While most of the world’s travelers are on a short, often two-week, holidays visiting key attraction and taking plenty of photographs, some tourists are able to pull away for a longer period and have a truly memorable experience.
Slow travel is gaining popular with today’s tourists, especially among gap-year students, retirees and anxious 20-somethings in the midst of quarter-life crises.
There are several reasons to consider a slow-going tour of a foreign country or region. It isn’t as expensive as you may think, especially when traveling on a shoestring or in an economy where the exchange rate is in your favor. In these cases, the single greatest expense is your plane ticket, which costs the same no matter how long you’re staying.
Slow travelers are also in a better position to save money once their on the ground at their destination. Rates for some hotels and guest houses go down by the month. Cities with good public transportation are also likely to offer affordable monthly passes that locals use.
Slow travel gives visitors a chance to see the local sites and absorb the culture. There’s something to be said about leaving your hotel, guest house or apartment and walking down the same street, past the same marketplaces and greeting the same people everyday. Once locals realize that you’re here for the long-haul, they’re more likely to take an interest in you, talk to you and even invite you to spend time with them.
Another advantage of taking it slow is the chance to learn a new language. Two weeks is simply not enough time to lay the groundwork for foreign language study. But weeks or months start to add up, and given enough time visitors can really get a handle on a language if they’re spending time with locals. Even if language study isn’t your thing, getting to know the locals is always fun.
Here are a few tips on how to pull off a slow-travel trip:
- Consider upgrading to an open-ended plane ticket (a modest up-charge), which gives you the chance to return home anytime within a year. This way you won’t have any problems if you want to stay longer than you intended or go home earlier than you planned.
- Look online for long-term housing. Daily charges add up quickly, but you’re likely to find good monthly rates on sites like www.craigslist.org, where locals advertise their vacancies.
- Extend the life of your trip by saving money when you can. Take the bus instead of a taxi. If public transportation isn’t available, consider renting a car or scooter. Inexpensive international driver’s licenses are available through travel clubs like AAA.
- Look for a place to stay that has a kitchenette. Self-catering gives you the chance to cook that homemade meal that you’ve been missing.
- Travel with a friend. A traveling companion is the best remedy for homesickness and allows you to split the costs.
- Enroll in a class and take advantage of the long-term visa it affords. Institutes that teach language, martial arts, cooking, and other cultural programs can often acquire long-term visas for their students.