Slow Travel: A way to leave smaller footprints while wandering the world.

Slow Travel: A way to leave smaller footprints while wandering the world.

The idea of meandering my way around the planet at a leisurely pace, allowing enough time to soak up the minutia of each locale, is a veritable wet dream of mine. Though, a close examination of my travel history would make me sound like a liar. Ok, maybe you would not have to look that closely.

Life has become a series of races to the finish line. Deadline after deadline, project after project, goal after goal have etched a groove into my subconscious routine, resulting in a mad rush to produce as much as super humanly possible within the shortest amount of time conceivable. Slowing down my pace sounds lovely, and feels like a failure.

This full steam ahead approach to my regular life also drives how I roll on vacation. While I am packing it all in, overstuffing a travel day with as much sightseeing as tour schedules and speed limits allow, I am also leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuels behind me. Invisible but often smelly particles drifting their way into the atmosphere, turning clear days into hazy days to be later inhaled by innocent bystanders.

I am not terribly happy with how my transportation choices inflate the size of my travel footprint. So, it is time to do something about it and slow things down. This is a list of changes I am going to make to help me get there:

Pack lighter  A smaller bag is less of a deterrent to walking, cycling, or taking public transport in lieu of taxis or renting a car. I will endeavour to pack no more than what I would need for 1 week. Also, there will be less room for souvenirs that will live a short while on someone’s book shelf before finding their inevitable demise in a trash heap half way around the world.

Stay put longer  Instead of passing through town after city after village, stopping only long enough to glimpse the sights, I will find a cosy spot to call home for at least a few days. I will be able to do laundry, helping with my decision to pack lighter. I will be able to cook for myself with fresh, local ingredients, reducing the amount of waste I produce with packaged meals. I will have the time to find the organic markets, to see how other people incorporate ‘greener’ practices into their own routines, and to hunt out businesses that go the extra ecological mile.


Take public transit  No more taxis! The difference in time saved by using a taxi instead of a bus is often less than I think. Also, taxi drivers are notoriously sneaky when it comes to overcharging for their service no matter where you are in the world.

Cycle  I have read many lovely stories of cycling through France and Italy. I will keep my eyes open for a used bicycle when I am in an area where cycling from one quaint village to the next looks enjoyable (think long, flat coastlines with frequent stops at cafés, and less alpine/Tour de France style).

Walk more  Find walking tours instead of bus tours, or design my own walking tours.


Reusable lunch box and water bottle  So I can carry my own lunches and further control how much I rely on packaged meals and bottled water. Also comes in handy when taking away leftovers from a restaurant.

Limit air travel  Definitely choose an alternative method of transport over land. I am tentatively flirting with the idea of travelling from Canada to Europe via boat to reduce the biggest fuel suck of my trip. But, I my enthusiasm for sea travel is curbed by visions of rough water, capsized ships, rammed whales and a glistening trail of spilt oil behind us… I am not yet sure which is the lesser evil of the two options, more research is needed on this one.

Spend less money  A side benefit to many of these changes to my travel style is a reduction in travel expenses. I will be travelling for 12 months, I am not independently wealthy and do not have a pile of cash to burn, so in my case money is a precious resource.

Slowing down my travel pace shifts the focus from quantity to quality. It provides me with options to reduce my draw on the planet’s resources and increase the richness of my experiences. Sounds fantastic in writing. Let us see how well I do in practice.


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  1. Christopher Crouzet

    Hey Genevieve! This is great to read both about your project and I am glad to see you opting for this slow travel approach!

    I have followed a very similar approach for my current travels and it has been great! I’m using a single backpack of 40L (with an ultra simple/light daypack that I roll within my backpack when traveling) but I’m probably using around 35L all in all, making it easy to move around. Most of my clothes are made of merino which, amongst other properties, doesn’t keep odours and thus greatly reduces the need for washing. The downside is that it is overly fragile, and as careful as you are, it might end up being full of holes when not torn apart (they should rebrand IceBreaker as HoleMaker). I’ve been determined to use taxis or airplanes only in last resort while in Latin America—instead I took buses to travel between cities, which has sometimes been a bit dangerous (the drivers and some roads are insane) but otherwise super cheap, and from there I often walked from the bus terminals to the city centre—it most likely wasn’t much longer than 1 hour walk, but there has always been some cheap local transports otherwise. I would arrive at a new destination without knowing when I would leave for the next one but I ended up staying between a week and a few months in a same city—depending on how much I liked it—to give me a chance to know the place and to feel like I’ve been part of it. I even stayed 1.5 month in a totally non-touristic and boring place of Peru, lost somewhere in the middle of the desert, while managing to crash at some local’s—that was interesting. I’ve now settled a bit in Vietnam and knew that I would need some transportation so I got myself a bicycle—the constantly pouring rain a few months ago and now the blazing sun averaging a temperature of 33-37ºC always made me feel like I freakkin’ deserved the meals I had after a ride. I’ve got a metal water bottle but unfortunately I’ve always had to buy bottled water as the tap water is not drinkable and I couldn’t boil it. And finally, money-wise, eating at the cheapest place I could find has been one of my priority. At the once in a month exception when I needed a freakkin’ pizza for a change, I forbid myself to go to any restaurant that local people wouldn’t be able to afford—I thought that it would be a good way to support people that were really in the need. As a side effect, I ended up living for around $10 USD per day while in Latin America, and now around $5-7 USD in Da Nang, Vietnam.

    Cherry on the cake, all this makes it for a more memorable, immersive, authentic, rewarding, and lengthy experience.

    What’s a bit painful is to see any personal effort towards ecology being so easily annihilated by the lack of education in Latin America or Asia. The levels of air pollution are unbelievable and these buses that I took to reduce my carbon emissions ended up spitting huge, dark, clouds of smoke. I’m not even talking of how throwing plastics and other trash on the ground seems to be the norm—trying to engage the discussion on this subject with the concerned is only a waste of time. As for organic grocery stores, I don’t know your destination yet but good luck with that if you go to Latin America—they usually don’t even understand why someone wouldn’t want meat in their dish, so organic? Meh.

    Anyways, you’ve got all my support and I’m looking forward to read more from you. Any idea of the destinations? Maybe I’ll see you around, enjoy the road! 🙂

    • Genevieve

      Thanks for all the first hand info and your support! I am planning on bringing a metal bottle as well. Do you think a water filter such as the steripen would be suitable for purifying tap water in Vietnam? I hope to make it there myself.

      • Christopher Crouzet

        Well, I’ve had a look at such filters before leaving but I wasn’t sure neither if I should trust them or not and, since I’ve been really strict towards each gram in my backpack needing to be indispensable, I ended up discarding the idea. In other words, I don’t know, sorry.

        I will move tomorrow to Hanoi and will most likely stay there for another 6 to 9 months. When are you planning to make it to Vietnam?

  2. Christopher Crouzet

    Correction: This is great to read about your project and I am glad to see you opting for this slow travel approach!



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