Picture this. You're living in a hill-top cottage, soaking in the panoramic view from your green balcony. You have no city-hopping to do, no high-end stores to shop at, but you do have a community of locals who introduce you to their homegrown produce and help you gain a truly unique experience during your month-long stay.
If you have an always-on-the-go, busy lifestyle, escaping the cityscape for a while seems ideal. But how often do we actually give ourselves a break, even during a holiday? A 10-day trip to Europe lands us in four nearby countries, and we come back home tired—filled with joy, but tired. And the carbon footprint? Not less than 10 tonnes per person. However, a more sustainable and meaningful approach—slow travel, what you just pictured—has been picking up steam among travellers across the world.What is slow travel?
"An antithesis to mass tourism, slow travel is an opportunity to re-calibrate the way we travel. Slow travel is intentional, immersive and experience-oriented, embodying #TravelDeeper", Neeti Mehra, sustainability consultant and founder of BeejLiving, tells us. "It is transformational; we look to forge meaningful connections with the destinations we travel to and the strangers we meet on our journey, while rediscovering ourselves." In the 1980s, when an international fast-food chain opened in Rome, Italy, a mass protest began against it—in order to preserve the regional cuisine and local farming. What came to be known as the Slow Movement, also gave birth to its offshoot, the concept of slow travel; the kind of tourism that respects local cultures, what they offer, while also being mindful of the environment.How is it relevant right now?
With the entire travel experience upended thanks to the pandemic, the future of the industry is up in the air. Although flights to a few international destinations have opened up, the question of safety and 'should we actually travel?' pops up frequently. So, will tourists be more inclined to travel to popular vacation spots, off-season? Will they be more willing to support local craftspeople during their time of plight?
The norm may witness a change, and people may embrace the attributes of slow travel, even if it's for a while, in huge numbers. According to Mehra, "The whole travel ecosystem has received a shock—and needs a shot in the arm, and support."
She says, "The way we were travelling previously was unsustainable, escapist and mechanical, with regions suffering from over-tourism, climate change and destination fatigue. In the near future, opportunities for travel outside the country will decrease and destinations will be more cautious of over-tourism. Slow travel is more than ever critical to help support communities, local artisans and craftsmen and smaller boutique properties dependent on tourism."What to keep in mind if you're planning to travel slow, according to the sustainability expert
Drop the urgency and pace. Travel less frequently; not because there isn’t enough to see in the world, but too much travel saturates your senses and numbs you to newness. Rather than skimming through destinations, linger in a single city or destination for the entire length of your holiday, immersing yourself as a local.
Try and choose destinations and times of the year which are off-season so as to not burden the place already.
Support grassroot experiences that connect the place with the people, supporting their crafts and local traditions by buying artwork, local handicrafts, food and handloom and savouring local experiences.
Try 'voluntourism', learn permaculture, set off for a meditative retreat, go for a yoga camp or check into an Ayurveda centre. Make travel about an inner journey, not an outward holiday only. Use your hard-earned money and holiday for a complete reboot for your body, mind and soul.
Discover your own backyard. Road trips and local trips around India will explode. Make the most of it.Also read:
Taking a flight during the COVID-19 pandemic? These are all the steps to keep in mind
The updated list of international destinations you can travel to right now
Secluded resorts to city hotels–9 stays for a socially distanced ‘workation’