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Why I’m Opting For “Slow Travel” As A Digital Nomad

Following on from Why I Chose A Location-Independent Lifestyle I wanted to write about my planned lifestyle. I say planned because it’s still early days but it really reverberates with me. It goes by the name of the not-so-cryptic term “Slow Travel”. This is a particularly popular label among Digital Nomads. “Ah, but Alex, what is ‘slow travel’ exactly?” I hear you ask, “And why is it better than…. ‘fast travel’?”. Without further ado:

What is “Slow Travel”?

I’m going to stop with the air quotes now because they’re annoying me. Slow travel is as you might think: you move from place to place but instead of 1 or 2 weeks in each place, you opt for 3 months +. Not so difficult, right? The interesting part is weighing up the pros and cons and deciding what’s best for you. Whether you choose a life where you’re constantly on the road, or bedding in somewhere for months at a time, it’s a choice that can, and no doubt will change depending on where your head is at.

Sunset under the aqueduct, Montpellier, France
Sunset under the aqueduct, Montpellier, France

Some background

Over the past 10 years or so since my first solo voyage I have stayed in hostels, apartments and the occasional hotel across 20 countries. I have lugged around suitcases and backpacks big and small. The process is thus:

  • Check in
  • [Possibly wait hours to get into your room]
  • Reach room and let out a big sigh and rub your shoulders
  • Sort through your bag every day
  • Spend [insert number of days here] in the destination
  • Put the bag back on and check out
  • Rinse and repeat the above steps.

I love to travel, and it definitely is worth all that in short bursts, but it’s exhausting.  I needed an alternative. A compromise that allows me to live where I want for an indefinite period. A way to still be able to pack up and go within an hour without meaning I can only stay a few days.

Sunset in Perpignan with the Pyrenees in the background
I went to work in Perpignan for a few days. Something I wouldn’t have done had I not have been slow travelling.

The obvious benefits

These are numerous.

Form a deeper connection with the place

Firstly you get to really feel like you know the destination. If it’s a city, you’ll spend time visiting lots of touristy areas, because there’s a reason they’re popular. As time goes on you will make friends with other internationals and locals because you’ll seek them out. They will introduce you to their favourite places. The best part? This won’t be at lightning pace because you want to cram as much in before you leave.

As well as this, you’ll learn to explore the local region, which you would otherwise miss if you are doing a tour of the main cities in the country.

More of an opportunity to make friends

One of the most draining thing about constantly moving every few days or weeks is the lack of a chance to make deep connections with people. You definitely connect with people faster when you’re all backpacking and following similar itineraries. But when it becomes a lifestyle rather than a big trip you yearn to make friends so you feel more at home. I’ve made a handful of really great friends in the last few months who share my interests and give me an insight into the differences between our cultures. Something perhaps I wouldn’t have appreciated had I not come to France to integrate and learn the language.

More affordable living

I am currently sub-letting a room in an amazing flat in Montpellier. I moved in after spending a few months staying in Airbnb apartments, and a short time on the sofa bed of a friend of a friend. It costs a lot less to be paying rent rather than short term room fees. If you do prefer to use Airbnb, try and negotiate a lower rate for a longer stay.

Moving in to your own space definitely helps you relax and it symbolised to me that I was finally here to stay a while.

Emotional sustainability

We all have times when we want to be alone and times when we need to be around others. In my opinion, you should go on your short solo journeys when you’re more willing to spend time alone. It can be tough to continually say goodbye to people you’ve gotten along with. If you can stay somewhere for longer for the majority of the time, I think it’s better. Obviously everyone is different. I for one am more towards the introverted end of the scale and greatly appreciate my own space. I don’t like to spend lots of time in dorm rooms when anyone can come in and disrupt you at any point.

This is a lifestyle and not a holiday.

The next far flung trip will be awesome

I like to think that by slow travelling I have a base. Montpellier is my home right now. I will take a trip further afield in the near future and work while I’m there. There’s no doubt it will be even more fun because it will be a lot of fun packed into a short time. I’m looking forward to discovering my perfect balance.

I discovered a love of sunsets

You might have noticed from the blog or my Instagram that I’ve discovered a love of sunsets. Not that I disliked them before. But the sheer amount of stunning sunsets in Montpellier and the south of France in general have me hooked. Hence the sunset photos in this post!

Sunset from La Gare St Charles, Marseille
Sunset from La Gare St Charles, Marseille

What keeps the itchy feet on the floor?

At the moment my personal project is improving my French, which has no end point really. This keeps me grounded here because I want to be in France. I’m loving exploring the Languedoc-Region and actually getting to know the culture. The typical vision of a Digital Nomad is on a beach in Thailand. But I like that I am forming my own path. After all, that’s what being location-independent is about.

Sunset at Place De La Comédie, Montpellier
Sunset at Place De La Comédie, Montpellier
Published inDiaryMotivational