Home Podcast Episode 15: How (and Why) to Embrace the Slow Travel Mindset

Episode 15: How (and Why) to Embrace the Slow Travel Mindset

written by Sam and Veren July 9, 2020
Episode 15: How (and Why) to Embrace the Slow Travel Mindset

In this episode, we’ll build off of last week’s episode, where we discussed the current state of travel during the pandemic, and how to expand our definition of travel. One of those ways is through embracing slow travel.

As we’ll share, slow travel isn’t about length of time in a place: it’s a mindset. We’ll talk about what slow travel is, how to do it, and most importantly, WHY you should be embracing slow travel, especially now. 

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In this Slow Travel Episode, We’ll Share:

  • How to identify what travel means to you – why do you travel?
  • What travel means to us
  • How our backgrounds and fields of study influenced what travel means to us
  • Some insights into travel industry marketing
  • Thoughts on consumerist consumption attitudes in travel
  • Turning travel into a transformative experience
  • What slow travel means
  • Different ways to embrace slow travel
  • Why you should consider embracing a slow travel mindset
  • and a lot more!

Links + Resources Mentioned

These transcripts have been automatically generated and then edited by us, so please excuse any typos, missed capitalization, weird phrasing, etc. Humans talk very differently than they write, as we’ve learned! There are just topics that just lend themselves better to conversations rather than blog posts, but we also want the podcast to be accessible to all.

Hit the green “plus” button below or hit download to access the full transcript.

Sam: Welcome back to the alternative travelers podcast. In today's episode we are going to build off what we were talking about last week, which is expanding our definitions and concept of travel. Specifically today we're going to be talking all about slow travel.

But first we want to ask the question: what is travel in the first place? So Veren, could you share your thoughts on what travel is? I know you have a lot of philosophical thoughts.

Veren: Basically we're not going to give you a definition from the books on what travel is.

If you look it up in a dictionary, travel is a way of getting from one place to another from point A to B. But that’s not travel in the way that most of us think of it, because if you're someone who says “I need to travel more often,” but you go to work every day and commute, you’re technically traveling. So of course, you're not talking about that travel that you want to do more.

What is the travel that you actually want to do more of? So as much as we're going to talk about travel, I encourage you to think about what your definition of travel is and what travel means to you.

So I'm going to talk about what travel means to me and Sam's going to talk about what travel means, before we get into what is slow travel.

Sam: So, what does it mean to you, Veren?

Veren: What does travel mean to me? So for me, travel means going to another place and seeing how other people live.

So according to that definition, going to Europe and hopping to a different city every couple of days within the span of a couple weeks is not travel for me. That sounds like a chore, that sounds like a terrible experience. However, a lot of people travel like that and they may get something out of that.

I would argue they don't. I think your whole experience is a blur and what you're seeing is more or less things constructed for the tourist eye and the tourist gaze, rather than what residents and locals actually live and experience. You're seeing this happen more and more, with a lot of tourism, especially with overtourism, which dramatically changes a lot of city centers, especially in Europe, into something that is more marketable than it is an actual real experience that other people have.

Instead, it becomes - how can we make this appealing to tourists? The original idea was people wanted to come somewhere to experience another culture. And at that point, I would argue just go to Disneyland.

That's the direction that these places are going. And I would take a step further back and think about why do you want to go to these places? Why do we want to go to Paris? Why do we want to go to Venice? I'd argue it's mostly to do with marketing and tourist industry promotion.

To me, I think it's all about movies. I went to school as a film major and I studied film theory and film production. I do feel that film is a very powerful medium to be an empathy machine to let you into other people's lives. It's also a very powerful cultural projection machine and gives us ideas of what it's like to be in other places and what the different places are like.

I think the question you should ask yourself is, why do you think Paris is romantic? I think that's the best place to start. I almost can guarantee you that it wasn't because you met someone there or that you had a friend who fell in love there. It's because of movies and all these stupid boring cliche movies about people falling in love in Paris. Think about what that image and who that image benefits.

So then people go visit Paris for Valentine's Day or weekend or whatever. And of course that helps bring in a ton of money to the tourist industry there. So, I would say take a step back and ask yourself, why do you insist on going to certain places? Is it because you have a real personal connection there or you've just had these images and ideas beamed to you on a regular basis where you just kind of want to live out a movie.

Sam: Yeah, well, that's why so many people want to go to New York. So many movies are filmed there.

Veren: Absolutely. Absolutely, New York's another great example of this.

Sam: So...can I share what travel means to me?

Veren: I wasn't gonna ask you at all, actually ever. But now that you reminded me. I realized I was gonna ask you.

