Become a Slow Nomad in a Post-Pandemic World
Before the pandemic, traveling was, for the most part, easy. Book a ticket and head off to the next location on your bucket list. Digital nomads, of course, embraced this lifestyle, working from the beaches in Bali one week and the cafes of Paris the next.
Now, though, travel is complicated, to say the least. Deciding if you feel safe enough to get on a plane or any form of mass transit is only half the battle. Once you arrive at your destination, you may have to stay in your hotel room for 14 days. And when you’re allowed out, there may be restrictions on what you can see and when.
Travel of every shape and form is going to be different for a long time. And, it may seem that for digital nomads, COVID-19 means the end of their lifestyle. However, if nomads embrace slow travel, they may find that they can return to their nomadic lifestyle, albeit at a much different pace.
What Is Slow Travel?
Slow travel is an offshoot of the slow food movement. Started in the 1980s, the Slow Food Association was founded in response to the first McDonald’s in Rome. An Italian journalist, Carlo Petrini, was worried that local food tradition and its associated culture would be lost to fast food and the fast pace associated with it.
He created the idea of slow food to counteract the fast nature of fast food. Slow food focuses on regional cuisines, local farming, traditional meal prep, and the communal nature of sharing a good meal with family and friends. The idea is to slow down, savor what’s unique about the food on your plate, and understand the origins of the food by supporting local chefs and farmers.
Over time, people embraced the slow food movement (think: farm to table), and eventually, the “slow” movement spread to other areas of life, like travel.
Slow travel isn’t about moving slowly, per se. Slow travel is about spending time in a city and immersing yourself in it. Instead of blowing into a town for a week, hitting as many tourist sites as you can and then leaving, slow travel encourages people to stay in town for as long as they can and live like a local.
The idea is to connect with whatever makes the town and its culture unique. While you may visit the top tourist sites, instead of trying to get through all the museums as fast as you can and only seeing the famous exhibits, slow travelers hit one museum a day. They take their time looking at all the exhibits and learning about the specific pieces. And, if a slow traveler can’t see the entire museum in one day, that’s OK. They’re in town long enough to come back two or even three times if they need to.
What Slow Travel Is Not
Some people believe that slow travel is an extreme lifestyle that rejects all things digital and modern. That, however, is not the case. Many slow travelers use technology to plan their trips, book their travel and accommodations, and share their stories on social media.
What slow travelers do not do is embrace a fast-paced lifestyle. Instead of being on the go all the time, slow travelers take their time wherever they travel. For example, they might take a flight with multiple connections instead of a direct flight, so they aren’t rushed to get somewhere as fast as they can.
They also book their travel so they have enough time to enjoy wherever they stay. Instead of squeezing a trip into a week or even a weekend, slow travelers spend more time getting to and enjoying their destination.
How Can Nomads Become Slow Nomads?
Part of the allure of the digital nomad lifestyle is the travel. You can pick and move wherever you want, which for some, is quite frequently.
However, in a post-pandemic world, moving to a new location whenever you’d like may not be possible for a long time. Many countries are forcing visitors to quarantine for 14 days after arriving (and fining you if you break quarantine). For digital nomads, slow travel may be the only choice for a while.
Beyond enforced quarantine, though, there are other advantages to being a slow travel nomad.
Advantage No. 1 of Slow Travel: Less Expensive
As a slow nomad, you’ll stay in accommodations that are more like an apartment. While that’s true for almost any nomad (or even tourists), because you’re renting your accommodations for an extended period, you may be able to score a discount that you wouldn’t get if you only stayed for a few days.
Slow travelers eat like locals, which is usually less expensive than eating like a tourist. That means not only preparing more meals at home, but also shopping where the locals shop, buying the groceries they buy, and even using the same techniques to prepare your meals. And it also means that when you eat out, you’re more likely to eat at the same places the locals dine, not just where the tourists eat.
Slow travelers also save on travel expenses. Instead of taking a taxi or rideshare everywhere, many slow travelers rent bikes, use public transportation, or even walk. Because they are in less of a hurry to get to wherever they’re going, they don’t worry about taking an extra-long, yet cheaper, mode of transportation.
