How to Slow Travel on Your Next City Trip

We are all part of the problem, but each one of us can do a lot to improve the situation. We need to slow down. Slow travel has got nothing to do at all with the length of time you travel. Here is the good news. You don't need to circumvent Australia on foot, and walk your soles raw, to be eligible to call yourself a slow traveller. You can easily Slow Travel on your next city trip.

How to Slow Travel on Your Next City Trip

This travel guide is full of inspiration for everyone interested in slow travel and how to 'Slow Travel on a City Trip' with a focus on: bucket lists, the art of slow travel, armchair travel and verbatim journeys, transport options, supporting local businesses, accommodation, cafés and restaurants, communication - feedback - social media reviews, travel photography, selfies, and consent, interacting with locals and fellow tourists.

There is this misconception, and to my surprise, it gets repeated persistently, that slow travel equals long-term travel or vice versa. Long-term travel typically refers to an extended period of exploring one or more destinations. It might last several weeks, months, or more. In contrast, slow travel has got nothing to do at all with the length of time you travel. Slow Travel rather refers to your attitude about travelling and life. If you stay somewhere for a longer time, it is only natural that you get to end up knowing more about local culture and society. It happens over time that you gain a deeper understanding of the place you visit. But then, I also met many who visited a place for a long time and are none the wiser. Some are resistant to new information. One can understand a lot about a place even when you visit for a few days only. It is all about the set of attitudes we hold, and how curious we are.

Bucket Lists and Slow Travel

Relax, be open-minded, and don’t feel excluded. We are all in this together. Many love to tell you they are better than you, when in fact we people are pretty much alike. There should be no discrimination against travel styles. It is, of course, understandable that when you visit Paris you would like to see the Tour Eiffel. When you make your way to London, you want to visit Tate Modern. When you fly to New York City, you would love to see the Statue of Liberty. These places are popular for a reason and often of huge significance for a country - they tell magnificent stories. Still, it is the opposite of fun to run around like a long-legged cheetah, sprinting from one highlight to the next. You can mix it up, look at all the famous sights, get into a slower travel style, and see how your experience improves. Forget bucket lists – I find them so restrictive. Let's say you put places on a bucket list and would never get a chance to visit these for whatever reason. How would this make you feel? Bad, disappointed, frustrated? Why would you want to put yourself through this? Forget about bucket lists and enjoy the moment. Bucket lists spoil the pleasure of everything travel stands for. It is all about balance. No one wants you to become a three-toed sloth, being at risk of growing algae on your fur just because you travel so slowly.

Discover the Art of Slow Travel

At one point I grew tired of rushing to tourist hotspots. It didn't make sense any longer. I longed to really get to know the local culture, to dig deep, and to make connections with the people and places I met along the way. What I love when travelling is taking the time. I love to immerse myself in a destination and experience its culture, rather than running through a bucket list full of attractions. To me, it is all about slowing down the pace and enjoying each moment on a journey to the fullest. Also, embracing a more meaningful and sustainable way of exploring the world. I know many people live so fast; they are sort of addicted to living an ever-faster life. They probably believe they can’t change on their travels, but everybody can slow down and with that create an overall more cheerful world.

It is possible for anyone to embrace slow travel. No matter how much time you have, explore a destination at a relaxed pace, engage with locals, and create unforgettable memories that will stay with you forever.

Slow travel beckons you to step off the beaten path. It might be as simple as walking a few metres further, and lingering a bit longer in one place, to truly experience the essence of a destination. So, say goodbye to the frenzy of ticking off travel sights. Say hello to the joy of genuine connections, meaningful experiences, and a more mindful way of exploring the world. There is a whole world out there that awaits your curiosity.

Armchair Travel

Go on a Verbatim Journey to your dream location before you go on that long-awaited trip. See whether you can find fiction that transports you to the place you are about to visit. Read as many books as you can before your trip - here is a great list with 69 books to read that transport you to South Africa. This is also a good reason to support your local bookshop and to get to talk to your local book dealer. On vacation, read a book set in the location.

