Before embracing the life of a digital nomad, I was no different from countless others—confined to the constraints of a mere few weeks of annual vacation. Those precious days off were typically spent either unwinding in one destination or, if I dared to dream bigger, in a whirlwind of activity, attempting to cram multiple locales into a short-lived escapade.
Even as I transitioned to long-term travel, that familiar rush still caught up with me. I found myself checking off countries and experiences on an ambitious checklist. It wasn’t until the pandemic forced me to slow down and stay in one place for an extended period that I truly fell in love with slow travel. This became a game changer that forever altered the course of my journeys.
What is Slow Travel?
Slow travel is not only the ultimate way to experience a destination in its entirety but it’s also a mindset. It’s about savoring the journey, not just ticking off sights on a travel checklist. When you slow travel around the world, you’re not in a rush to see and do everything, you take the time to truly immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with the people, and experience the destination in a more meaningful way.
As digital nomads, we often have the luxury of time and flexibility, making slow travel the perfect approach for us. Instead of flitting from place to place, we can set up camp in one location for a few weeks or months. This allows us to really get to know a place and to prioritize experiences over sightseeing, rather than just scratching the surface. While not made for everyone, more and more people prefer this travel approach.
How to Plan a Slow Travel Experience?
1. Find the perfect destination
When it comes to planning a slow travel experience, the first step is finding the perfect destination. As digital nomads, we have the luxury of choosing a destination based on different factors such as our desired climate and budget.
For example, if you’re on a budget, destinations in Asia like Thailand and Bali are known for being affordable and having great expat and digital nomad communities. But if you’re not into a tropical climate, Eastern or Southern Europe – like Croatia, Greece and Portugal – may be a better fit. If you’re interested in Thailand, I highly recommend Koh Phangan; you can check out my article about Koh Phangan here.
Don’t forget the American continent, countries like Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Mexico offer great options in terms of costs, community, and internet speed. Australia is also a popular destination for digital nomads, with many cities like Sydney and Melbourne offering a high standard of living and a vibrant digital nomad community. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the cost of living in Australia is relatively high compared to other destinations.
2. Decide on how long to stay
Once you’ve chosen your destination, the next step is deciding how long to stay. My recommendation is to book a place for a few days or weeks to get a feel for the environment and decide if you truly love it. Take into account your comfort level and work schedule; if you’re feeling comfortable and enjoying your stay, look for a longer-term accommodation option. You can search for rentals on Airbnb, explore house-sitting opportunities, or join Facebook groups for digital nomads in the area. Long-term stays can also be more cost-effective.
Some digital nomads prefer to use one location as a base and take short trips in the area, while others prefer staying in one place for several months before moving on. It’s all about personal preference and what works best for you.
3. Be open to new activities and unexpected opportunities
When it comes to slow travel, it’s important to have a general plan in place, but also to be open to unexpected opportunities that come your way. By being flexible and willing to try new things, you’ll be able to make the most of your travel experience and acclimate to your new surroundings quicker. Whether it’s a last-minute trip or trying a new type of food, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
As you spend more time in one place, you’ll discover new activities and ways to immerse yourself in the local culture. For example, learning the local language, taking cooking classes or participating in local events are all great ways to connect with the place you’re visiting.
The key is to take your time and enjoy the journey. Before you know it, you’ll have a list of your favorite places to eat, beaches, fitness clubs, bars, and shopping centers. It’s a sign of great integration.
4. Feel when it’s time to move on
And when it’s time to move on, you’ll just know. It can be sooner or later than you expect, or maybe you’ll never want to leave. Trust your instincts and go with your gut, and don’t feel rushed to leave just because you’ve encountered a challenge or inconvenience. Remember, slow travel is not just about savoring the journey and making the most of every moment, it’s also about personal growth. So, take your time and enjoy the ride.
The Rewards of Slow Travel
As said before, slow travel is not just a way to see the world, it’s a way to truly experience it. Whether you’re a digital nomad or simply looking for a different way to travel, the benefits of slow travel are many and undeniable. Here below you’ll find some of the key advantages of taking a slower approach to travel and how it can enhance your overall travel experience.
1. Local immersion
Instead of rushing from one place to the next, you can truly get to know a destination, its people, and the local culture. Connecting with people and making friends becomes much easier. Also, check out Airbnb’s “Experiences” section for unique opportunities hosted by local experts.
2. A deeper sense of connection
By staying in one location for an extended period, you’re able to form deeper connections with the local community. You have the time to take a step back and truly experience the place, making for a more memorable and enriching travel experience. You may even find yourself becoming a regular at certain spots and developing a sense of familiarity and comfort, like having a second home. In my personal experience, Mexico and Estonia became second homes that I still visit to this day. Every time I return, I get my habits back in seconds and feel like I’m home.
3. Greater flexibility and spontaneity
With more time on your hands, you have the freedom to explore and experience the destination on your own terms. For example, I once had dinner with a friend in Nicaragua who mentioned she was going diving in Honduras. I had never dived before, but this chance encounter allowed me to spontaneously make my way to Utila for my PADI Open Water certification, and it ended up being a great experience. By the way, Honduras is one of the cheapest places in the world to do it. You can check out my article about Utila, Honduras. All this is to say that the beauty of slow travel is the ability to seize unexpected opportunities that come your way.
Staying in one place for an extended period can be more cost-effective than constantly moving from place to place. You have more time to book flights and accommodation at the best prices, and long-term rentals are often more budget-friendly. My own experience in Mexico is a testament to this; as we were able to secure comfortable accommodations due to staying in one place for a longer period.
Additionally, by taking your time to explore, you can discover local restaurants and avoid tourist traps, which in turn can save you money. For additional tips on saving money, feel free to explore my money-saving tips article.
5. Less stress
You will take things at a more leisurely pace, giving you the opportunity to truly relax and enjoy the journey, instead of feeling like you’re constantly on the go. Did you ever experience going on holiday and coming back even more tired than before you left? Slow travel can reduce stress, and the risk of burnout, making the whole experience more enjoyable.
When things don’t go as planned, like flight cancellations or lost luggage, I’m always better able to handle the situation when I’m not rushing around. And for those who may not have a lot of time, consider choosing a few destinations instead of trying to see everything all at once. Slow travel is not only about the journey, but also a mindset.
Slow travel allows for flexibility in scheduling, making it easier to arrange and adapt your travel schedule to your work deadlines. And the good news is that now, post-pandemic, more and more companies allow remote work. Here you can find the best travel jobs out there.
Final Thoughts – Slow travel: See more by seeing less
In a nutshell, slow travel is all about taking it slow, savoring the journey, and choosing quality over quantity. And it’s not just for digital nomads, it’s for anyone looking to travel in a more authentic, meaningful, and obviously slower way.
Throughout this post, I’ve shared the benefits of slow travel for digital nomads and provided tips on how to plan your slow travel experience. While not made for everyone, more and more people are discovering that by seeing less, they are able to see and experience more.
So, if you’re tired of the fast-paced, tick-off-the-sights kind of travel, give slow travel a try. Take your time, enjoy the journey, and make amazing memories. As a digital nomad, it was a game-changer for me, and I’m sure it will be for you too.