Philosophy and 8 Principles of Slow Travel


© 2015 Scott Grabinger

®Inside Tuscany, ®Second Time Around, and ®Inside Tuscany Tours are registered trademarks.

Principle 1: Go slow and easy. Plan to return.

Slow travel is where it’s at. Focus on a few things in depth rather than many things lightly. Rushing from one place to another for a 10 to 20 minute visit gets in the way of true appreciation of the culture. You have to believe that you will return and that quantity of sites doesn’t equal quality of trip.

Principle 2: Adapt and learn new things.

Trying new things leads to adventures and stories that you’ll never forget. Remember that it is not our hosts’ responsibility to make things “just like home” — give up the catsup — it’s our responsibility to enjoy the differences and to make their home ours.

Principle 3: Travel cheap.

Expensive chain, four-star hotels, and tourist-based restaurants shelter you from the local people, culture, and best food. They prey upon your insecurities. (The number of stars in a hotel’s name relates to how many services the hotel provides, not cleanliness.) Take a leap: use the one, two, or three star hotels and look for the less expensive restaurants where locals eat. So what if the menu is not in English — go for it. (Pasta Carbonara is not originally Italian.) The fewer euros you spend, the more you need to interact with people, and the more you interact, the more fun you have. It costs nothing to join the evening passeggiata, but it is an unforgettable experience. 

Principle 4: Come to “tour” and to “live.”

When touring, do everything you can to be a “local,” to live there. Put your clothes in the drawers, closets, and wardrobes — even just for a couple of nights. Walk slowly through the streets, look for restaurants to visit. Shop for meats, cheeses, and wines for a picnic. Look around and tell yourself, “I live here.” Use a base to reduce wasted time moving from place-to-place and to get to know a place well.

Principle 5: Look with your eyes first. Enough with the selfies!

Pictures are nice — memories are better. It’s a richer experience to see through your naked eyes rather than a viewfinder. If you want pictures, look with your eyes first and save it in your memory — not through selfies, which irritate the hell out of everyone around you. Don’t wait to see your vacation until you watch the video at home or on YouTube.

Principle 6: Fly under the radar.

We Americans often shock our hosts because we are loud in voice and dress. You’ll never hide your tourist status or that you are an American — nor should you — instead fly under the radar. Leave your baseball caps at home. Locals don’t wear T-shirts with advertising. Be humble and respectful in actions, low in voice, and dress appropriately to earn our hosts’ respect and gratitude. Ask about the culture. Ask the waiter, “What is best today? What do you recommend?” A little enthusiasm for their culture and listening wins people over.

Principle 7: Does €25.00 really matter?

Money flows like water while traveling and it’s possible to get too obsessed by it. You may decide to forgo a restaurant meal for a couple of pizzas and drinks for €25.00. A three-course meal for two at an authentic local restaurant might cost you €50.00. One month later, when you are home, will you really worry about that €25.00? Or, will you wish that you’d tried that restaurant?

Principle 8: Pack light, walk easy.

No one ever returns home from a trip and says, “I wish I’d packed more.” I live out of a carry-on for two months. You want to be flexible and able to travel quickly without dragging 100 pounds of large suitcases to the hotel. Lay everything out on the bed before you leave and put half of it away — then do it again. You’ll probably never see those people again and they don’t care whether you’ve worn the same shirt and pants five days in a row and washed them out in the evening.

Take light clothes made from synthetic fabrics (make sure that they are breathable — synthetic fabrics have come a long way since the polyester disco era) that you can wash easily in the sink and that will dry fast — I’ve learned to leave my cotton knit shirts and jeans home. I have found that a shirt that is only 50% cotton dries quickly.

Left: Scott Tiezzi Grabinger at a restaurant in Cortona. Right: On a hike in the Cinque Terre.