It also works well with watching films set in the location of your dreams. Let’s say you plan to visit Rome. You could watch "Roman Holiday," the classic romantic comedy with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Follow a princess, who escapes her royal obligations, and an American journalist as they roam through the eternal city.

Armchair travel is all about immersing yourself fully into the story of a place. It is already part of your upcoming travel experience. Get a good first impression of a location, and who knows you might later even find the places mentioned in the books and films.

Transport Options

Use sustainable modes of transportation, such as trains and buses, or even a ferry (search for companies and routes with eco-friendly vessels). On location, you can rent a bicycle or walk everywhere. If you rent a car, make it the smallest one available and see whether you can hire one with an electric-powered motor (electric vehicle, EV). This helps reduce the environmental impact of travel. This type of slowing down changes your travel experience. It made me think more about the places I visit and their geography.

If you are about to catch a train or bus or plane, plan enough time – better, plan a bit of extra time. No one likes stressed and grumpy people at check-in or customs. Bad vibes affect others unnecessarily negatively. Respect is key. I will never understand how some with poor time management expect others to let them jump the queue. Everyone loves to browse magazine shops or drink a coffee before taking off (and no one loves standing in line longer than necessary). A little bit of extra time means more smiles and a better atmosphere for anyone.

Top tip: On your way to a location. Use the train/the bus instead of flying short distances.

Accommodation - support local

Search the web for suitable accommodations. I love to book into smaller locally run hotels or boutique guesthouses. That way you can create a positive impact on the community you visit. In most cases, I research ownership and check the property's green policies. Ask staff how they found their job, and/or what they like about their hometown. Talk to the staff. They are not merely objects in a hotel, they are humans.

Think about whether you need to book a stay on online marketplaces for short-time homestays. It can be associated with a decrease in available long-term rental housing. Property owners opt for short-term holiday rentals and buy properties in central sought-after locations. This might cause property prices and rents to skyrocket. In the end, locals can't afford to live in their town any longer, and this might lead to the loss of a sense of community. I have been to places that feel like ghost towns when I visited out of season and no other tourists were around.

Book to stay with experts, and professionals from the hospitality industry. Small hotels and local hospitality businesses appreciate your business. It helps them to secure the income of locals and employees who depend on tourism.

Cafés and Restaurants - support local

The same goes for cafés and restaurants. Ignore chains and fast-food joints. They offer nothing more than familiarity, and that is not helping you to learn about the place you visit. Visit locally-owned businesses. That way you get to know local products and dishes and learn even more about a place’s history. You are going to experience the unique character of the place. It is new for you, it is inspiring, and it gives locals the opportunity to generate income while showing off their skills. At the same time, you can celebrate the local’s creativity. What is not to love?

Communication, Feedback, and Social Media Reviews - support local

Before I leave a negative review about a business on social media, I ask myself whether this is the right thing to do. Has the experience really been so bad, have they not delivered as promised? Make it a routine to ask yourself whether it might have been you who had a bad day or who arrived with the wrong expectations. Do you have the expertise to review an establishment fairly? It is a person’s livelihood your review might affect badly.

When you feel that something is wrong, speak to the people in charge directly while you are there. Always ask for help, explain what sort of problems you experience, and allow the host to talk to you about the situation. I have yet to meet people who don't appreciate constructive feedback.

Focus on Local Experiences - support local

Here is another idea. If you would like to take it one step further and dig even deeper, I recommend you talk to random strangers. Let's say at a pedestrian light while waiting for the green light. This also works well on public transport. Ask for café recommendations or readings at bookshops, music festivals, or whatever it is that interests you. Be fearless and start talking to locals. Remember Marie Sklodowska-Curie and her brilliant words “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less”.