Sam: Okay, thank you for asking.

Veren: So, what does travel mean to you? Sam?

Sam: Thanks for asking, Veren. It's similar. So I have a similar definition of travel. Although slightly different for me. Travel is all about experiencing a different culture and way of life which is obviously very similar to what Veren said. But for me it goes back to my background, my field of study, which is that I went to college for anthropology. So that's all about different cultures and observing them.

And that's something that I'm very interested in. I also studied Spanish language, culture, history as a minor, so that was the impetus for me moving to Spain. Once I had lived abroad, I was like wow, this is amazing, because I got to spend time in one place, really seeing what the culture was like. I'm sure we'll have to do an episode on Spanish cultural differences at some point that'll be very fun.

But you really don't get insights into a culture over a couple days. You just don't because there's all these nuances.

Anthropologists do what's called fieldwork, a field study, which is when you're living somewhere within a different culture group of people from a different community. It could be a subculture within your dominant culture even, it doesn't have to be going somewhere else, although historically that has meant that. But you're not going there for a couple days or even a week. You're going there for months over years. There's still more to learn. I think that ties in with the aspect of slow travel for me as well.

A lot of filmmaking, anyway the type of filmmaking that you like to do, is about observing the minutiae of daily life kind of thing. It’s similar for me, which is what I think has informed how we like to travel.

Though I will say that I do differ from Veren a bit in that I do have more desire and drive to see more of the landmarks or famous places or whatever. Although I don't want to go to overtouristed places because I don't like it when it's super crowded. But given the chance in the off season or if I have someone to visit, like I have a friend living in Paris right now, like sure I'll definitely love to go visit under those contexts and I have actually in the past.

So it kind of depends for me, I'm not like a blanket - I won't go to certain places. I know you're not necessarily saying that Veren but yeah, that's what travel means to me. It's all about the journey, not the destination.

Veren: I would argue that I am mostly saying not to go sightseeing.

Sam: okay so nevermind.

Veren: no you can say that. It doesn't mean I completely abstain from it altogether that's not true. For the most part I have zero interest in seeing the Eiffel Tower and if there's gonna be a crowd there, I have even less interest. I don't want to be jostled and pushed around by a bunch of tourists trying to take pictures for Instagram or whatever the hell they post photos on. I just have zero interest in that because I have no real connection to that other than movies.

Sam: You're such a curmudgeon.

Veren: Yeah sure, you can call it that. I would argue that what is your conception of New York? If you've lived in New York versus visited there, if you're some of those people who have, think about how different that is.

I know from our own experience of coming from New York living in New York City and talking to other people it's just a very different experience. You'd have people who live in New York talk about how to really experience New York you have to live there.

Yet those same people will go on these city hopping terrible trips zooming around and talk about how they’ve been to that country so they don't need to go there again. And you spent 24 hours in a country eating at a couple of restaurants. Is that really experiencing a country?

Because if you flipped it around and said that about New York and said, hey, “I went to New York City one time, I went to Times Square and I went and stood on top of the Empire State Building and then I visited the Statue of Liberty, so I experienced what it's like to be in New Yorker.”

All the New Yorkers would be like, “what are you talking about? You're fucking crazy.” So it's interesting how we'll suddenly kind of put on a different cap, almost like a different way of thinking, when we leave where we live and go visit other places where people live. I encourage you to not turn those just into open-air museums.

Sam: Yeah, it’s just about the consumption of a place. I consumed Rome for 24 hours. I have been there. It's checked off my list.

Veren: They’ll say, “I did Paris, I did Rome” right at that kind of thinking.

Sam: I hate that so much.

Veren: I think we can both be in agreement about how we have a general disdain for the consumerist consumption aspect of travel that's touted so much these days.

Sam: Yeah, it's just like another thing to show off on Instagram and another thing to consume just to you know be like, “I ate pizza in Italy and I had tapas in Spain.” It doesn't even matter what locals are eating because cuisine varies greatly obviously, depending on where you are in those countries and any country obviously.

Yeah, it's a real problem, that constant desire to consume more no matter what it is. There's so much out there. We're consuming content, we're on social media, we're consuming, consuming, we have to consume different travel destinations all the time. Otherwise, we're not really traveling. This goes against everything slow travel, because it's just about how many countries you can count and how many places you can check off.

And you can't ever check off a place because there's always something to explore, if you're being creative.

Veren: So one last point I want to make about travel is regardless of how you feel about travel if you think it's super exciting to do a lot of city hopping or just spend weekends in very far away quote unquote exotic places, think about what experience is being constructed for a tourist versus what experience has been constructed for local or a resident.

