The Pros and Cons of “Fast Travel” Tips on how to get the best out of your travels depending on the time you have

There are three types of travel: Fast Travel, Slow Travel, and Vacation. I will preface this by stating that I am biased on this issue, naturally. And although I said there are three types of “traveling,” Vacation is not traveling. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, vacation is nice, it’s relaxing, and sometimes it’s even necessary, but it’s not traveling.

This is what I call a vacation...This is what I consider a vacation

Vacation is paying for an experience that caters to your every need and envelops you in a sphere of uninterrupted comfort. In contrast, traveling involves immersing oneself in the culture of a region, exposing yourself to the experiences and atmosphere of the locals, and encountering a world that you have, at most, only read about. And yes, sometimes this isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, but that’s where the best stories are born. Let’s be honest, there’s nothing more captivating than a good travel story – and the best travel stories are those that weren’t the best until AFTER you got through them!

What is “Fast Traveling” and “Slow Traveling”?

Fast traveling is what most people engage in when they want to see another country without taking a vacation. The definition depends on whom you talk to, but I define any travel where you spend less than a week or two in a country as “fast travel.” Fast traveling usually involves spending a week or two in a country, or a few countries, while on a break from work or school. Many times this is done with friends or family, although certainly not always.

“Slow Traveling” is the opposite; this involves spending over a month in a particular country or region, often times upwards of several months or even a year. This type of travel usually requires a break from work or school and a certain level of savings, or a mobile form of income. You’re usually stationed in one city or region (while still making day or weekend trips to surrounding areas), or slowly making your way from country to country on buses, trains, or overland by some other means.


What are the Pros of “Fast Travel”?

This is the most popular form of travel for a reason; it has a lot of pros:

  • Doesn’t require a large time commitment (days off work/school)
  • Exposure to many, varied cultures in short time period
  • Make friends with people doing the same things you are
  • Can pick the time of year you travel
  • What you pack is less important

Fast traveling is fantastic since it encourages exposure to a variety of cultures, peoples, languages, food, and customs in a short amount of time. As an American, I feel this exposure is often something that my country’s citizens lack, since it is geographically more difficult to find our way to another country, and is all the more reason why I would recommend doing this. Additionally, while fast travel increases exposure to the local culture, it also has the benefit of inevitably generating encounters with other travelers who are doing the same thing you are: staying at hostels, riding trains and buses, visiting the local attractions and cultural hubs.


What are the Pros of “Slow Travel”?

Slow travel is more of a lifestyle than a hobby, which leads to some interesting Pros:

  • Able to learn the local language
  • Make lifelong friends instead of passing acquaintances (although on the flip side, there are people I’ve met staying in a hostel for two nights that are some of my favorite people)
  • See parts of cities, towns, and countries that very few tourists see
  • Experience life as a local person; participate in the area’s customs
  • You can be more spontaneous! (no set daily itinerary)
  • Spend less money per day (rent a room instead of hostels/hotels; fewer flights/trains, etc.)
  • Usually traveling alone

For those truly enamored with the idea of travel, slow travel is the ideal goal. You decide how long you stay somewhere, how much you see while you’re there, and where you go next without worrying about a previously booked flight, hostel/hotel, train, or tour. Additionally, since you are most likely traveling alone, these decisions are made solely by you and in respect to your needs.

What are the Cons of “Fast Travel”?

Despite its popularity, there are still cons:

  • Lack of ability to truly learn the local language
  • More expensive (more flights, usually eating at restaurants or food vendors instead of cooking, etc.)
  • Very little opportunity (or desire) to make money while traveling
  • Stricter schedule, less room for spontaneity
  • Less chance for meaningful interaction with locals
  • Spend more time in “touristy” places

The main drawback of fast travel is the lack of meaningful immersion into a culture or region. It can often toe the line between vacation and travel, and usually forces you to forgo a side trip or skip a certain experience since you don’t have the time, or a flight leaves the next day, or you already planned to do something else with your time here. Quite understandably, it’s hard to justify moving a $500 flight in order to take a day trip to a small town that was recommended by a local you met the day before your flight.

What are the Cons of “Slow Travel”?

  • Requires more of a time commitment
  • Requires a larger savings account, ability to make income online, or a willingness/ability to work locally
  • Visa requirements can be a hassle
  • Usually traveling alone

If slow travel is your aspiration, there aren’t many cons. Finding a way to have commitment-less time while still financing your travels in the biggest obstacle. Usually staying more than 90 days in a country/region or attempting to work locally will present the obstacle of visa requirements. Additionally, I listed “traveling alone” as both a pro and a con for slow traveling since it can be liberating to travel without needing to consider another person, but it can occasionally be lonely as well.


Which is better?

As always, these types of questions usually result in the same answer: both. Fast travel is what I have the most experience with, and is what I recommend to all readers as a gateway to more long-term travel; or, simply as the primary method of travel for the rest of their life. Conversely, I am working diligently to allow myself the opportunity to engage in “slow traveling” when I complete my graduate program. I welcome the challenge of learning another language, of fully experiencing the culture of a different country, and ultimately engaging in an adventure where I have no idea what the outcome will be…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Regardless of the way you travel, you should only bring a carry-on bag. Read the 7 Reasons Why I ONLY Travel with a Carry-on Bag if you need convincing.



2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of “Fast Travel” Tips on how to get the best out of your travels depending on the time you have

  1. I think you can still slow travel even if you have limited time it’s a matter of mindset. Let’s say you only have two weeks to travel, instead of trying to even pack in a whole country in two weeks you could stay in just one city or just one region of the country for two weeks and do a two week immersion in that one location.

  2. @Rama I think that’s a great point! Many times new travelers (and even experienced ones!) are caught up with seeing everything “we are supposed to see” instead of searching out truly unique experiences.

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