Magazine — 18.05.21
The Art Of Slow Travel
Words ASHLEY HAJIMIRSADEGHI
As the pandemic begins to fade away and countries begin to ease restrictions on travel, many are itching to see the world that was once locked away behind a computer screen. If there’s one thing we have all learned during the pandemic, it is that we are not only touch-starved, but we also have cultivated a deeper appreciation for the world and cultures around us. We took it all for granted, so, as we book a ticket to our post-COVID destination, is there a way we can extend this appreciation to the act of visiting another’s sacred land?
Slow living has gained momentum over the past couple of years, and this was accelerated by the pandemic. Slow travel is just another key to this puzzle. In our lives, as we run from one destination to the next, one experience to another, we are bringing this hustle-culture energy with us on our vacations. I know I’m guilty of running from one tourist site to another, as our time was so limited abroad, and we just had to see everything. However, by taking the days slowly, wandering the cobblestone streets, or making friends with locals, you build a deeper connection to the land you’re on. It isn’t somewhere random you’re visiting, the space you once existed upon. You’ve left your mark on the people and the streets you once wandered, have a coffee shop where you made friends with the barista or the bakery where the owner snuck you an extra pastry every time you came in.
In 2018, I spent six weeks living in Korea. I lived on the outskirts of Seoul, in a city called Anyang, and I had to commute two hours every single weekday to get to my Korean classes at Ewha Womans University. I befriended the woman who sold chocolate-filled bread at the subway station, stopped to chat with the friendly old men and women taking walks in the parks, and even befriended my apartment complex’s children at the community playground. As the children, my roommate, and I all sat around playing BTS and random American songs, I didn’t realize that this was the definition of slow travel. I wasn’t racing around trying to see all the touristy areas and stocking up on all of the Korean beauty products; instead, I was creating lifelong memories for myself and the people I met.
The travel industry, too, has quite a big impact on the environment. By 2050, it is expected that 40% of the world’s carbon emissions will be created just by tourism alone. This is the direct cause of a cultural shift, one where people who can afford to book a plane ticket abroad can, despite having very little reasoning to go to the country versus someone going for necessary work or an immigrant coming home for the last time. While being abroad in the Caribbean, I remember being dismayed seeing fellow tourists carelessly throw their water bottles and trash into the rivers, streets, and wilderness of the islands. Some justified it by saying the islands were already dirty, that the streets already looked like landfills. But, perhaps, if they took the time to truly integrate with the local culture, they may discover that the island sees thousands of tourists every day, and with them comes piles of trash that the natives are tired of collecting.
Unfortunately, this has become a common story. As tourists enter a space that they’re unfamiliar with, they also often interrupt the balance of the ecosystem and the rules in place. An American in, say, Japan might not know that trash cans are uncommon on the streets and that many carry their trash with them. One country’s recycling system may be more in-depth than another’s, leading to the waste of products that could have been recycled due to a lack of knowledge. It is estimated that tourists can produce almost twice the amount of trash a local person produces. Taking a look at cruise ships and resorts, it seems almost obvious why this is the case from the amount of products they consume.
By taking the time to slow down, you’re not only being more mindful of the culture you are intruding upon, but you’re also helping the environment. You don’t need to fly all over a country to get the best experience; the perfect restaurant might be around the corner, or a hidden grotto that only the locals know about might be the dream you never knew you had.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a writer and artist based in Baltimore and New York City. Her work often deals with intergenerational trauma, utilizing cinema from a cultural, sociological, and socioeconomic lens, and the impacts of urbanism and loneliness. An undergraduate at the Fashion Institute of Technology studying International Trade, she hopes to advocate for sustainable and ethical practices in the global marketplace.
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