Why do you want to experience that? Do you want to live your life like you're in a movie? If you've seen a ton of movies you go, oh my god, “I want that experience. I want to go somewhere that makes me feel like I'm in that movie.”

Or you interested in experiencing another place? Because when you start to have a very consumerist consumption approach, you’re reducing people and places into commodities. You're essentially dehumanizing people, you're devaluing what's important to them. We've seen that in overtourism.

This is literally something that's like destroying the fabric of people's communities and cultures. It has a very very negative impact on people so we want to just stress, or at least I want to really stress, to really think about your motivations for travel and what is it that you want to experience.

What would make a successful trip to you?

Is it having an itinerary that gives you something to do every hour from 10 am to 9 pm and you just fall asleep right as you get home and do the next thing, the same thing again, and just have a whirlwind of an experience? Or could you try to maybe take a different approach?

Sam: When you mentioned just turning people into commodities, it's a very colonialist, imperialist mindset.

Veren: yeah absolutely. “Doing” a country, “doing Paris” yeah.

Sam: As we're all kind of trying to hopefully become aware of our own biases and privileges and mindsets regarding marginalized peoples, it goes all the way back to when countries like the US and the UK were founded and their imperialism. Not to get all into that, but it's not like these ideas came out of a vacuum, as if suddenly social media happened and people wanted to do this, it's like that happened because of historical ideas. Anyway, not to go down that rabbit hole.

Veren: yeah, it's important to examine the legacy of something that exists today. Travel’s legacy essentially started from people in very privileged positions. Now it's become a lot more available to more people essentially.

Sam: Yeah, which is great, but it has kind of run rampant at this point and I hope travel 2.0 is very different from what travel has become in recent years, especially.

So part of that I hope is slow travel to transition into that.

Veren: I think the easiest way to think about slow travel is to make it actionable - think, what can you do to slow down your travel?

So Sam what is slow travel?

Sam: Yeah, I just think it's looking at we've already been talking about already, looking at how you're traveling. Slow travel is a mindset.

It's not about the length of time that you have to stay in a place. It's about how you approach that travel, that time that you have there. I know that most of our audience listening are Americans, and we have shit vacation hours. So, even if you only have two weeks vacation, then you can still practice slow travel.

Instead of trying to do the typical Eurotrip of spending your two weeks vacation country hopping to 14 different countries, spending two days in each place, spend the whole time in one country. Wouldn't that be a different experience?

And we're not saying to spend the whole time in one city necessarily, or one place, although obviously you could and that would be great. I'm sure you'd have a wonderful experience. But you could travel around that country at a much slower pace. Travel over land, do a road trip. All those things are much better for the environment as well, as compared to hopping on a plane every couple days. We talked about that in our ten tips for sustainable travel in an earlier episode, so I can link to that in the show notes. Slow travel definitely ties in very strongly with that.

So how do we make this more clear and actionable? What does slow travel actually look like? So you're like, “okay that sounds good. I want to experience a place in a deeper way.” How do you actually go about doing that, because this kind of involves turning that traditional definitions on their heads, like we already talked about earlier in this episode.

So how but how would you actually go about doing that? What does that look like?

Veren: As an example, we can use this piece from the Guardian where the author talks about skipping the iconic. When she goes to visit a particular place, she doesn't get caught up with seeing all the iconic landmarks. Her father is a huge influence on her for this change of mind.

He doesn't really enjoy doing those things. It kind of forced her to really look at what she is really getting out of these things too. And so now when she goes to certain countries with her father to travel, in order to be more inclusive of how he likes to travel, they slow everything down. They don't come up with a long laundry to do list of “here's all the things I need to do while we're here.” Instead, it's much more maybe open-ended.

Sam: Yeah, the reason why she started thinking about this was her father, like you said, but she lives in like the US I believe or maybe the UK. Anyway, and she would always invite her father to come visit her at certain times but he wouldn't come because it was mango season in India and he was like, “why would I leave when it's mango season? He's like, I'm not doing it. I'm not leaving when it's mango season.”

So he doesn't he didn't care. She would invite him to go on trips with her to all these different glamorous places and he just didn't care because mangoes were more important to him and that's amazing. Gotta respect him.

He knew what he wanted, and it wasn't fast travel. He wanted his mangoes! He's like, “I'm looking forward to this all year, why would I leave when all the mangoes are amazing right now?”

