Mastering the Art of Slow Travel

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.

– Cesare Pavese

Some people think travel is all about covering ground.

They blow into the Albanian guest house where I’ve been living for two months, stay one night, and soon they’re back on the road again.

Sometimes traveling that way can be fun, like the time I bought a flight to Kyiv eight hours before departure.

But I prefer slow travel. I take my time in one place and wait for the right moment to move on.

There are two primary advantages of slow travel:

  1. It’s cheaper. You can negotiate monthly room rentals for much less than paying by the night and you’re not spending money on flights or bus tickets.
  2. You get to know a place much better. It’s not just meeting a few locals in clubs or bars, but really seeing the way people live.

I’m currently paid up for another month on my rented room in Albania. After that I have no idea where I’ll go. Maybe I’ll stay here or go back down to Greece for a while. I might even head back to the United States. I’m overdue for a family visit.

Slow travel means keeping things open, watching for deals, and moving with the seasons.

In practical terms it’s also a great way to stay in Europe without a residency visa.

If you have a US passport you can spend 90 days in Schengen Area countries like Italy or France and then move for 90 days to a non-Schengen country like Ukraine or Romania. Every 90 days you rotate in and out of Eastern and Western Europe.

The same can be done in South America or Asia, moving back and forth between countries.

I like to time things so I’m in cities like Prague or Budapest for the summer party season and then in places like Albania for the off-season when rent drops by 90%.

As for travel deals, it’s amazing sometimes the difference a little flexibility can make.

A ticket on Monday could be $250 and the same ticket on Tuesday is $25.

I see it all the time, and you can be sure I’m buying on the cheap dates.

But it’s the chance to get to know somewhere that makes slow travel so rewarding.

What can you really see in two days? Stick around two months and a place will start to give up some of its secrets.

You meet people. You settle into their pace. There’s the bakery you go to every day. The market. The barbershop where old men play card games. And what at first seemed so foreign becomes familiar.

Daily life takes on a different meaning.

And in rare moments you almost come to feel like a local.

That’s something you’re never going to get blowing through town with a backpack on your shoulders.