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After the first few months of 2020, many of us are becoming intimately familiar with cabin fever. Why not enjoy a bit of mental relief and give yourself something to look forward to by planning a slow travel experience for 2021?
The name may sound like it’s all about moving as slowly as possible from point A to point B, but that could not be further from the truth. Instead, slow travel is the complete opposite of the traditional package tour that crams 101 countries into a couple of weeks; an experience that generally leaves you feeling in dire need of another holiday.
Traveling slow is about pacing yourself so that you can immerse yourself in the experience. It’s about connecting with the place, the people, the food, the culture, and the music in ways that are sustainable, and that give back to those who truly deserve it.
More and more companies are starting to offer slow travel packages, but half the fun of slow travel is doing the planning yourself. I remember that, decades ago, many of us were far more dependent on travel agents, but the internet and an array of apps have changed that. Planning and bookings trips, locally or abroad, has never been easier.
Forget about hotels and guest houses when planning a slow travel experience. A vacation rental, self-catering apartment, or even a home exchange is generally a better, cheaper option. Airbnb is also a good choice. In the case of home exchanges or staying in a room at someone else’s home, you can meet locals and enjoy experiences that you never would have in a hotel.
While in a city or town, consider walking when possible. Walking is a fantastic way to see the things that you would miss if you went whizzing past in a vehicle. If the distances are too great for you to walk comfortably, public transport such as busses, trams, and even tuk-tuks are good choices. These types of transport provide ample opportunities to meet some of the locals.
Trains can be a wonderful way to travel between cities. The journey is often much more relaxing and allows you to enjoy spectacular views of your surroundings.
Mealtimes can be among the most memorable experiences offered by slow travel. When planning your trip, be sure to include eating out as well as cooking for yourself. When you do eat out, avoid global brands and typical fast food. Why travel thousands of kilometres to eat a burger you could just as easily have bought around the block in your hometown?
Treat yourself to meals in local restaurants and cafes, and don’t be afraid to indulge in street food. Some of the friendly locals you meet may even invite you to their homes for a meal. I’ve always found that some of the best cultural encounters happen over a plate, bowl, or platter of something delicious.
If you’re staying in accommodation that is set up for self-catering, you can immerse yourself in local culture even more fully. Head out to the morning market and see what fresh produce is available to try your hand at making the local cuisine.
Hopefully, you’ve decided that a slow travel adventure is exactly the type of getaway you need to keep your spirits up and have something to look forward to. But where should you go? Here are my top picks for slow travel destinations to visit in 2021.
I know that Paris is a dream destination for countless people, but the city of lights and love is also the city of litter and graffiti – and because of this, many first-time visitors are left feeling somewhat disappointed. If you head to France for a slow travel experience in 2021, I recommend a vacation rental in a smaller town, village, or even a houseboat on one of the country’s many rivers for a completely different perspective of the country.
Be friendly towards the locals, and if you’re lucky, they will readily offer their advice on where to find the local gems. Family-owned cafes and bistros serve up food so good that you could consider it home cooking, and visiting the markets is always a treat.
If you want to enjoy a 2021 slow travel experience in the USA, consider heading to Savannah, Georgia. The historic city is one of the most beautiful in the country, and it seems geared up for slow travel. Apart from being pedestrian-friendly, it offers great alternatives to busses and cabs, such as pedal-powered transport.
Savannah also is a place in which you can experience some of that famous Southern hospitality. Locals are genuinely warm and friendly, and the food is every bit as good as you would imagine. Try and find self-catering accommodation in downtown Savannah. Almost all of the best places to visit are in what would be easy walking distance for most people.
South Africa’s Western Cape province and Cape Town, in particular, are one of the best spots in which to enjoy a slow travel experience in 2021. Self-catering and Airbnb options are plentiful, and there is no shortage of world-class restaurants, outdoor activities and places of interest to visit. You can take in museums such as the Slave Museum and Robben Island, places of natural beauty such as Table Mountain, and urban farms such as Oranjezicht.
If you prefer to head away from the city, consider spending a few days in Franschhoek, a small town in the winelands that dates back to the arrival of French refugees in the 17th century. Another alternative is to spend a few days hiking along the peninsula to Cape Point.
These are just three places out of many that I recommend for a perfect experience of slow travel. No matter where you go, be sure to do some research first. Find out what other travellers have to say about your chosen destination, as well as whether travelling slow there actually is feasible. In some cases, you may need to do things the traditional way for reasons of distance, health, or safety.
Wherever you decide to go, remember the basics of slow travel. Do it at your own pace, and be sure to really experience local hospitality, food, culture, and music.
Thank you to Bibi Raven from Truly Experiences for contributing this guest post.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.