Slow travel. It’s all the rage these days, but it’s not always easy to arrange, especially when time and money keep getting in the way. Between food, transport, and accommodation, it can seem like your wallet is hemorrhaging money.
There are a few basics for making slow travel work:
- Take a gap year. Or a sabbatical from your job. Or hell, just quit your job.
- Avoid restaurants and make your own food. Better yet, eat locally and save like crazy.
- Volunteer in a location you’ve always wanted to visit. Help + travel = everybody wins.
- Save, save, save before you leave. Or hitchhike, dumpster dive, and sleep rough. Whatever works for you.
But there are other, more practical ways to dip your toe into the world of slow travel.
Work at a Hostel
Accommodation is one of the biggest drains on a traveler’s budget, so it’s best to eliminate that cost altogether.
I’m not suggesting you set up camp on a park bench or stay up all night – just mosey over to your hostel’s reception desk and ask if they offer any work in exchange for a bed. Common jobs include cleaning the kitchen & common room, cleaning the dorm rooms, or driving the hostel bus. For an hour’s work a day, you’ve got a free bed.
A work visa may or may not be necessary, and hostels tend to be flexible with the length of time you stay. After all, there’s always someone willing to take your place.
Rent an Apartment
Hostel life a little too grubby for you? Yeah, it’s getting that way for me, too.
Try setting up shop with a short-term rental instead. During a dual family trip to Oahu earlier this year, we rented a 7-bedroom house for a week, which was substantially cheaper than hotel rooms. This August, my fiancé and I have already arranged for a six-week apartment rental in Buenos Aires, and it came to about $26 a night – cheaper than any decent double room we came across.
The downside is that you may have to pony up the money for a refundable deposit, but you get to experience a bit of local life and save money in the long run.
Slash Your Itinerary
I know. It hurts.
But instead of looking at it as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trip, realize that it’s in your power to go back. Travel is incredibly attainable if you’re willing to prioritize your life a little bit differently.
Decide what you really, really want to see – what you’re not willing to compromise on – and work around that. In India, I absolutely had to visit the Taj Mahal, so that narrowed our scope considerably. We decided to spend our 3 weeks in Rajasthan, allowing at least three nights in each city we visited.
Traditional definitions of slow travel advocate spending weeks or months in a location, but when you have limited time, a few days can feel like weeks. I missed out on Goa, Sri Lanka, and Bombay, but we didn’t overstretch ourselves, which made the holiday so much better.
Apply for a Working Holiday Visa
Sometimes I can be like a broken record, constantly extolling the virtues of the working holiday visa. But it’s true. Travel while you’re already traveling – what could be better?
How about making money while you do it? With a WHV, you can choose a home base like London or Melbourne, then slowly branch out. Play tourist in your new neighborhood, take weekend trips away, and take advantage of vacations to go to spots that are a little further afield.
Alternatively, work in a casual job for as long as you want, then hit the road and do it again somewhere else. There are no rules, just right.
Sorry. I get kind of cheesy when I talk about working abroad.
Get your own ride
Think about buying a car. Yes, I’m serious. If you’re savvy, you can sell it at the end of your trip and make back most of your original investment.
In Australia, I went in on an old Peugeot with a few other backpackers. It cost $1000 total and wound up in the scrap heap six months later, but for $250 each it was worth it. You can go where you want, when you want, without relying on public transport. Fuel costs can be a bummer, and this option might not work in every destination. However, you could also consider renting a campervan or, particularly in Southeast Asia, a motorbike.
Did someone say road trip?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – what are YOUR tips for slow travel?