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The Difference Between Slow Travel and Sustainable Travel

Vista of green fields in the mountains of Colombia




In today’s hectic world, and especially in the world of travel, it can sometimes be tough to find your “style.” Are you the traveler that focuses almost all of their energy into packing each day full of activities, tours and excursions? Or are you more likely to fall under the laid-back, relax on the beach with a drink in your hand kind of vibe?

While you can easily fall within different styles of travel, flip-flopping depending on the location or who you are traveling with, oftentimes you kind of know what type of travel makes you happy.

But what if we said that you could travel in a way that not only makes you happy, but also helps the planet?

This is where the two terms of slow travel and sustainable travel come in. While both have many similarities, they are still two different styles of travel. Keep reading to not only learn more about how to travel both slowly and sustainably, but also what makes each unique.




Slow travel is about taking your time in one specific place instead of a handful of places. It is about focusing on connecting more deeply with the people, culture, cuisine, and landscapes of one location instead of simply just rushing to check it off of your must-see list.

Sustainable travel on the other hand is less about the speed in which you travel and more about the choices and steps you take while traveling. This can include choosing to stay at more sustainably-minded accommodations, eating locally, choosing eco-friendly tours, saying no to animal tourism and offsetting your carbon footprint when flying.

In a way, the idea of slow travel falls under the umbrella of sustainable travel - for choosing to travel more slowly means less harm to the environment (for example, the fewer places you travel to - especially by plane - the less carbon you put off). Since sustainable travel is about making simple choices to be a better traveler, it is easy to understand how one of those choices could simply be to just slow down and spend a longer amount of time in one place.

If you begin to look at the two terms like that - slow travel as a facet of sustainable travel - you can begin to understand that while they are very similar, they are not synonymous.

You can still be a sustainable traveler and focus on seeing a handful of places in a shorter amount of time. You can be a sustainable traveler and eat at all the local restaurants and shop in the local markets, but move from city to city every other day. Sustainability does not mean slow, but slow travel does mean sustainability.

Still following?

Historic colorful buildings in Cartagena, Colombia

We believe in and try to follow both travel styles, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes not (we understand slow travel is not always possible). When it comes down to it, both styles are all about choices and consideration on what type of travel you want to do. While we have absolutely no issues with the travel style of relaxing on beaches with drinks in hand (who doesn’t want a pina colada on a beach every once in a while), we do think that every travel style could and should be combined with sustainable travel (and sometimes even slow travel).

For example, you can still go on trips that focus heavily on laying around on a beach. But to make it more sustainable, consider making the choice to stay at an eco-friendly beach hotel or hostel (maybe one that gives back to help the local marine life?), only use sunscreen that doesn't harm coral reefs, and even wear a swimsuit made of recycled plastic (like these).

Adding sustainable elements to your travels doesn’t have to be hard. Oftentimes it is all about the smaller choices you make that eventually lead to a bigger impact.

Sustainable travel is somewhat easier to combine with any travel style, whereas slow travel is a bit more of a challenge. For many, the ability to spend a long time in one specific spot isn’t always feasible, either because of job requirements, family, or a mix of both.

Luckily, with today’s increasingly digital world, many people are now able to take their one-time office jobs remotely. This means that for some people the ability to combine work and travel is beginning to become more possible - meaning the ability to spend more time in one location, is also becoming more possible. Therefore what better time to learn more about slow travel and how it is one of the most sustainable ways to see the world!

Green rainforest with lush plants

Slow travel and sustainable travel are both great ways to explore the world. While they are not completely interchangeable, at the end of the day the end goal is the same: traveling in a way that focuses on minimizing your harm to the environment.

If you are curious about learning more about both slow travel and sustainable travel make sure to check out our more in-depth guides below. Similarly, consider subscribing to Backroad Packers so you don't miss out on any slow, sustainable & adventurous travel content!



pinterest pin on slow travel


What do you think about slow travel and sustainable travel? Could you see yourself traveling more sustainably and/or slowly? Let us know below!


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