WHAT IS SLOW TRAVEL?

 

Image Man drinking coffee

The Slow Travel Trend

Is slow travel in 2024 really something new? Or is it just a case of people trying to return to the way travel used to be before package deals, mammoth cruise ships and the Instagram obsession with the perfect selfie overtook authentic travel?

Have you been wondering why you travel? Has it turned out to be not quite as fulfilling and enjoyable as the glossy brochures or glamorous images on your social feed?

If so, you are not alone. Many people like you are now shying away from the direction that travel has taken and are looking for an alternative. For these people, embracing slow travel is the answer to the obsession with travel as a commodity, rather than an experience.

 

So what is slow travel?

 

Slow travel is a deliberate and mindful approach to travel. Slow travellers aim for a deeper understanding of the destinations they visit and an understanding of the community that lives there. It is a conscious commitment to travel with purpose, leaving a positive impact on both yourself and the places you visit.

As a response to the fast-paced, instant-gratification culture, it embodies the idea that the journey is just as significant as the destination and encourages a deeper connection with local cultures, fostering a genuine understanding of the community and environment.

 

Image of crowd in Paris Art gallery

 

What is the connection between slow travel and responsible tourism?

 

Slow travel has become synonymous with responsible or conscious tourism.

This approach prioritizes sustainability, emphasizing low-impact, eco-conscious choices. Travellers opt for eco-friendly accommodation, supporting local businesses, and minimizing their carbon footprint.

Travellers seek out places to stay that align with eco-friendly practices, supporting businesses committed to environmental and social responsibility.

This approach to travel goes beyond mere sightseeing; it prioritizes the preservation of cultural heritage, promotes ethical tourism practices, and cultivates a sense of global citizenship.

 

Image of walkers in Iceland

 

Who is embracing slow travel?

 

Slow travel appeals to many people who are looking to get more meaningful experiences out of travel and have become aware of the environmental, social, and cultural impacts of tourism.

For instance, if you love getting out and about in the wild  and appreciate the beauty of the natural environment, you’ll find slow travel aligns with your desire to explore and connect with the environment at a leisurely pace.

Slow travel also attracts individuals who value cultural experiences, seeking to engage with local communities, traditions, and cuisines. They prioritize depth over breadth and savor the authenticity of each destination.

Wellness advocates and people who practice mindfulness often gravitate towards slow travel. They appreciate being present in the moment, while  seeking a deeper connection with their surroundings and absorbing the details of their journey.

Similarly, those concerned about their environmental impact and committed to sustainable living are likely to embrace slow travel. It allows them to minimize their carbon footprint, support eco-friendly accommodations, and contribute to responsible tourism.

Individuals with more flexible schedules, such as grey nomads and retirees, also find slow travel well-suited to their extended time frames. They can immerse themselves in different cultures without the constraints of a tight itinerary, often staying in one place for months.

Families who want to create lasting memories and prioritize quality time together often choose slow travel. It allows for a more relaxed pace, accommodating the needs and interests of family members of all ages. For example, families have been known to take a year out of normal suburban life and travel around Australia in order to give their kids a thorough persective of life in Australia.

With the rise of remote work, digital nomads, and location-independent professionals may opt for slow travel to combine work and living in another country. They can work from different destinations while enjoying a more immersive travel experience.

While these traits may overlap, it’s essential to recognize that people who enjoy slow travel are a diverse group with unique motivations and preferences, united by a shared appreciation for a more intentional and meaningful travel experience.

 

Image of mass tourism in Venice

Why is slow travel better for the environment?

 

Slow travel emerges as an environmentally conscious alternative, contrasting with the rapid pace and carbon-intensive nature of conventional tourism. This approach prioritizes sustainable practices, contributing to a healthier planet in several ways.

Firstly, slow travel often involves utilizing eco-friendly modes of transportation, such as trains, buses, or bicycles, which have significantly lower carbon footprints compared to frequent air travel or individual car journeys. By opting for these alternatives, travellers reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diminish their overall environmental impact.

