Revenge Travel is the latest term to have entered our vocabulary in 2022. Throughout summer, we’ve seen images of seas of unclaimed bags at major airports, travel plans falling apart due to massive flight cancellations, and hours spent at the airport following unexpected delays. Many of us have also been disheartened caught amid such travels ourselves. But does all travel have to be this way? Can the same desire of making up for the lost time that fuels revenge travel be channeled toward its less-popular cousin – slow travel?
A lot of factors contribute to the downsides of revenge travel. Mismanagement by airlines, for example, is not something that is within the control of an individual traveler. But there are other factors like the choice of destinations, length of stay, modes of transportation, and how we spend our time at a destination, that are well within our control. The individual action we perform in each of these areas snowballs into collective actions and leads to outcomes on a bigger scale.
In this post, we’ll explore 10 ways to combat revenge travel by applying ideas from slow travel. Slow travel challenges traditional notions and encourages us to create trips with intention and fulfillment at our own sweet pace.
1. Stay longer in one place
Slow travel doesn’t need a minimum period to qualify as such. It’s more of a mindset rather than a specific length of time. But staying for a longer length of time to a destination automatically adds flexibility and resilience to your trip to protect it against revenge travel.
A weekend vacation is almost cut in half if your flight is canceled and you cannot get on another one until the next day. On the other hand, if you’re headed somewhere for a week, a day’s delay doesn’t have to ruin your travel plans. You can inform the hotel about the late arrival and carry on with the rest of your plans. This kind of resilience is precious and can make all the difference between a ruined and a good trip.
One doesn’t have to be a digital nomad to slow travel. If you’re accustomed to taking only short trips, try adding a couple of days or doubling the length of your next trip. This simple exercise will allow you to change the pace of your travel and see how you find it. Slowing down enables you to engage more deeply with a place and appreciate the things you might have missed.
2. Use slower forms of transportation
There is nothing like physically moving slower over long distances to shift your travel perspective. Using forms of transportation like trains, buses, and ferries instead of planes allows you to see a place more closely and stop at places of interest along the way. Plus, it lets you avoid the hubs of revenge travel like airports.
Last year, we visited San Diego and San Luis Obispo in California from our home in Chicago. We took a flight from Chicago to San Diego but decided to take the Pacific Surfliner Amtrak train to head to San Luis Obispo. Both cities have an airport but a train journey was better financially, and environmentally and a very unique experience in and of itself. Watching the sunset along the Californian coast with pelicans, cormorants, and Western gulls circling and dipping into the waters is one of the visuals that will forever be etched in my memory.
Even after arriving at a destination, see if you can use public transport to get around rather than driving. It will allow you to interact with the locals in a casual and organic setting. When I hiked and backpacked in Oregon, I took the local buses to get to the Mount Hood region from Portland and stumbled upon the Peruvian restaurant El Inca in Gresham during lunchtime. The soulful meal and conversation with its owner Claudia is something that I cherish even five years later. I hate to think of that missed encounter if I were driving that day.
3. Walk, hike or bike on your trip
If you are physically fit and able, this is a great way to slow yourself down while traveling through a destination. My husband and I didn’t discover the joys of hiking until our late 20s but since then, we’ve found a lot of contentment hiking through forests and gazing at clear-water lakes.
Hiking along the coast in Cambria or the hills of Morro Bay enabled the beauty of Central California to seep into our minds. We connected with the landscapes and geological history of the place so much more than we would have if we were only driving through. We’ve backpacked and hiked for multiple days in Japan along the Nakasendo trail and witnessed a slice of quiet, rural life away from the buzz of neon-lit Tokyo.
You don’t need to be in the wilderness to experience the joys of moving your mind at the pace of your body. Walking through a city is just as beneficial and allows you to visit intriguing streets and neighborhoods away from the main tourist areas.
4. Pare down your must-see sites
It is fair to start with a long list of must-visit sites at the new destination during the early travel planning stages. But once you’ve got a general lay of the land, it is time to pare down the must-visit list. There is no way we can see every corner, every popular attraction, and every hidden gem. So let’s not try and set ourselves up for failure and put ourselves on the path of revenge travel. Start by accepting that you will never get to fully see and experience a place. It might sound disappointing but this can be the most liberating feeling.
Now, you can start by selecting those attractions that match your and your travel party’s interests. I try to keep no more than one focus per day. So if there is a certain local market or museum or neighborhood that I’m interested in exploring, that will be the only thing I keep on my plan for the day. If I finish sooner, I can spend the rest of the time enjoying a nearby park or lingering over a meal. And if I take longer, I don’t have to worry about pushing out any other activity for the rest of the day.
5. Think about experiences rather than attractions
The usual way to travel is to follow a must-see list of attractions at the destination. But travel doesn’t have to be narrowed down like this. While there is nothing wrong with visiting a popular attraction, think of ways you can create an experience around that destination. You could click pictures near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or you could enjoy a picnic at Champ de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. You could just visit the Bean in Chicago’s Millenium Park or watch a free movie there in the summer.
