Slow travel is about fostering deeper, more meaningful connections with the places we travel to, the communities we visit and their environment and culture. We often fail to make these connections if we’re just passing through, ticking landmarks and experiences off our personal bucket lists as fast as we can. It is an offshoot of the wonderful slow food movement, which originated in Italy in 1986 as a backlash against overproduction and food waste, and specifically the arrival of a McDonald’s franchise near Rome’s Spanish Steps.
The era of super cheap flights is already behind us, and increasingly recognised as misguided and harmful. It’s certainly true that budget airlines have made travel far more accessible and opened many destinations where tourism has created new opportunities. But that has come at significant cost to the environment and the notion of travel as something to be savoured rather than consumed.
Traveling more slowly is more sustainable as well as more enjoyable. It allows us to relax more, to notice things we might not have otherwise, and to have a greater positive impact on a destination. That can range from eating at local restaurants for instance, to visiting the studios or workshops of local artisans.
It also means that our vacations tend to have a smaller carbon footprint. That’s because slow travel frequently makes use of locally sourced seasonal food, as well as overland travel and public transport like trains.
Jim Louth, founder of our partner Undiscovered Destinations, has designed some of our most exciting long-distance rail journeys. He believes that slow travel provides the space to appreciate the contrasts – for instance, in our rail vacation from London to Morocco
, which crosses from Tarifa to Tangiers by ferry.
“It’s only a 90-minute journey from Europe to North Africa,” says Jim, “but you arrive in the port and everything is different. You get the smells, the hustle and bustle, everyone approaching you offering guide services – exactly what you’d expect. You don’t get that striking contrast with air travel so much. It’s more gradual on the Trans-Siberian Express, where people noticeably change from Asia to Central Asia to Europe and you experience these subtle differences over the course of the journey.”