Veren: I can definitely relate to that because in New York with the really big Indian population and the neighborhood I used to live in was basically like a little India. There was a time of the year where a great selection of mangoes were being imported and I would eat so many mangoes. You buy them by the box load. Granted not as cheap as in India. Of course anything that's imported is gonna be marked up, but I totally get that because based on the best mangoes I've ever had, if I knew I could have that every day for a couple of months, it would be hard for me to leave too.

Sam: Yeah, so skip the iconic. That’s one thing to do to be slow traveling. Again, I would add my own personal caveat out to this. Be like okay, that doesn't mean you have to like eschew that. Say you're walking around and you happen to pass by the Eiffel Tower.

It's not like you have to close your eyes, so you don't see it. Though maybe Veren would. You don't have to keep those off your itinerary either, but just like maybe not making that the backbone of what you're gonna be doing, just running around from one landmark to the next.

Veren: I mean a lot of people are on their vacations and the main idea behind a vacation is to relax, take a break from being busy. It's kind of ironic that some people just cram their schedule when they go to visit someplace with a million things to do.

So if instead you take an opposite approach which is like, “I'm gonna be there and I'm gonna slow things down. I'm just gonna sit at a coffee table. I'm just gonna sit in a cafe, sip coffee and watch my surroundings for a few hours and then maybe if I feel like I'd go see a site. Maybe limit to once a day one every other day. I mean, just give it a try and you might see that it's actually better for you.

Sam: you'd probably get way more value out of those few sites that you do see, because you're gonna be more intentional about them. Instead of just, “oh I have to see all the sites!” Be like, what do you actually really care about seeing, based on your own interests. Not just what other people are telling you need to see. Then you can really engage with that place fully, if that's the only thing you have decided to do that day.

Yeah, so we’ve got skipping the iconic, we have sitting and people watching whether you like cinema cafe or just sit in a park or whatever, slowing down, your itinerary, whatever that entails.

And you could also do things like, we haven't actually done any of this, but a way to engage with the local culture could be doing something like a cooking class or a class where you learn something about the culture. Maybe if you’re into art, I don't know, there are different classes run by locals, depending on where you go. Such as maybe a textile weaving class if you're somewhere where that's a thing, or making some form of local art or whatever. That's more of a slow travel experience that gets you connecting with people. It's about learning something about the culture as well, which I think it has a lot to do with slow travel.

Veren: Another way related to that is already trying to have a human connection in place to the place you're gonna go. So for example, I've never really just arbitrarily traveled anywhere. Some people find that as a really great experience, to kind of just pick themselves up and drop themselves wherever and a whole other different place or world. That has its benefits for sure, to kind of pull yourself out of your comfort zone. But because I couldn't afford to pay for accommodations anywhere, my first voyeurs into traveling were to go see friends in other places, where they lived.

I was accumulating friends over the years and if they came to visit, they'd be like, “come and visit me!” So it was in that way that I was really able to experience a place through their point of view. When you tend to do this, it also forces you to slow down your travel because very often they're not in vacation mode like you are. They'll choose one thing that fits into their schedule of a work day that they feel comfortable doing, that's not going to make them feel too exhausted and maybe allow them to decompress a bit. So in a lot of ways, when you go to visit people, yeah, you might time it so that they have a little bit of time off, but more often than not they have to kind of fit you in. It forces you to maybe not just be doing a litany of things but rather center certain experiences of you know, just a couple per day for example.

Sam: People might be thinking, “like, oh well you guys are travel bloggers and podcasters, you travel for living. I'm sure you guys have tons of friends everywhere. What about me? I don't.” To that, I'm gonna say, you can easily make friends in other places. The internet exists and that's how we've made a lot of friends in other places.

We connected with couch surfers in Romania, we didn't know anyone in Romania before we went, we connected with people on couch surfing and we made friends. Friends doesn't have to mean people that you have a previous long, in person friendship with. It can be people that you connect with online.

That's a big part of why we like house sitting. Even though we're not necessarily friends with the people that we house it for before we meet them, sometimes we become friends afterwards, but it's a connection. We’ve been introduced to places via the people that we've been house sitting for. We've been to many places where we haven't known anyone before except for the homeowner. So that is definitely a very big connection.

I've connected with people, like I said to through couchsurfing through Facebook groups for things that you're already interested in, through Instagram. Say you really want to go to Japan. I know we've mentioned it before, that’s our dream destination, one of them anyway. You could already be connecting with people over there before you go. People love showing you around where they live and they're gonna be very upfront with you about that. There's many different ways to connect with people online before you go to a place.