Additionally, slow travel encourages longer stays in one location, minimizing the need for constant movement and the associated energy consumption. Visitors immerse themselves in local communities, supporting regional economies, and promoting the preservation of cultural and natural resources.

Choosing accommodation committed to eco-friendly practices further amplifies slow travel’s positive environmental impact.  Thankfully it is now possible to choose green hotels, eco lodges and other accommodation which prioritize energy efficiency, waste reduction, and responsible resource management, aligning with the principles of slow and responsible tourism.

 

Image of Kestrel Nest EcoHut aerial view

Why does it matter?

 

Why do we need to change the way we travel?

While travel is one of the best things about life, it has proved to have unfortunate, negative consequences for the environment.

Mass tourism and overtourism refer to the negative consequences associated with an overwhelming influx of tourists to a particular destination. While tourism can bring economic benefits, excessive and uncontrolled visitor numbers can lead to various detrimental impacts:

Environmental Degradation: Mass tourism often results in increased pollution, deforestation, and habitat destruction. Many popular destinations struggle to manage waste, leading to damage to ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of natural landscapes.

Cultural Erosion: Overwhelmed by large crowds, local communities can experience a dilution of their cultural identity. The influx of tourists may lead to the commercialization of traditions, loss of authenticity, and a shift towards catering to mass-market preferences rather than preserving local heritage.

Strain on Infrastructure: Overtourism can strain local infrastructure such as roads, public transportation, and sewage systems. Insufficient infrastructure may result in congestion, increased traffic accidents, and a decline in the quality of life for local residents.

Rising Living Costs: In areas heavily reliant on tourism, the influx of visitors can drive up living costs, making it challenging for local residents to afford housing, goods, and services. Rather than “living like a local”, the rise of Airbnb has forced many residents out of their own neighbourhood and has been associated with rental increases and loss of housing for the local residents.

Loss of Economic Balance: Dependency on tourism revenue can create an imbalanced local economy, leaving communities vulnerable to economic downturns if tourism declines, such as during the Covid-19 shut down. Small businesses that cater to tourists struggled to survive, leading to economic instability.

Social Tensions: Overtourism can strain local social dynamics, leading to increased tensions between tourists and residents. Noise, disrespectful behavior, and cultural misunderstandings can create a negative atmosphere, diminishing the quality of life for both visitors and locals.

Overcrowding at Attractions: Iconic landmarks and attractions suffer from overcrowding, impacting the visitor experience and causing wear and tear on historical sites. This can lead to the deterioration of cultural and historical treasures.

Impact on Wildlife: Popular natural attractions may face disruption due to mass tourism, affecting local wildlife habitats. For example, wildlife may be displaced, and ecosystems may be disturbed, leading to long-term ecological consequences.

Climate Change Impact: Frequent travel, especially by air, contributes to carbon emissions and exacerbates climate change. The transportation and accommodation needs of mass tourism significantly contribute to the industry’s overall environmental footprint.

 

Image of forest and cottage

How Green Getaways can help

 

Addressing the negative impacts of tourism requires responsible planning, community involvement and sustainable tourism practices to strike a balance between the economic benefits of tourism and the preservation of the environment and local cultures.

This is where directories such as Green Getaways can play a big part. Our carefully curated directory showcases sustainable accommodation, promoting responsible travel and ecotourism, while supporting businesses committed to environmental stewardship.

We welcome responsible travellers who are seeking to minimize their ecological footprint. This is the place for those who are conscious of the environmental consequences of travel, such as carbon emissions, habitat disruption, and waste generation. By choosing accommodation that cares about you, as much as they do about the environment, everyone is better off.

 

Image of Kestrel Nest EcoHut aerial view

 

Images supplied courtesy of Tourism NSW (Piambong, Mudgee), Unsplash, Kestrel Nest Eco Hut, NSW and the Bower at Broulee, NSW.

Author: Amanda Lambert
November, 2023

 

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