If you know me, you know I value slow travel. You may also know that slow travel (to me) doesn’t just mean traveling at a slower pace. It’s more about not over-scheduling, about giving yourself space to breathe, explore, enjoy. About planning your travels in a way that lets you really experience something instead of checking your watch 10 times to see if you need to leave to make your next appointment.
And when a reader wrote to me recently to ask about my itineraries, that slow travel philosophy is what came to mind.
She wanted to know this: How far do you travel between one destination and the next? When you do move home bases, are you picking another one nearby or flying to another continent?
And while I’ve certainly done both, the answer is strongly in the first camp: usually, I try to pick somewhere very close to where I already am. If I’m in Italy and need to leave the schengen, I take a short flight to Croatia. If I’m in Spain, thinking about my next stop, France is the first place that comes to mind.
This jives with my ideas about slow travel for a lot of reasons. Because it means shorter travel days (and less stress) to get to the next place. Because it allows me to see more of a region or country instead of just ticking the “been to Italy” box and missing out on the nuances between regions.
It also keeps my carbon footprint lower.
So, what exactly do I mean when I say I tend to travel both slow and close? Here are several real itineraries from my almost-10-years on the road:
Edinburgh, Scotland: 1 month
Transit: train + ferry – 8+ hours
Ghent, Belgium: 1 month
Transit: 6.5 hours (train)
Freiburg, Germany: 2 weeks
Transit: 3.5 hours
Switzerland vacation (Bernese Oberland): 2 weeks
Transit: 9ish hours
Ghent, Belgium: 2ish weeks
As you can see, this first few months in Europe, my longest travel days were about eight or nine hours via train and/or ferry. I traveled a bit faster than usual, spending only two weeks in one place in several cases, but I stayed relatively close on the map.
Taormina, Sicily: 1 month
Transit: 8ish hours by train
Rome, Italy: 2 months
Transit: 5ish hours by plane
Dubrovnik, Croatia: 2 months
Transit: 2 – 3 hours by car
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1 month
Transit: 1 hour by car
Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1 month
Transit: 8+ hours by car and train with a Zagreb overnight stopover
Ljubljana, Slovenia: 1 month
Transit: 2ish hours by train
Kranjska Gora, Slovenia: 1 month
In this nine-month period, I only covered about 2,300 kilometers. Could I have done some of this in day trips? Sure, but I like having a base and exploring that tiny area thoroughly before moving on to the next. And I don’t love being in the car or on buses all the time. So I choose to bike and walk in a small area and then move, even if it’s only three or four hours away from my original base.
So, now back to you: do you tend to cluster destinations close together or try to jump around and see a lot of disparate places in one trip? There is no right answer. This one is just mine.