There is so much more to traveling than getting dressed up to take the perfect pictures in front of major tourist attractions. And, don’t get me wrong—there are times when I do that too! But slow traveling? It is immersive, minimalist, leisurely, cheaper, and provides an in depth understanding of daily culture in a new place.
On a vacation you might push yourself to exhaustion for five consecutive days in the name of sight-seeing. But, what would it be like to stay somewhere for a month or longer? To stay in for a couple days because you’re tired or in a mood? To make friends with the shop owner across the street who always offers amusing conversation infused with regional charm? To feel conflicted about your boredom when you just got here two weeks ago? Or to check out the local library and get lost in a new book while exploring a new town? What is it like to feel entirely at home in a new place? Cozy under a heated blanket while looking out the window to a view of the mountains and wondering what you’ll do next weekend? Maybe go back to the same bar you went to last weekend and continue an unfinished conversation?
If I may use the analogy of yoga—you think the asanas feel good? Try the asanas followed by 30 minutes of meditation. That is the difference between vacation and slow travel. Your life will change.
I learned early on that minimalism is key for effective slow travel. In driving from Michigan to Montana, I have narrowed down my belongings to two small carry-on sized bags, a backpack, box of shoes, and one ice chest full of Indian food that my mother insisted on me taking along. Honestly, there was plenty of room in the car for me to pack more things. But for what purpose do I need more things? Because I have with me only things that serve me, I value all of the things that I have. Furthermore, those things can all be easily replaced if needed.
Minimalism has created room in my life for the things that are truly important to me: people, experiences, and deep introspection. It’s true that slow traveling may not be for everyone. I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me to work from home (to be able to work remotely is a form of minimalism in itself). I can take my work with me wherever I go in the US so long as I have a solid internet connection. I can book an Airbnb for a month or two at a time in different cities. Or I can choose to stay put if I’m in a place that truly speaks to me.
That is the essence of minimalism, isn’t it? Freedom.