“Are you happy you moved to Portland?”
“It’s home for now. We’re slow traveling through the Pacific Northwest. I’ll know when it’s time to leave.”
That’s how I used to answer. But the quizzical stares and long explanations soon had me changing my answer to “yes, I love it.” It’s easier that way.
I’ve given up talking about slow travel. (Unless I have the time to sit down and explain.) The looks I get back are … interesting.
Most people have never heard of slow travel. But it’s growing.
I looked up the phrase “slow travel”.
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.
Yep, that describes what we’re doing perfectly.
Have you ever gone on vacation somewhere for a week and wondered what it’s like at a different time of the year? What’s winter like? What’s spring like? How do they celebrate holidays?
Or have you ever got the BEST recommendation for a place to visit or a restaurant to go to … on the very last day of your vacation? “If only we had more time …”
When you slow travel, you find out. You see the same place when the leaves fall and when they blossom in the spring. You learn how they celebrate every season, every holiday, every change in the year.
And it’s simply breathtaking.
Yes, people look at you strangely when you stop in the middle of the city and ohhh and awww over plants budding into life. “Hey peeps, we’ve never seen this before. And it’s simply spectacular.” You don’t see those things in the same way when you live there year after year.
When I meet someone new, I always ask for a recommendation.
- What’s your favorite restaurant?
- Where’s your favorite place to hike?
- What’s the best city on the coast?
- What’s your favorite waterfall?
- What’s your favorite cultural activity?
I’ve developed a list a mile long.
That’s how we decided to look for all the covered bridges in Oregon.
That’s how we found a beautiful suspension bridge.
That’s how we found the tulip festival.
That’s how we found Duck Pond Winery.
It’s also how we’ve decided on where to travel to in British Columbia, Washington, and Northern California. Portland may be our current home base, but the vastness of the Pacific Northwest is simply breathtaking. There’s a lot to see!
Slow travel is an offshoot of the slow food movement which began in Italy in the 1980s as a way to bypass the fast food industry that was moving in, aiming to preserve local farming and more traditional food preparation methods. It also was designed to keep families together, meals a sacred part of the day for people to come together, share and enjoy, instead of simply inhaling food.
Sounds similar to slow travel, right?
Years ago, we found ourselves traveling to a different state or country for a week, running as hard as we could from sun up to sun down. We’d always feel more exhausted when we returned home than we ever felt the day we left. Vacations were work, and no matter how much we saw, we always felt like we were missing things, leaving so much unseen behind.
We began experimenting with this concept a few years ago, setting up our businesses and changing our lifestyle to match how we wanted to travel.
We sold our home. Sold part of our business. Got rid of two-thirds of our stuff.
And at least for the foreseeable future, we’ll never do it any other way. Our goal is to move again in the next couple of years. Where? We’ll have to get back to you on that… Mexico? Maybe. Europe? Another possibility too.
While there isn’t a wrong or right way to slow travel, here’s what we discovered has helped us along the way.
It’s a mentality
Always do less instead of more. Do everything you can to meet up with the locals. Meetup is phenomenal for that. Join walking groups. Join a kayak club. How about attending book talks at the library or bookstore? We’ve met so many locals this way, many we’ve seen again and again.
Don’t collect stuff
The less stuff you have, the more freeing it becomes. Do we miss out home? Not at all. Do I miss the stuff we sold or gave away? Nope, I’ve continued to get rid of more all the time. In fact, I could easily get rid of most of the stuff now and live out of a few suitcases if I had to. Paperwork and photographs have all been digitized. Everything else is replaceable.
Face you won’t know the language of culture
Even moving from one part of the US to another has brought to light cultural issues. You just go with the flow and laugh at yourself as you learn.
And when you don’t speak the language – we didn’t know Italian as we made our way around Italy – even a head nod can make people patient with you while you try and get your questions answered. Human nature is always the same. We’re all alike in so many ways. Just realize you’re going to be in awkward situations at times. Laugh at yourself and continue on.
There are no must-sees
Skip the top 10 lists. Ask a waiter in a small café where they go on weekends. Chat with someone on the train to find out their favorite hangouts. They will almost always be better than the “tourist” thing all the guidebooks are telling you to do. And let’s face it, you’ll do the most popular things anyway. But it’s the far off places, the back alley scenes that will take your breath away and make you want to travel all that much more.
Skip the hotels
We may occasionally do a hotel now and then, but it’s pretty rare. Instead, we airbnb just about everything. It gives you a chance to meet and talk with a local, and introduces you to a brand new friend. Plus you’ll wind up in some of the most beautiful places on earth – can’t find that in a tourist book in the middle of tourist-town.
Slow travel may not be for you. But chances are if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably considered your options a time or two. Start slow. You can slow travel in your own location. Pick a place a few hours from you and practice. Don’t organize a thing; go with your gut and ask as you move along. Take advice. Go where people send you. Say yes when they invite you to new experiences. It may just change your ideas on travel for good.
Are you slow traveling? What are your secrets to making it successful?