Emma Block Illustration

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The creative life of an illustrator living in London

Top Tips for Slower Travel

Earlier in the year my husband and I went on a little holiday to Tuscany, where we stayed in the tiny picturesque town of San Miniato, and had one of our best holidays ever. A friend asked me what there was to do there. The answer was nothing; there was just a beautiful town, with beautiful scenery, great restaurants and lovely weather. We just relaxed, walked, ate, talked and enjoyed ourselves. My husband and I never made a conscious decision to embrace ‘slow travel’, (a growing trend for mindful holidays), it was just something that happened naturally. After a couple of very chilled, very relaxed holidays we now realise that slow travel is what we’ve been doing all along.

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I think a combination of social media and limited annual leave means people are keen to pack as much as they can into a short period of time. The ‘photos or it didn’t happen’ culture makes us feel like the most important thing is other people knowing where we went and what we did, rather than how much we actually enjoyed it. I don’t like the way people talk about being able to ‘do’ a city in a set number of days, as if the city is nothing but a collection tourist attractions to be ticked off your list. I feel like the rise of Instagram has made travel very performative and it can actually become stressful for many of us.

Slow travel is all about slowing down and taking the time to make a real connection with the place you are visiting. It’s about spending time in one place, exploring your surroundings at a gentle pace and really relaxing, rather than rushing around in order to visit lots of different places. It means doing what you really want to do, whatever that is for you. It’s about abandoning the to do list of ‘must see’ sites and tourist attractions, and taking the time to really enjoy things rather than just check them off the list.

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Top Tips for Travelling Slow

Pick somewhere where you can get around on foot or by bike.

It could be a gorgeous little village, it could be a city, but pick somewhere where you’re not constantly having to drive from place to place. You experience so much more buy just walking and taking in your surroundings. You could even make walking or cycling the main activity of your holiday. I love going on long country walks with my husband.

Keep your schedule flexible
Don’t pack your holiday full of constant day trips and early starts, make sure you’ve got time to relax and explore the area you’re staying in. Leave some day unaccounted for and see how you feel on the day.

Consider going self catering
Eating out is definitely part of the fun when travelling, but I also love going to little local shops to pick up fresh produce for an alfresco breakfast or a simple lunch. Staying in a holiday rental like Airbnb gives you a chance to have a little taste of living like a local.

Prioritise what you want to do, not what you think you should do.
Forget the things you’ve been told you ‘must see’. If you want to do them, do them, and if you don’t, don’t. Don’t feel guilty about going to a place and not seeing it’s top attraction if it’s not something you are genuinely interested in. Equally if you really lovely somewhere don’t worry about doing the same thing more than once.

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Embrace public transport
My husband and I can’t drive, so we’ve kind of been forced to embrace public transport. But we could just take taxis everywhere and we don’t. Using local buses and trains is often a much more memorable experience.

Take time to get to know the area you’re staying in
Find your favourite bakery, your favourite route from your apartment to the main square, get a loyalty card at the local coffee shop, buy fresh produce from the market every morning and take time to observe the rhythms of the place you’re staying in.

Make time just to be
Don’t pack your days full of things to do, constantly rushing from one place to another on a tight schedule. Take time to sit, have a drink, soak up the atmosphere and hopefully the sunshine too. If you feel like it bring a book, a journal or a sketchbook with you, but equally it’s fine to do absolutely nothing.

The most important thing is of course to make sure your holiday works for you. Everyone has different needs, but slowing down a little bit and taking in your surroundings can only be a good thing.

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