How To Decide Between Slow And Rapid Travel

landscape One of the toughest decisions when planning a trip is deciding whether to get to know one or two areas extensively, or pack in as much as you can at a rapid pace. As someone who has taken both types of trips, I can appreciate the benefits of each. It all depends on your travel philosophy and what you want to get out of your trip.

The Benefits Of Slow Travel

If you’re unsure of what slow travel is, it’s traveling slowly both in pace and in your mindset. This type of traveling involves taking your time to really appreciate your surroundings. The thinking is that you would rather get to know one place fully than more places a little bit. When you slow travel, you get a more in-depth knowledge about the culture. And for many people, gaining a broad understanding of a place and its inner-workings is more meaningful than seeing extra cities.

This thought occurred to me recently when I was at a BBQ with a friend of mine who has lived in various cities all over the world teaching English. When another attendee who was the same age as my companion began rattling off the over 150 countries he’d visited, my friend turned to me with a sad expression and said, “He’s traveled everywhere and I’ve only been to a handful of places.”Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side, and I had to explain to him that this person probably visited so many countries because he stayed in every city for a few nights, learning only surface information about the food, customs, language and daily rituals of the people.

I had my most memorable slow travel experience when I stayed in Ghana, Africa, for a month. I home-based in the village of Achiase, staying with a family and volunteering at a local orphanage. During the experience, I got to spend a lot of time with locals, learning about social etiquette, typical dress, how everyday foods were prepared and what kinds of topics the children learned at school. Because I also wanted to see some of the historical and nature sites outside of the village, I went on weekend trips to other cities via the tro-tro. Because of the pace I traveled at, I never experienced any travel fatigue, a common side effect of long trips.

If you are taking an extended trip and traveling slowly, I highly recommend doing a homestay, as that’s the best way to get to know the culture first hand. Moreover, don’t pack your days with endless activities. Instead, take it all in slowly and enjoy every second.

Along with the benefit of cultural immersion and less travel fatigue, it’s also easier on the environment and your wallet. Staying in one or two places means using less fuel, and overall just leaving a smaller carbon footprint. And, you won’t have to spend as much money on transportation and site entry fees.

vines Slow Travel On A Short Trip

While many people talk about slow travel on extended trips, it is also possible to travel this way on shorter trips. Again, try to focus more on learning and experiences and less on sightseeing. Your first step is to choose your home base. Try to pick a city that has much to do or an interesting cultural aspect, as well as one or two interesting day trips. If you have a laundry list of sights to see, cut it in half and fully experience just a few. Moreover, instead of staying in a standard hotel, try to stay somewhere where you’ll feel at home, like an apartment, short homestay or with a local on CouchSurfing. Cozy bed and breakfasts can also be a good option, especially if you spend time chatting with the owners.

Another good decision is to find one or two establishments you love and become a regular at them. Of course, eating at the same restaurant for dinner gets boring when on vacation; however, choosing a favorite coffee shop or ice cream parlor will help you establish a similar routine to that of a local.

If you have a specific interest, one idea that can be helpful is to choose a destination that caters to it and fully immerse yourself in learning all you can. For example, if you’re interested in wine you may want to head to Napa Valley, Burgundy or Mendoza, stay on a winery and get to know local viticulturists and what they do. Personally, I love giving myself missions like this on my trips because it helps lead to deeper discoveries than most tourists get to make.

The Benefits Of Rapid Travel

While slow travel wins the argument for cultural immersion, sustainability and budget-friendliness, there are many reasons to opt for a rapid travel trip. First of all, if you don’t get to travel very often, you may want to consider seeing as much as you can in one shot. Moreover, if you have a certain travel goal that requires seeing many different cities, like visiting castles, hiking various terrains or seeing historical sites, you may want to stick to an itinerary that allows for a broad diversity.

My favorite rapid travel trip was through Patagonia. I stayed two, sometimes three, nights in each city, making my way from Bariloche down to Ushuaia and over to Chile. The quick-paced style worked in this case because my main travel goal was to hike as many different landscapes as possible. And, because each area of Patagonia offers contrasting scenery, I loved being able to see as many as possible.

The truth is, not everyone travels to experience culture and to learn deeply. There are travelers who love city hopping, taking in the major sights and experiences and then moving on. If your restless legs start itching after a few days in one place, you may be better off with a rapid travel itinerary.

train Rapid Travel On A Short Trip

I will admit, this can be tricky. Personally, I recommend fast travel only if you’ll be somewhere for at least two weeks. That is, unless you want to spend most of your vacation on public transportation. However, it’s not impossible, and if you can plan a good route that doesn’t require too many lengthy train journeys, go for it. If opting for this, your best bet is to plan a detailed itinerary out in advance. Make sure all accommodation and flights are booked and that you know exactly what you want to do in each city. Once this is sorted, book any tours beforehand, or as soon as you arrive to the destination to avoid any time-wasting hassles.

