Let’s take it slow...

Let’s take it slow...

Ever came back from a vacation only to crave for another? It’s time to pump the brakes and slow down. A rising trend, slow travelling promises a holiday like no other, writes A Varsha Rao

Lake Malawi, Africa

Travel is everyone’s favourite addiction. We all love to pack our bags, put on our holiday clothes, get into vacay mood, and head out on a ‘journey’ that holds with it a promise to take away all our stress, banish all our worldly troubles, and transform us into new people over the course of a week or two. 

Initially, our vacay checklist included things like visiting the important landmarks of a place, enjoying local food, and clicking just enough photographs. However, the scene today is very different. We search for locations based on how ‘Instagrammable’ they are, cram as much as we can in our already overflowing itinerary, visit every little tourist attraction even if they don’t interest us, click hundreds of photographs and selfies trying to nail that ‘perfect’ shot, and eventually come back home more exhausted than before. Consequently, we end up craving for a vacation from our vacation.

However, there are many travellers who are taking the path less trodden today, which is ‘slow travel’. Stemming from the ‘slow food movement’, which began in the late 1980s in Italy, slow travel refers to the art of travelling consciously and connecting to the local people and culture. The story of slow food movement began when an Italian named Carlo Petrini and a group of activists protested the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome in order to preserve regional food traditions, traditional gastronomic philosophies, and celebrated life in a slow pace. 

Slow travel is not slow, per se, but is, in fact, about travelling mindfully. So, out goes your ‘five cities in six days’ itinerary. Slow travelling forces you to prioritise your vacay goals and emphasises on the need for ‘connection’. So, this means that you travel to one or two places at the most, immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with the locals, shop at local markets, discover little-known nuggets of the place, and finally, leave feeling like a part of the place itself. Here, faster is certainly not better.

Slow travel not only benefits you, the traveller, but also the places you choose to visit. Once your overflowing itinerary goes out the window, the pressure on all the heavily touristy places reduces, and your own carbon footprint takes a dive. Slow travel is also perfect for budget-friendly travellers who love to get the most bang for their buck. When you stay in one place for an extended period of time, chances of getting a great deal on your accommodation and food are greater since you would be staying in local homestays, rental homes, and eating in local eateries.  Here are a few destinations for you to try out slow travel in:

Pranburi, Thailand

It’s natural to think of Bangkok and Phuket when someone says ‘Thailand’. Unfortunately, places like these are reeling under overtourism, because of which the country is now banning sections of the region to protect its natural resources. However, Pranburi in central Thailand is one gem that is still unexplored. The beach here could easily contend for a spot in the ‘top 10 beaches of the world’ list. What more, its ‘isolated’ vibe can make you feel refreshed in no time. As with other places in Thailand, Pranburi is also home to a national park (Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park), a group of caves (Tham Kaeos), and a colourful shrine (Tabtim Shrine).

Tirthan Valley, HP, India

Offering front-row seats to the majestic Himalayas, along with lush waterfalls, serene lakes, quaint villages, and sky-high mountains, Tirthan Valley is probably Himachal Pradesh’s best-kept secret. Comparatively lesser-known than the other popular spots of Himachal, Tirthan Valley is the perfect candidate for all your hillside getaway dreams. Stay in a charming Himalayan homestay, hike in the Great Himalayan National Park, spend some time with just yourself by the Tirthan river, head to tiny villages to learn how the locals live, or just camp under the stars. Tirthan Valley is where all your detox dreams come true.

Canmore, Canada

Canada is probably one of the few countries in the world which is perfect for all seasons. But while everyone heads to the conventional Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, why don’t you head a little west of Calgary, to Canmore, a town that’s nestled in the famed Rocky Mountains? Get some serious hiking done in Ha Ling Peak, and enjoy stunning views of the valley below.

For those who love their spirits, Canmore offers a distillery, Wild Life Distillery, that gives visitors a glimpse into the entire spirit-making process. A little secret? They use fresh mountain water for all their creations! Don’t forget to visit the stunningly beautiful Grassi Lakes; you have to hike to reach this place and the route takes you across a waterfall and impressive foresty regions.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos is not the first country that comes to your mind when someone says ‘Southeast Asia’. However, you would be missing out on a wonderful gem if you don’t visit Luang Prabang, often called ‘the jewel in Laos’s crown’. Situated perfectly at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is the perfect mix of art, culture, nature and nightlife, which is why it’s also the country’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the intricate gold details in the temples here, enjoy a refreshing dip in Kuang Si Waterfall, cruise along the mighty Mekong, rejuvenate with a Thai massage, or get your hands dirty by learning how rice is grown. You can also explore your spiritual side by participating in the ‘alms giving ceremony’. You just take a spot outside any temple and drop in your offering (rice, fruits, snacks) into the bags of the monks.

Golden City Temple, Luang Prabang
Golden City Temple, Luang Prabang

Malawi, Africa

Located in Southeast Africa, Malawi is rarely on the tourist’s radar. But this country, adjoining the stunning Lake Malawi, should be able to satisfy all your holiday cravings in one go. The first thing you need to do here is to go visit Lake Malawi, the third-largest lake in Africa, which was discovered about 150 years ago. It’s also one of the few lakes in the world that offers snorkelling and scuba diving. Of course, if it’s Africa, there has to be wildlife, too. So, check out Liwonde National Park and meet a wide array of wildlife such as elephants, black rhinos and hippos. But whatever you do, don’t miss out gorging on some authentic Malawi fare that’s generous with chillies, meat, and fish. 

How to go slow

* Apply the principle of ‘mind over matter’ when slow travelling. Here, you can’t expect world-class resorts, personal chauffeur or top-notch dining. Live like a local.

* Slow travel is not about physically travelling slow. It’s about finding the perfect pace for your vacation.

* While it’s best that you keep your digital gadgets away here, it’s also possible to find a middle ground. You can still use all your digital tools on your holiday as long as it doesn’t hamper your vacay vibe.

* Create a balanced itinerary. Be mindful of what you are trying to cover each day and ensure you leave enough time for your body, mind and soul to recoup.

* Say no to FOMO. Ditch the notion that you have to go to the exact same spot that your best friend or favourite actor put in their Instagram.

* Learn the lingo. If you want to travel like a local, you have to learn the local language.

* Walk, walk, walk. In order to savour unique experiences, you have to ditch the comfort of a car or a bus. Walking around will take you to off-the-grid gems of any place. You can also cycle.

* Get involved in local activities. Sign up for a cooking class, attend a local game, volunteer... it’s a great way of experiencing a place.