Slow Travel around the World
There are so many ways to slow travel and explore our glorious planet in your own time and way. Here are just a sample of ideas to inspire you. Keep in mind that most of these styles of slow travel are not specific and unique to the region we’ve attached them to, and research will unearth even more soul-soothing possibilities.
Africa- Farms turned Eco Lodges
The South African tourist industry has already jumped on the catchphrase ‘slow travel’ and is using it to describe organized tours where you stop in one location for a few nights instead of overnight. That is not slow travel but rather a slow tour.
South Africa can be dangerous for independent travelers and if you rent a house in a safe area it is likely to be in a sterile high security compound.
However, there is one brilliant way to experience South Africa slowly and authentically. A number of families have turned their farmers into eco-lodges, offering specialized accommodation close to nature where you’ll hear the lions (20 km away) roar at night and where local guides will take on safaris.
Nearby are indigenous villagers where the workers come from. Some have started up day tours into their communities creating micro-businesses and extra cash income.
The best South African eco-lodges for slow travel will be family run and on private reserves adjacent to national parks like the mighty Kruger.
South East Asia- Rent a Villa
Thailand is a very soft starting point for slow traveler in Asia. There is a well-established network of villas for short rentals in areas full of restaurants and activities aimed at foreigners.
For a deeper experience away from other tourist stomping grounds, look at Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia or even Cambodia. With countries like Malaysia and Indonesia don’t be too much of a trail blazer and go into islands and regions where foreigners are unwelcome. Look for villas on the outskirts of established tourist areas. Think Julia Roberts in Bali in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
India- Join a Retreat
Ever dream of taking a month off life? India offers numerous yoga retreats and meditation.
When choosing a retreat consider the level of immersion you want as some are very full-on, cutting you off completely from the world and make you meditate in silence most of the day. In a sense that’s not slow travelling.
If you want to see Indian life and not just explore your inner world a great idea is to find a local room at a small inn, book into a daily yoga class nearby and eat in local family run restaurants.
The area with the most options for slow travelling and daily yoga is Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. This holy and picturesque town is on the lower part of the Himalayas and at the beginning of the Ganges River and it is sacred to both the Hindi and Buddhists with Indian pilgrims also visiting. There are beautiful candle lit ceremonies on the river almost every night, great hiking and it’s accessible to other auspicious Indian towns likeDharamshala, where the Dalia Lama lives.
There are also well-known retreats aimed at foreigners in Kerala and Goa. Yoga classes around the beaches of Goa tend to be westernized and because bikini-clad partying beach culture is not part of Indian culture, the Indians you do come in contact with are not really behaving like Indians.
South America- Voluntourism
Many of the most beautiful and historic cities in South America offer Voluntourism opportunities. Volunteers can teach children in afterschool programs in Cusco, Peru, just a few hours from Maccu Picchu. Cusco offers all level of accommodations from homestays to grand hotels, great restaurants and a vibrant nightlife scene plus there are dozens of smaller ruins to explore each weekend.
Sucre in Bolivia is a beautiful peaceful university city, adjacent to indigenous populations. It was once a resort town for one of the richest cities in South America, Potosi (about three hours away), but when the silver mines declined it became one of the poorest. However, tourism is getting the city back on its feet and there are numerous programs to teach kids English.
There are programs in the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon to volunteer in a rain forest conservation program that provides onsite accommodation. Nurse rare species or helping to reinvigorate rain forests during the day, and listen to the sound of the lapping Amazon at night.
Most of these programs are more realistically about the tourism experience than making huge impacts on communities in a short period of time, but the things you learn make it worthwhile.
South Pacific- Cruise on a small Mail boat
Imagine lazing your days away on the world’s most pristine waters as your boat pulls into small communities of Polynesians waiting for their mail. It is possibly to travel French Polynesia on mail boats, popping into islands daily and spending the rest of your time on a small vessel with the local crew.
North America- House Swap or Sublet
Apartments in New York come up for sublet over the summer when students and workers leave on holiday. This city is always going to be expensive but compared to a hotel and the fact that you can cook for yourself and learn how the local make ends meet, this a fabulous option for anyone who has ever dreamed of living in the Big Apple.
House swapping is quite developed in parts of North America, as you may have seen in the Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet movie The Holiday. You’ll need to have a nice home to swap if you expect a lovely property in Orange County. Make sure you go through a reputable and established organization.