Panting to catch my breath, I painstakingly ride my bike up the steep and winding mountain road, the elevation is more than a mile above sea level. I was doing my best to get to Logan Pass, the stunning high point on the famous Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. The sun hit my body, breathless, and my legs burned after 25 miles on the road, but I was almost there. Then a voice shouted: “Why are you doing this!?”
A woman leaning out of a passing car window shouted her question, not unfriendly but just curious, wondering why in the world I was working so hard when I could drive down the driveway. She had a valid point, which is the point about the purpose of leisure travel: Is the point of travel to see as much as possible and get from place to place as quickly as possible? Or should travel be more about appreciating the trip itself, and diving deeper into the destination once you arrive? For those thinking about the latter, a slow-moving travel cruise might be right for you.
What is slow travel?
Slow travel is an offshoot of the slow food movement that began in Italy in the late 1980s, in response to the spread of fast food franchises in the country. The slow food philosophy is to get people to appreciate the overall dining experience, to sit back and enjoy a relaxing culinary experience rather than rushing to a restaurant visit to increase calories and reduce time.
Likewise, with slow travel, the goal is not to quickly load up on passport stamps for bragging rights, or to check group list destinations as if they were part of a driving list. Instead, slow travel encourages you to see more by moving less, seeking depth and breadth of experience rather than miles. “We encourage our guests to slow down and really see the world,” says John Lansdale, director of product development at Butterfield and Robinson, a Canada-based travel company that specializes in slow travel, often by bike or foot. “But it’s more than just moving slower,” he adds. “It’s about interacting with the place while you’re there.”
To this point, slow, guided travel trips often include experiences such as cooking or language lessons with locals, spending more time at one destination to allow for more in-depth activities.
It may be best to do it yourself, giving yourself time to meet the locals in serendipitous moments as you stop and talk in a café or in the village square. “Anyone can carve out a slow travel itinerary for themselves no matter where they visit,” says Laurie Sorrentino, 58, who lives in Naples, Florida, and writes a slow travel blog, travlinmad.com, with her husband, Angelo. “It’s kind of a mentality. It’s just a matter of resisting that temptation to explore an entire country in eight days, and really immerse yourself somewhere, and talk to the locals about their families, their communities, their traditions.”