The Sweet Rhythm of Slow Travel
Updated: Jun 10, 2018
Embracing a relaxed tempo while traveling abroad can help you truly connect with the place you're in, and with yourself! Follow the lead of a great Italian philosophy to make the most of every moment on your next global journey, whether it's in Italy, Europe, or anywhere your curiosity takes you.
One of the most exciting things about exploring other parts of the world is discovering the rhythms and patterns of a place and its people. Almost as though each country and its inhabitants were engaged in the steps of a complex dance, there is a tempo to life abroad that is unique to each destination. For much of the world, that tempo is slower than the American one, and visiting these relaxed areas can sometimes leave us feeling a little out of sync. We want to see and do everything, in a preciously short amount of time, and we have a schedule to keep! But what if we turned ourselves over to the tempo of the places we find ourselves in, instead of keeping to our own rapid beat? More often than not, the reward is a truer experience and understanding of that culture, and a more genuine vacation from our hectic daily lives.
In Italy there is a beautiful saying that encapsulates the value in slow travel: "dolce far niete", or "the sweetness of doing nothing". This isn't to be confused with laziness, but is rather a celebration of the joy to be found in lingering over a long lunch with good food, good wine, and good friends. Or finding a lovely spot and taking the time to truly appreciate and witness the majesty of the setting sun. It's wandering around a market place to soak in the sights, smells, sounds, and flavors of a place with no particular aim in mind except to follow wherever your inspiration might take you. It is to genuinely allow yourself to relax and, free from responsibility and pressures, open yourself up to really experience the world around you in all its wonder. They say that when in Rome, you should "do as the Romans do", but I'll take it one step further to suggest that "dolce far niece" deserves a place in all of our travels the world over.
So what does slow travel look like in action? I would argue that a vacation spent in an exotic destination with infinite time allocated to exploring, enjoying, and unwinding would not be a vacation wasted. However, most of us want to balance that relaxation with the big sights and experiences that led to our visiting a destination in the first place. A Roman holiday eating pasta at local cafes and discovering small shops off the beaten path sounds wonderful, but surely seeing the Colosseum should also be on the to-do list! Like most things in life, doing the best of both is about attitude and balance. For your next amazing vacation, consider the value of slow travel and try these tips for living la dolce vita and dancing to the tempo of each country you visit:
1. Plan fewer activities per day. The same way you wouldn't pack your whole closet to go on vacation, editing activities is important too. There are simply too many incredible experiences in the world to ever do each one of them, and overcommitting to too many sights in a short amount of time will almost certainly be detrimental to your experience of all of them. If your schedule is so tight that you have only thirty minutes to explore the Uffizi Gallery, then while you may "see" the incredible artwork on display, you're not truly appreciating it. By prioritizing and editing your activities, you'll enrich your travel experiences many times over. Without the stress and exhaustion of racing from sight to sight, you'll be able to enjoy the full richness of travel at its best.
2. Take some time to learn in advance what the local people of your destination do, and then emulate it. If all the locals prefer to sip their espresso and enjoy their pastries in the coffee bar, why not try doing the same instead of getting your coffee to go? You'll find many of these changes are not only more relaxing, but will help you fit in with the local culture and its expectations. After all, who wouldn't love a "riposo", or siesta, as part of their daily lives? You're on vacation - take it!
3. What would you consider a true indulgence? Amazing food, fantastic wine, a luxurious day at the spa, or perhaps simply having the time to sit and read a book? Whatever your indulgence is, make it a point to luxuriate in it on your trip - preferably in a unique and local way. Seek out the specialty cuisine of your region, or savor the rare wine varietal that can only be found where you are. Enjoy a soak in a local hot spring, or read up on the history or art of the area you are visiting. These indulgent experiences will be true to the place you're in, and will enrich your time there by helping you really connect with the culture.
4. One of the best ways to slow down is to get out into nature. I love to shop in a local market for regional foods - cured meats, cheeses, bread, wine, produce - and then find a scenic hike or viewpoint to a stunning vista to enjoy with my picnic. The combination of fresh air and activity with a stunning natural environment, and the flavors to match, is truly inspiring. Many of my favorite memories in travel come from this sort of connection with nature. If you're deeply inside an urban center, choose to picnic in a park for the same kind of effect!
5. To really appreciate and reflect upon your journey, it's always interesting to travel with a journal. Something lightweight and highly portable that you can take out whenever inspiration strikes you is ideal. I find when I'm journalling that I write less about what I did, and more about how it looked, smelled, tasted or sounded. I especially love to write about how it made me feel, so that I can keep the experience with me once I return to my everyday life again. Practicing reflection and appreciation with a journal is a fantastic way to truly take notice of the world around you, and to be a thoughtful witness in the destination you're visiting.
I hope these ideas inspire you to consider some slow travel in your upcoming adventures - you'll be amazed by how rich and meaningful every moment will be when you do like the Italians do and embrace "dolce far niete"!
Kellyn Reed is the founder and CEO of Summit and Horizon Travel, specializing in curating authentic and luxurious global journeys to help you discover the very best the world has to offer. Ready to start planning your next amazing adventure? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to bring your ideal trip to life, and take advantage of our exclusive access to insider rates, perks, insights, and inclusions. We'll take care of every detail to ensure every vacation with us is your best vacation yet!