There’s a reason why hanami or flower viewing is so popular in Japan as it allows you to pause and enjoy the beauty of cherry blossoms with family, friends, and food. Expanding our definition of what constitutes sightseeing allows us to engage with all our five senses rather than just our eyes. And it etches the travel memories much deeper in our minds.
6. Mix up popular sites with offbeat spots
One of the reasons why revenge travel can take away from the pleasure of exploring a place is the crowds. It is not unusual for staff to request people to keep moving at popular attractions to avoid long queues.
You might not consider yourself a person interested in offbeat destinations. Or perhaps the word offbeat brings to mind images of remote mountains and forests. But honestly, you don’t need to be in a faraway place to reap the benefits of veering away from the crowds. Offbeat travel can be much closer than you expect. Often a slower pace can be found easily just a couple of streets away or in the adjoining neighborhood.
On a trip to Vienna, my husband and I visited the popular St. Stephen’s Cathedral. We followed it up with a visit to a little-known cemetery outside the city center – Friedhof Der Namenlosen or Cemetery of the Nameless. This cemetery was featured in the movie Before Sunrise and was of special interest to me but it wasn’t a popular spot. It was tucked away amidst industries and warehouses in the Simmering district and the outing gave us a chance to explore a different part of the city.
7. Cook a meal
One of my favorite activities in a new place is visiting the grocery store or farmers’ market. It offers an interesting window into the foods that locals consume. Gathering the ingredients of a meal allows you to see the unique fresh produce or spices that dominate the markets there. The way packaged food versus fresh produce are arranged in the store or which are the fast-selling items in a local market are interesting to observe and compare with your city or town.
You will automatically be slowed down by the grocery shopping and cooking process, whether you opt for creating a new dish from your destination or whip up comfort food that reminds you of home. You will also save money in the process.
If you’d like to take things up a notch, you can join a cooking class and learn to make a dish with a local in a fun, group setting. Or if cooking on vacation does not appeal to you at all, you can sign up for food tours or services like EatWith for breaking bread in a local’s home.
8. Establish a ritual
Establishing a ritual on a vacation sounds blasphemous. Isn’t the whole purpose of travel to break free from routine and rituals? But hear me out. Adding just one or two rituals has a grounding effect on your day.
Use jetlag to your advantage if you are traveling internationally. Start your day with an early morning stroll around the neighborhood. I loved my early morning walks in Japan for a behind-the-scenes look at park officials tending to free-roaming deer in Nara or monks chanting along the streets of Kyoto. If you’re an avid reader, you can head to a park in the afternoon for some reading time coupled with people-watching.
It can be any activity as long as you keep at it almost every day. The repetition and certainty of a daily ritual can bring stillness to offset the movement and newness of the rest of the day.
9. Revisit restaurants or points of interest
Oftentimes, we feel compelled to try new things in a new place. It is the finitude of our time at a destination that makes us want to try everything new there. Isn’t that the whole purpose of travel, you might ask? To try new food and new things. Well, sort of. But there are joys to be found from mixing all this newness with some repetition.
There’s a different kind of satisfaction that comes from finding a new restaurant that you love and revisiting it a few times during your stay. You walk through the doors and the owner or server recognizes you and engages in conversation, or remembers your order from the last time. There’s quiet happiness that stems from such encounters. It cannot be replicated if you are always eating at a new place just because you feel that’s what you should be doing.
I loved trying different foods and restaurants in St. John but definitely revisited the ones my husband and I enjoyed the first time around. We felt less pressured to make the perfect choice with our order since we knew we could try another appetizing dish on the next visit. We checked out almost all the beaches on the North Shore Road of the island but kept returning to our favorite patches of white sand and clear blue waters.
10. Lean into your hobbies
Travel advice is brimming with phrases like get outside your comfort zone, push the envelope and try something new every day. While that is good advice, it is also incomplete and once again burdens us with things that we feel we should be doing on a vacation rather than things that bring us contentment.
How about trying this for a change? Carry your hobbies with you, no matter how obscure they seem. Finding ways to incorporate your interests helps you get in the zone and creates a spaciousness of time in your trip. I love reading and one of my fondest memories is visiting the Austrian National Library with its frescos, marble statues, and stacks of thousands of books filling the walls. I’m always happy to seek out famous bookstores like The Last Bookstore in LA and Powell’s City of Books in Portland as well as lesser-known ones like Phoenix Books in San Luis Obispo.
Whether it is knitting, gardening, painting, or hiking, I bet there’s a way to lean into your hobbies while traveling. An American baseball lover can find great pleasure in watching a game of cricket in India or vice versa. This opens up opportunities for connection with like-minded people while also having fun.
That’s it from me. These are some ways I’ve avoided the stresses of revenge travel and enhanced my experience on the road with slow, intentional travel even in the post-pandemic world. What are some ways you’ve tried to avoid the pitfalls of revenge travel? I’d love to know in the comments below!