The Verdict?

Personally, I love both travel styles, and incorporate both into my trips. I often switch back and forth between slow traveling in one destination, then rapidly traveling from city to
city and country to country on another. It all depends on what you want to get out of your experience.

[Travel Salem, taylor.a, roger4336]

The ever-evolving language of travel

new travel terms and wordsWhile it is clear that travel itself has evolved in many ways in the past decade or so, it appears that travel language has, too. It is something that seems to happen overnight, without anyone really noticing that new vocabulary words are being invented but using them anyway. Check out this list of some relatively new lingo that has stuck in the language of travel.

Couch Surfing

While at one time we would have just said that we were “staying with friends”, there is now a global resource for travelers that has really made an impact on the niche. Couch Surfing allows backpackers and budget travelers to stay with local people in the regions they are visiting, as well as host travelers who come to visit their native land, for free.

Voluntourism

This is a specific type of trip that allows travelers to not only visit another region, but also help out a cause or organization while they are there. Some of my favorite resources for voluntourism include International Volunteer Headquarters and SE7EN.Agritourism

This type of travel involves staying with locals in a rural area. Basically, it is a farm stay or rural retreat.

WWOOFING

Related to agritourism is World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFING). It is a global network that connects travelers with organic farms. The gist of the program is that in exchange for room, board, and the chance to learn about organic farming and local lifestyle, travelers help out with the daily work.

Digital Nomad

This term is used to refer to someone who is location independent and can work from anywhere in the world using technology such as smartphones, laptops, iPads, WiFi and other gadgets. Actually, an entire separate article could be written on the new technological terms for travelers that have come about in the past decade or so (hmmmm…).

Flashpacker

Staying on the topic of technology and travel, this term refers to the more affluent type of backpacker. While most backpackers are thought to be on a tight-budget, flashpackers tend to have a large disposable income and also carry lots of tech gadgets with them, such as laptops and smartphones.

Staycation

This type of travel became popular during the financial crisis of 2007-2010 and refers to relaxing at home or taking trips to nearby attractions.

Glamping

This is a type of trip for those who want to experience the great outdoors while not roughing it too much. For example, instead of staying in a basic tent, someone who is glamping will use more high-end camping gear, such as a tent with electricity and an air mattress.

Slow Travel

Slow travel is the idea of traveling more slowly to enjoy each place and experience it in more depth by, for example, spending a week in one city or opting for a vacation rental home.

Mancation

This term refers to a “men only” vacation (think girl’s weekend or all-girl’s getaway for guys). With the trend catching on, travel packages are now catering to this type of travel. Interested in a mancation of your own? Urban Navigator can help you book packages that include things like golf, camping, and hiking.

Q & A with Grantourismo round-the-world slow travel bloggers

Lara Dunston Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersWith all the holiday travel madness just beginning, sometimes it’s nice to take a breath and think about taking travel more slowly. I recently had a chance to meet up with blogger Lara Dunston and her photographer-writer husband, Terence Carter, of the round-the-world travel project and blog, Grantourismo while they were traveling through Istanbul. Lara and Terence hosted me at their fabulous terraced apartment with glasses of Turkish wine, travel chat, and views of nearby Taksim Square and the nostalgic tram.

Grantourismo is a yearlong grand tour of the globe to explore more enriching and ‘authentic’ (and they get how those words have been debated and abused by travel bloggers!) ways of traveling, which began in Dubai this February and will wrap up in Scotland in January. In order to slow down and immerse themselves in each place, they are staying in vacation rentals (rather than hotels) in one place for two weeks at a time.

Read on for more about their slow travel philosophy, tips about renting a holiday apartment, and how they found Austin’s best tacos.

What’s the essence of Grantourismo?
We’re attempting to get beneath the skin of the places we’re visiting and to inspire other travelers to do the same. We’re doing very little sightseeing and if we’re taking tours, we’re doing small group tours with expert local guides ran by sustainable companies, such as Context. Mostly we’re experiencing places through their food, markets, music, culture, fashion, street art, sport, etc, and doing things that locals do in their own towns rather than things tourists travel to their towns to do. We’re trying and buying local produce and products, and seeking out artisanal practices we can promote. We’re also highlighting ways in which travellers can give something back to the places they’re visiting, from planting trees in Costa Rica to kicking a football with kids in a favela in Rio. And we’re blogging about this every day at Grantourismo!