You don't have to think of it in terms of, “let me look at my friend group now. Where are they? oh they're not anywhere cool.” I would argue that maybe they are somewhere that would be cool if you just gave it a chance. But I also just want to say that you don't have to limit yourself in that way. You can make friends online, that's how we've met a lot of people. So we're not doing anything special. I want to reiterate that because I know that people might be thinking that. So anyway, I just wanted to add that.

To pick off from the different benefits that you're gonna get out of slow travel. Could you start us off with one, Veren?

Veren: So we like to say that you will have a much more meaningful experience with the people, the places, and the culture when you slow travel and we'll give some examples for each of them.

Sam: So let’s start off with people, because we were just kind of talking about friends and people. We have so many examples here of times when we have connected with people that have enhanced our experience somewhere. So could you share an example?

Veren: yeah one of our favorite examples is the Momo master.

Momos are the Tibetan word for dumplings. According to a lot of the Tibetan students that I used to teach, they were the original Momo Masters, essentially. They're the ones that made dumplings. And then that in turn influenced China and then that in turn made its way to Europe in the form of raviolis and pierogies etc etc.

Anyways, we were just kind of meandering around in Berlin, we didn't have a set itinerary. We very much were like there's one place we want to check out - I forget what this place is called - like the rail yard or something like that,

Sam: I can link our alternative things to do in Berlin post which talks about it.

Veren: yeah so we'll link that, so we go to this one place, it has a lot of outdoor food carts even though it was late winter. So it's already a bit cold, but there are still people outside walking around. On our way towards the end, after just looking around at every stall, there was this one stall farther down, a little food truck so to speak.

It was called the Momo master and we go over and we're like, “oh wow,” we're just looking at all the different things that he makes and stuff. It's mostly just Momos, dumplings. He had meat dumplings and he had vegetable dumplings and we were telling him, “oh we definitely want to come back, we're just gonna check out the rest of this area. We're very interested in trying them.”

So when we came back, he was near closing. And because he wasn't busy, we were able to do a lot of talking. This man was from Tibet and he spoke I think five languages. I was just super impressed with how many languages he spoke and how well he spoke them. From what we could tell, he probably spoke German really well, we knew he spoke English, there's Tibetan and then I don't know what the other two were, he did list them at the time. But he was just so gregarious and friendly and loved to talk about the whole experience.

I told him about how my first run in with Tibetan culture was where I used to work in Queens, where a lot of my students were Tibetan and also Nepali. There's a lot of overlap in the cultures there. It was just really really fascinating to talk to him and learn about his life and how he's just been all over the world. He decided to settle there and just make Momos.

They were amazing by the way. He decided to just give us some. He's like, “I’ve gotta pack up, I'm kind of done for the day. So here, just have these.” He just gave us so many free momos.

I was getting almost too full, but I still kept eating them anyways.

Sam: Yeah that was really fun and now I'm getting hungry thinking about those momos.There's just been so many examples of when we've just been wandering around and we end up talking to people. We don't have an itinerary, like, “oh shit we gotta hit the museum before it closes at five.”

Veren: Exactly. I want to stress that point. If we had some arbitrary tight schedule to stick to, we might have not been open to that. We might have not come back to see him. If we came back to see him with five minutes, would he have wanted to engage with us? If we seemed like we were in a hurry, then probably not. I mean, even as he was closing up, he didn't seem in a hurry. He was just very candid about it. I think that creating that having that mindset when you come into it will make you more perceptive and more receptive to having and making these kinds of connections

Sam: yes so building off of our episode last week when we were talking about what you can do right now to travel locally. You can absolutely strike up conversation with people more often.

It seems like such a little thing but, you'd be surprised. To give an example from the US, one time we were house sitting last year for a couple months in Greensboro North Carolina. We were just sitting outside, it was the first warm spring day. We're sitting out at this brewery, having some beers, and this woman across the table from us was eating some popcorn. Veren was eyeing her popcorn and she was like, “oh I have this whole bag, do you want some?” So she joined us, we shared her popcorn and we chatted with her and learned all about her life, she was super cool. She was a rocker, probably in her fifties I guess. She's just telling us her life story.

So anyway, it doesn't have to be something like meeting a Tibetan man in Berlin. That sounds a lot more, so exciting, so worldly, but it doesn't have to necessarily look like that. It's about human connection no matter where you are, and you can do that right now. Just you know, maintain six feet distance.

Veren: Yeah I mean we can come up with even more local examples. Another thing I like to do nowadays, is ask - when you're in a small business or even just any employee - ask them how they're doing. Even if it's at the supermarket. It's a great way, if you're gonna go visit somewhere a town over and do some local travel, ask them how they're doing. You'll have a conversation, you'll strike up on the very real connection we all have, which is we're all experiencing this pandemic together, whether we want to be together or not. That's what's happening. So I think it's super important that you check in with people and your local travels, that's a great way to connect with people.

