning a trip; whether it be a road trip, visiting a quaint town, or venturing out into an off-the-beaten-path destination, remember that by traveling slowly you can HIT PAUSE and truly enjoy and LIVE the experience.

Save it for later!

pinterest pin with woman standing on the rocks and text that reads slow travel ideas
man carrying a surfboard walking toward the beach during the sunset
Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is one 1/2 of the Next Stop Adventures dynamic duo with 15+ years of hiking experience and adventure travel. As a PADI-certified Scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Spain.

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