How did you make it a reality?
Our initial idea was 12 places around the world in 12 months, learning things like the original grand tourists did. Terence, who is a great musician and a terrific cook, wanted to work in a restaurant kitchen and learn a musical instrument while I was going to enroll in language classes and learn something different in each place. But we couldn’t figure out how to fund such a project. We were lucky in that I saw an ad from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals (the UK arm of HomeAway) looking for a travel journalist-photographer team to stay in their vacation rentals and blog about their experiences for a year. I presented Grantourismo to them, they loved it, and here we are! We’re in the 10th month of our yearlong trip, we’ve stayed in 27 properties in 18 countries, and we have a ski town and five cities to go! We’ve written 369 stories on our website – and only 27 of those have been about the properties, the rest have been about everything from winetasting to walking – and we’ve done loads of interviews with locals we’ve met, from musicians and chefs to fashion designers and bookbinders.

Terence Carter Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersWhat’s the biggest difference about staying in an apartment vs. a hotel?
The biggest difference and best thing is that when you’re staying in a vacation rental you’re generally living in an everyday neighbourhood rather than a tourist area, which means you can meet people other than hotel cleaners and waiters. You can pop downstairs or down the road to a local café or pub that’s full of locals rather than other tourists. You can shop in local markets or supermarkets that are significantly cheaper. Sure if you’re staying in a hotel you can go and look at the markets, but your hotel mini-bar probably won’t hold much, whereas we go with a shopping list or we simply watch what the locals are buying, and we go home and cook.

You can generally get off the beaten track far easier than you can when you stay in a hotel. If you’re relying on the concierge for tips, you’re going to see other hotel guests eating at the restaurant he recommended. Then there’s the beauty of having lots of space, your own kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every meal, and a refrigerator you can fill that doesn’t have sensors going off when you open it. There might be shelves filled with books or a DVD library – in Cape Town we even had a piano, which Terence played every day! The privacy – we got tired of housekeeping ignoring DND signs, people coming to check the outrageously-priced mini-bar, and the phone always ringing with staff asking, when were we checking out, did we want a wake-up call, could they send a porter up. It became so tedious, especially as we were spending around 300 days a year in hotels on average. There are downsides to holiday rentals too of course. If something goes wrong the property owner/manager isn’t always around to fix it, whereas in a hotel, you phone the front desk to let them know the Internet isn’t working and they’ll send someone up.

What should travelers consider when renting a holiday apartment?
Location first. What kind of neighbourhood do you want to live in, how off the beaten track do you want to get, do you want to walk into the centre or are you happy to catch public transport or drive, what kind of facilities are in the area if you’re not hiring a car, and is there a supermarket, shops, restaurants, café, bars in walking distance? After that, the quality of accommodation – in the same way that people decide whether to opt for a budget hotel if they just want somewhere to lay their head, or a five-star if they want creature comforts, they need to think about how much time they intend spending at the property and the level of comfort they want. We stayed in a budget apartment in Manhattan, which was fine as we were out a lot. In Ceret, France and Sardinia, Italy we had big charming houses with terrific kitchens, which was perfect as we stayed in and cooked a lot. If it’s a family reunion or group of friends going away together and they want to enjoy meals in, then it’s important to ask detailed questions about the kitchen and facilities, as we’ve had some places that only had the bare basics, while others like our properties in Austin and Cape Town had dream kitchens.

Favorite destination/apartment?
We’ve been to some amazing places but my favourites have been Tokyo and Austin. We’d only visited Tokyo once before on a stopover, stayed in a cramped hotel and just did the tourist sights. This time we really saw how people lived by staying in an apartment, we discovered different corners of the city we didn’t know existed, and we made new friends. In Austin, it was all about the people, who must be the USA’s friendliest and coolest. We spent a lot of time seeing live music and met lots of musicians, and we also got into the food scene – locals take their food very seriously in Austin! We even hosted a dinner party there with Terence cooking up a multi-course tasting menu for our new friends. In terms of properties, I’m torn between the rustic traditional white trullo set amongst olive groves that we stayed at in Puglia where we had our own pizza oven and bikes to ride in the countryside, the penthouse in the historic centre of Mexico City, and the two houses in Costa Rica, one set in the jungle and the other on the beach, literally within splashing distance of the sea!

Funny story about one of your stays?
The funniest moments weren’t funny at the time but we look back at them and laugh now. At our the Puglia trullo we had terrible internet access. It barely worked in the house because the walls were so thick, yet internet is crucial to what we’re doing so we had to work outside, which wasn’t much fun in the rain. Terence discovered that he could get the best access in the middle of the olive grove next door; you can see him working here! The monkeys that visited us everyday in our houses in Costa Rica were also hilarious. One morning I was enjoying a rare moment reading in the sun when I saw a rare red-backed squirrel monkey run across the fence, and then another leapfrog that one, and then another join them! I quickly got up and raced into the kitchen to make sure there was no food left on the bench, turned around and there was a family of 30-40 monkeys trooping through the house. These guys are endangered, but it didn’t look like it from where I was standing in the kitchen in my bikinis and towel, trying to protect our food as the property manager had warned us that they know how to open the cupboards! The manager also told us to leave the lights on at night, because otherwise the bats will think the house is a cave. She wasn’t kidding.