Sam: Yeah, so we could I mean, we could go on on this one forever, but that just just to give you an idea.

Veren: So the next thing we want to talk about - in what you can have with slow travel is more meaningful connections with the place.

Sam: yeah, so I think this is pretty obvious when it comes to travel. I think you travel to different place to try to connect with the place. But again, we always want to challenge - how are you connecting with a place via fast travel? If it's just a backdrop for pretty pictures and that kind of stuff. I know everyone who listens to this podcast, maybe we're speaking to the choir, because you guys are already alternative travelers. But you know, I think these things can be so ingrained that it can be hard to get away from them or you don't even know where to begin with traveling in a different way. So how do you connect with the place in a more slow travel way?

Veren: Well an example, I'd like to give is an example that I experienced vicariously actually. Back when I was living in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York City. I was renting a room in a house, the landlord who at the time we were becoming pretty good friends. He had someone come to visit and they were actually from Catalonia. I learned this when I asked, “oh you're you're Spanish” because he had come from Spain. He stood up and was like, “no, I'm Catalan!” So that's a whole other story to go into. But this Catalan man from Spain was visiting. He was just interested in hanging out. I mean clearly if he wanted to see Times Square, he could have gone and done that. We were very far from Times Square. So already by wanting to come stay there, he was showing an interest in what it's like to live in New York City. I would argue no one lives in Manhattan anymore, not that I know. I hear about people on TV that live in Manhattan, but I don't personally know them. It's very expensive there, so most of the people who are having a much more grounded experience in New York City are living in the outer boroughs which are Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx and I guess if you want to count Staten Island.

But anyways, we were gonna go to the landlord's beach house, which was already a bit of a trek, even coming from Queens to the Rockaways, Rockaway Beach in Queens. He could have taken a train in and decided to go see Times Square that day or the Statue of Liberty. But instead, he opted to take a bus ride with me through the outer regions of the borough, all the way over to the beach. I remember him saying while we were sitting there and he's looking out the window, really admiring all these houses that are right on the water in an area neighborhood called Broad Channel, he was like, “oh wow, this this is what it means when people say the difference between a tourist and a traveler. Right now what I'm doing is being a traveler.”

I was like yeah man, absolutely.

Sam: Yeah that's it. So that exemplifies so many things about engaging with the place in a slow travel way. Being open to the opportunities that come your way, no matter if they were on your list or not.

Veren: there was nothing glamorous or romantic about taking a city bus to a city beach. But he clearly got a real experience from that, that's probably super memorable and something that he shares to this day back in Spain. He can tell people hey, I saw what it looked like to actually live New York City, like the places we could actually live.

Sam: “I saw the real New York.”

Veren: yeah exactly.

Sam: Talking about public transportation, we've had so many interesting experiences on public transportation. I think that's another slow travel kind of thing to do because if you're just hopping in your car zooming around and you're in your separate little sphere. Whereas if you are traveling on public transportation, obviously, it takes much longer. So you get to go through different neighborhoods that you never would have gone through. Different areas, if you're going from between cities if you're going out to wherever. You're seeing things in a different way, buses, have little lives of their own. Trains, people come on, people come off. It's just a microcosm of city life.

US public transportation is obviously horrendous, but in different places you can take buses and trains to the countryside or to small towns or to different things like that, so just it depends on where you are and obviously right now public transportation is not necessarily what people want to be doing although it can be safe and you know assuming you take proper precautions, but totally understand that when you do that, we're not necessarily using it right now, we don't need to either but Yeah, so I like that story engaging with the place.

Sam: I know I always bring it back to this, but the Camino de Santiago is a very slow travel thing to do. You're literally doing absolutely nothing but walking. I had mentioned it before, I forget which episode, but basically it's a walk across Spain and I did it in 2014. It took me like five weeks again like that's not necessarily something everyone can or wants to do but it was amazing.

I'm sure we'll have an episode on that in particular but. Just walking just walking it's literally like one of the most human things to do. I mean, it defines humans as a species is that we are bipedal so there's nothing more human that you can do than to literally just walk around and engage with your surroundings so just walk out your door and check out your neighborhood.

I mean, I know we've all had that experience when we are walking around somewhere and we're like, oh shit. I never noticed that before. And so I check it out whatever it is take a different route walk around do just walk somewhere it could be driving somewhere different going for hike, if you have those options available if you're in the city walk around and then we mentioned this in our previous episodes so I won't go too much into it but yeah, that's just another way to engage with a place so I just thought you asked me what my example was and I guess that would be example, but we have so many yeah, so I just want to emphasize the walk in exam.