Advantage No. 2 of Slow Travel: Eco-Friendly
Because you aren’t traveling as frequently, you’ll help the environment. Fewer train and plane trips mean that much less pollution is in the atmosphere. And, when you choose walking, biking, or even public transportation over taxis and rideshares, you’re doing even more to cut emissions.
Eating out less and prepping meals at home more also helps cut back on how much waste you produce. Keep in mind that if you choose carry out over dining in because it’s less expensive, you’re still creating waste from the bags and take out containers.
Choosing local foods is another eco-friendly choice. The less distance food has to travel from the farm to your table (wherever it is), the less pollution is released into the atmosphere.
Advantage No. 3 of Slow Travel: Improves Productivity
One of the biggest assumptions about the digital nomad lifestyle is that it’s go, go, go. Even if that’s your preferred lifestyle, it may not be the best choice for your productivity.
As a digital nomad, you are supposed to work. Whether that’s one hour a day or 40 hours a week, you still need to produce and earn a living. However, the hectic always on the move lifestyle of a digital nomad (or any traveler) can, over time, create productivity problems that could impact your performance.
For example, if you’re changing time zones every time you travel, you’ll end up with a vicious case of jet lag that seems to never go away. Even if you don’t suffer from jet lag, constantly moving and re-establishing yourself can affect your ability to be productive and perform at your best.
When you aren’t up and running to catch a flight every week, you’re better able to establish a routine that can increase your productivity. You can spend a few days getting to know your new town, then figure out when, how, and where you work best. Once you’ve spent some time getting the work routine down, you can better balance work and tourist life.
Advantage No. 4 of Slow Travel: Expands Your Network
One of the best parts of being a digital nomad is all the people you meet. It can be fellow nomads, tourists from other countries, and the locals. These social connections can turn into lifelong friendships.
However, as a slow nomad, you can expand your professional network. Instead of connecting with people purely on a social level, you can also connect with them on a professional level. They can see your work and your work ethic, and might feel comfortable connecting you with others in their professional network.
Slow Nomad Considerations
Though there are many benefits of slow travel for digital nomads, make sure you’re considering all of the logistics before you start.
Slow Nomad Consideration No. 1: It’s a Lifestyle
As much as slow travel is a mindset (choosing to take the long way to get somewhere, making intentional connections with the locals), it is also a lifestyle. For some digital nomads, the whole point of the nomadic lifestyle is to be, well, nomadic! Changing location every few weeks or even days is why they became a digital nomad in the first place.
Choosing the slow nomad life is a choice. The change of pace may not be for everyone. Test it out for a month or two before you commit to the lifestyle for a year or longer.
Slow Nomad Consideration No. 2: Stay Legal
Depending on where you go and what you do, you might need a visa. A visa is granted by the country you’re visiting and gives you permission to stay there. Not every country requires one, but for those that do, there are different kinds of visas that may determine how long you can stay in a country.
Research the country or countries you’re going to visit and find out what you need to do to get a visa—and whether or not you’re allowed to work while you’re there. Make sure you follow the rules and don’t overstay your visa, or you might end up banned from that country.
Slow Nomad Consideration No. 3: Be Respectful
There are ethical issues to consider when you’re a digital nomad. One of the bigger issues is how digital nomads treat the local community. Whether you embrace slow travel or not, make sure you respect the local culture.
Part of the point of slow travel is to connect with and learn about the communities and cultures you’re visiting. That means embracing and learning how they do everything, from eating and drinking to celebrating and mourning.
Make sure you are learning about and connecting with the local community. You don’t have to like or agree with it (that’s part of learning), but as a long-term visitor, you should try to respect and learn about its history.
Taking It Slow
Slow travel isn’t for every traveler. And being a slow nomad isn’t for every digital nomad. However, there are some benefits to embracing slow travel as a nomad. You may find that you boost your productivity and learn something new about the world at the same time.
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By Rachel Pelta | June 17, 2020 | Categories: Work Remotely