When I visit a café or restaurant, and it isn’t busy I’d even ask about current affairs. This is the best thing about travelling, you can learn so much. In all my travels, I never made a bad experience. There is nothing to lose, if people don’t want to talk about the latest politics, they will let you know. The old-fashioned adage about not talking about politics and religion is no excuse any longer. People complain about all sorts of things, and people are quick to judge others. Take the time to ask why others behave the way they do and try to understand their view. It is fascinating. Challenge yourself to talk to strangers to expand your horizons. It encourages self-reflection. You will soon realize how you become more open to different perspectives. People love to tell others about their feelings and worldviews. When I am out and about in the real world, and meet people in person, there are no echo chambers, and there is no one who decides what I get to hear or not.

Photography – you are beautiful in the early morning

Be considerate of others, this includes locals and also other tourists. No one is alone in this world; we all have to share the space we have. In recent times, there were situations when people yelled at me for hindering their staged photo shoots. This happened in Italy, as I was sitting on a limestone wall enjoying the view. This happened in Spain, as I was visiting an excavation site. This happened in France, as I visited an Opera house. People cannot expect other visitors to vanish into thin air because they want to portray themselves in front of the sights. No need to turn everything into a spectacle. Many people visit places to experience the atmosphere, the scent, the view, and so forth.

Another extreme is taking photos of strangers, and I am not talking about taking photos of large crowds. Only recently did I visit a museum, and on two different occasions women came up to me to tell me how great I looked in the photos they took of me. I was stunned. They were both delighted with how well my clothes fit into the art on display. I reacted in disbelief, and I was secretly furious. One of them very excitedly even showed me the photo, and I asked her politely to delete it at once. This is plain wrong; no one has the right to intrude on people's private space - and that without consent. Even if you mean well, it is wrong, and it is bizarre. Why would you take a photo of strangers anyway? If you would like to take a photo of a single individual, ask that person for permission to do so. Easy, that way everyone involved can feel comfortable.

It is all about taking it slow and making time for photography. If we stop rushing from sight to sight, we have plenty of time to take photos. Fellow visitors are in no way responsible for the result of your photography. If I plan to take photos on location, I wait till the area is empty of people, and right, that can in most cases mean a long wait time. What I also do when I want to take photos without the crowds is to visit the sight once more in the early morning or late at night. There won’t be other visitors and I have guaranteed peace to take as many photos as I like.

Spend More Time in Fewer Destinations

I always embrace a leisurely pace, even if I love to get up early and stay out late to make the most of my time. If you get up in the morning leave your travel guide at home for the day and start walking aimlessly. Walk for hours. See what and who you meet along the way. Pop into galleries. Visit random cafés (remember to ignore all chain restaurants). Check what they sell at grocery shops. Browse independent bookshops. See what locals eat. See what locals love to read and talk to the book dealers, and ask what stories are available about the place you visit. You can read these stories to beat the travel blues you might experience when you get back home.

Rather than rushing from place to place, and from sight to sight, simply stay in one neighbourhood for a day. Allow yourself to establish a deeper connection with the place and its culture. You will soon realize that you have actually visited the place. Give yourself the opportunity to appreciate the small details. Engage in spontaneous experiences. Avoid the stress associated with tight schedules. All this hustling around. Why? For what? There actually is no valid reason to see it all. I do this all the time, and that is how I find places I love and not places others tell me to visit. Listen to your heart and enjoy yourself.

Slow Travel – Curiosity Won’t Kill the Cat

You can train slow travel like a muscle. I know that curiosity killed the cat, but having a curious attitude broadened my understanding of so many topics. It is a mindset and lifestyle that encourages a more mindful and immersive travel experience. Coming back from a trip, I feel I have forged deeper connections with the places I visited. Slow travel encourages me to explore the world around me even more. Who knows, we might even stumble upon exciting passions that we wouldn't have thought about otherwise. Stay curious. Keep on cultivating empathy. Keep exploring.

From Berlin with love