How is social media playing a role in your travels?
We decided not to use guidebooks this Lara Dunston Grantourismo travel round the world bloggersyear and rely on advice from locals, many of which we come in contact with through social media. We’ve met many locals via their blogs or Twitter. We use Twitter every day, as a research and networking tool, to make contacts ahead of our visit and get tips from people when we’re there. We’ve had some amazing advice from our followers, from restaurant recommendations to suggestions on things we should do. When we were in Cape Town, loads of tweeps said we had to do the Township Tour offered by Cape Capers and we did and they were right, it was life-changing.

Terence learns how to make the quintessential dish of each place we visit and often asks tweeps what he should make. We’ve had great tips from food bloggers who use Twitter such as Eating Asia and Eat Mexico. We’ve ended up meeting loads of tweeps, including a bunch of New Yorkers – bloggers, writers and travelers – we met for drinks one night, including Gadling’s own Mike Barish and David Farley, while in Austin we had lunch with ‘the Taco Mafia‘ from the Taco Journalism blog and got the lowdown on Austin’s best tacos. We also use Twitter to share our own travel experiences and let people know when we have new stories on the site and we run a monthly travel blogging competition which we promote on Twitter (with very generous prizes donated by HomeAway Holiday Rentals, AFAR, Viator, Context, Trourist, and Our Explorer); the aim of that is to get other travelers to help spread our messages about the kind of traveling we’re doing.

What’s next?
As far as Grantourismo goes, we just left Istanbul (where we were delighted to meet another fascinating Gadling contributor!) and are in Budapest. After this it’s Austria for some fun in the snow, then Krakov for Christmas, Berlin for New Year’s Eve, and our last stop is Edinburgh end of January. After that? We’ve been invited to speak at an international wine tourism conference in Porto, Portugal, about Grantourismo and wine, as we’ve explored places through their wine as much as their food, doing wine courses, wine tastings, wine walks, and wine tours, and really trying to inspire people to drink local rather than imported wine. Then we’re going to write a book about Grantourismo and our year on the road, and later in the year – after we’re rested and energised – we’re going to take Grantourismo into a slightly different direction.

All photos courtesy of Terence Carter.

Visit a baby sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica


It’s been a long week, take a few minutes to enjoy some cuteness. Sloths may not typically come to mind as a cute animal, but I’m sure after you watch this video, you’ll come around. I first saw a sloth at the New York Times Travel Show (part of a Busch Gardens exhibition) and immediately fell in love with their cuddly, sleepy, smiley oddness. This video was taken at the Aviarios Del Caribe sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, home to over 100 sloths and managed by sloth “whisperer” Judy Arroyo, who probably never complains about a long day at the office.

Visit the sloths up close in Costa Rica near San Jose; the $25 tour includes a canoe ride through the Estrella River Delta and optional jungle walks. There’s even a hotel on site if you want to sleep with the sloths (you’d think with all the sleeping sloths do, there’d be a pillow menu)! If you want to help support the sloth cause further, there’s an adoption and volunteer program.

Need more animals to get you through Friday? Enjoy Lonely Planet editor and Gadling favorite Robert Reid’s take on animals who travel; I’ll nominate the sloth for “slow travel.”

New guidebook series: Eyes Open

I love the idea behind the new guidebook series Eyes Open by design company Ideo. Rather than busy themselves with the rote regurgitation of sights of interest, restaurants and hotels, Eyes Open seeks to help travelers shift their attention towards really looking and immersing themselves in their surroundings. The series recently launched with its first two entries, New York and London, with additional cities to follow in the near future.

I had a chance to peruse the New York edition recently and came away with some interesting first impressions. The book is organized by four themes – ‘observer,’ ‘diner,’ ‘shopper’ and ‘mingler.’ Each theme is meant to represent a different “lens” by which we can view our destination. Within each category is a series of short travel narratives on a variety of topics, focusing on everything from secret eating clubs to unique small businesses to hidden earthwork art installations. As I resident of New York who is fairly well-versed in the city’s hidden amusements, I found the entries both surprising and informative. At the same time, this approach is sure to leave gaps for some travelers. Ideo makes no apology for the fact their Eyes Open guides are not comprehensive. Visitors looking for the basic practicalities of where to stay and a basic overview of neighborhoods will probably come away disappointed.

Then again, there is something to be said for curated guides like Eyes Open. As each of us travels, too often we get caught up in “checking off a list” of the must-see sights and locations. Eyes Open is the type of travel aid that can help us take a step back and experience a place through an entirely new perspective. Sometimes that’s worth the extra 20 bucks. Think of it as nice supplement to a more traditional guidebook.