Ine if you feel like you need to change a pace there's places that feel like another planet within cities we've experienced this walking around in Salt Lake City we've experienced this walk around in New York City, I mean, you just check out different neighborhoods and just walk around and you'll see history right there before you you'll see old buildings hopefully or different things or a neighborhood that's emerging or a commercial districts that's in you know, in transition or whatever you'll be so many little subtleties that you'll pick up on when you move around at a slower pace.

And that's and that's just a great way to have a more meaningful experience with a place hmm, yeah. And so our next part is slow travel can help you have a more meaningful connection with the culture. Yeah, so.

I know. So I guess the biggest example for us would be living in Spain, like I mentioned earlier. That was a very deep dive into the culture kind of thing and that was slow travel. Just yeah wherever we we travel around the country took trains the different places and that was really cool and we got to know the place in a very different way than a lot of expats that I knew living in Spain at that time and the first time the first year that I lived there anyway a lot of them were like straight at a college and would like literally be hopping on a plane every other weekend to go to a different country in Europe, whereas me and parent we.

Ran on a train to a different place in Spain, you know, every other month maybe if that but we just explored Madrid a lot. The language is a big one too. Obviously that's a big commitment but you just have a much deeper connection with a place if you can speak the language on some level.

I mean, you can interact with local people way better. We've definitely had experiences that way, especially older generations that don't really speak English.

Veren: For example, there's a certain words that don't directly translate and that's why language is it's a lens into a culture essentially and you can see what the priorities are in a certain culture based on how many words they have for maybe the same thing for example, you know so much of Spanish language at least in Spain all their expressions are so much of a wrapped up in food because they're such a food culture there, you know it one example of language that you just maybe you could happen upon this on a short visit. But we just would hear again and again well maybe I didn't hear this in person but I just loved this expression espanical middle and I just I love that because they're just they're saying oh it's a way of saying oh yeah that's super easy because it's bread that you just bread so easy to eat and that's what everybody's means it's eaten bread basically yeah yeah, oh it oh yeah yeah, don't worry it's a short train ride or don't worry that's not so hard it's eaten bread it's just as easy as eaten bread because they eat so much bread in Spain and it's amazing and it's something little tiny subtle kind of thing like that.

Those kind of things are just a little harder to pick up in a place where it's just jam packed with tourists and the servers are overworked and they're not gonna have a moment to step aside and have a little fun language discussion with you even if you don't speak another language, they can have a moment to share with you about something if you seem interested whereas if it's just like another cattle drive of tourists that kind of experience those are they're not people aren't gonna be as open to those kind of experiences especially if you ever worked on the service side of the service industry, it's it's a lot of work.

So, you know language is an example, but also just being able to move at the rhythm of a place and the kind of random cultural events, you can happen upon living in Spain. We happen upon the Chinese New Year parade because they have a huge Chinese diaspora there in Spain.

Yeah. Yeah, that's definitely something people don't think about when they're. Trying to go to Spain.

I mean the people don't even realize that in Spain there are five different languages they speak there essentially like five regions not five regions, but there's essentially five languages that show kind of the history and legacy of the place.

there's even more than that. I think those might be even just the recognized noble ones. There's definitely more than that even but um, Yeah, so those are just different ways to engage with the place and. You can do that right here locally where you are right now in covid safe travel.

Just engage with the place locally, like I said walk around strike of conversation learn the history of the place. That's a way to engage with the place. I mean, you can't understand a place if you don't understand the history. And obviously I might be a bit biased because I studied archaeology, but you really can't.

I mean, we're the conversation that's happening right now around racism. You can't understand. Why that's so important and impactful and why things are the way they are in the US without understanding the history. So I know that when we were living in this is a quick aside, but when we were living in Europe, I don't think a lot of people understood what racism is like in America and obviously I'm not saying that it that racism doesn't happen other places, obviously it does but given the unique history of the US it's it's, Has a different form here.

So it's become very clear now, you know, one of the things that a lot of people are advocating when it comes to being anti-racist is you got to learn the history and that goes for anything. We are not wherever we are without history and you might think history is boring.

But is culture boring because culture history is a part of culture and if you want to learn a culture of a place if you want to get to know a place you got it learn about the history a little bit and we're not saying you need to remake cyclopedia on it but engage with the parts of history that interest you.

Veren: I just don't think you can appreciate and understand a place without learning the history of it. And when you slow down your approach to travel and you make time for these kind of things you can kind of already come armed with a little bit of local history before you go somewhere and that will absolutely enhance your experience and understanding of a place and its culture and its people.

Sam: Yeah and read a book when you're there. I kind of tried to start doing that when we were in Sarajevo. It gives you a richer understanding of a place. So do that when you travel if you're in the future plan to travel somewhere you could read about it beforehand.

And read it or you can do that right now for some virtual travel. There's just there's just so many things that you can do readings amazing definitely love love reading and actually I quick aside but I we recently put on an article on ethical alternatives to Amazon and one of the things that I found was different places by books and one of them is book shop which supports local independent books stores and you can have your own little shop on there with your recommended books, so I've created one for us so we have all of our recommended books and, Different categories and where I was adding to that.

So, I'll link that in the show notes in case you want some virtual travel or just we have a ton of different lists on books about sustainability or veganism or even just self-improvement anyway. I just wanted to mention that because reading can be a big part of it or if you like don't read for some reason, um, you can listen to history podcasts.

I know you listen to a history podcast, Veren, or like documentaries you can listen to whatever there's tons of different ways to get content. These days so you can engage with history and whatever way is most enjoyable for you. So yeah, is there anything else to add about slow traveling or do you think we've covered it?

Veren: No, I think this is a good time to each kind of have a concluding statement.

Sam: What's your concluding statement?

Veren: I think it's just really important again. Really think about why you travel what travel means to you and could you potentially benefit from slowing down your travel. Often this often the way we travel is really arbitrary, you know, I would say the same earlier in the podcast well, I don't know if I have any friends that live in cool places.

Where'd you get that concept of a cool place? So if you want to say that it's your own original idea that just sprung up in your head in a vacuum, then you have to discount all the magazines and the movies and the music and all the places that gave you an idea that this place was cool in the first place.

A good way to know is if your friends are not excited about where they live or to show it to you that it's probably not worth visiting or they're just not having it, they're just not a fun person. That's also very possible. And we've experienced that, traveling places where people don't like it and it's because they never took a chance to actually embrace and engage the place.

They live in their own little microcosm. That aside, you know, think about why if you are a person who must have an itinerary, why do you need to do that and maybe give it a try not having that? Slowing things down. A lot of times we take our lifestyle and try to impose that on.

Other places when we travel and you don't want to do that you're gonna miss the whole point of travel because if you're not trying to go somewhere else to experience something different why you are traveling in the first place. So really really consider how you could slow down your travel and I think you will see that it will be for the better and this can help right now with local travel this can help with playing for your future bigger travel when you go to other places in world and we do know well and we're probably gonna talk about this in another episode a lot of people are gonna be working remotely now or be location independent moving forward.

So the possibility of really living somewhere else for chunks out of the year, or even being a full-time digital nomad is gonna be a very real thing for a bigger chunk of the traveling population now. So it's definitely now's a good time to really kind of. Reboot your way of thinking about travel and I'll end with the final note on I've been hearing about a lot of businesses because we follow a lot of vegan businesses and we'll hear about how some places they were doing great they were successful they were making money, they were happy with what they were bringing to the community and then having to shut down force them to kind of slow down and reflect and a lot of people even if they had a great thing going on are realizing that they were overworked.

And I think, that's something that we can think about and apply to not just our work life balance, but also when we travel. We are just bringing that same kind of mood of operation into our way of travel when we shouldn't be when we should actually be on our yearly meager vacation.

Do you really want to spend yet two weeks squeezing it like a juicer or do you want to get more quality over quantity?

Sam: Yeah, so on that note, reflection is definitely a big part of incorporating that into your slow travels. I know I like to journal. I try to be good about it when I'm traveling, but that's a good way to reflect and about whatever, you know doesn't have to be like, okay, I'm gonna reflect on the place right now. You know, just like whatever this place is making you think of could be stuffed by your own personal life, whatever write it down, if you don't like to write stuff.

But maybe you can doodle while you're just sitting there whatever just spend some time with for reflection, which is a big part of slow travel because you again like I think we've kind of had this threads the whole thing it's the more that you slow down the richer the experience that you have and you have to build that kind of downtime and slower time into your travels no matter where you're doing in how you're doing it and to think you'll be very richly rewarded for that so yeah, hopefully we're giving you lots of ideas about how to slow travel and as.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the ways that you could so travel but these are just some examples of what we do. I'm sure you can put your creative brains to work and incorporate the different ways you're different interests and what you like to do into your slow travels, so hopefully we sparked that imagination and we'll see you next time.

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