Slow travel is a buzzword that’s been kicking around a while: a “trend” in the travel industry, some might say, in the vein of ecotourism. Just as the terminology has evolved from global warming to climate change, however, more humans are increasingly considering their footprint, both on the environment and on the destinations they visit, often in an economic way. If slow travel means more than exhaust output of air travel – if slow travel means picking one particular destination instead of dozen and then using local means of transportation, bikes or hiking, even, to explore an area more in depth, at a more leisurely pace, then I’m all for it. Today, we have a returning guest and longtime friend of the destinations he lives and works in, Stuart McDonald, to give us his understanding of and experiences with slow travel in Asia.

Encouraging waste separation arranged by local community (courtesy of Stuart McDonald)

Trevor: The second time I was paid to ride a water buffalo was for a slow travel promo for the TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand). I love buffalos, so I’m very lucky to have had to ride them at work. In the TAT promo I had to talk about Slow Travel while riding the buffalo. “Now slow travel doesn’t just mean traveling slowly”, Scott, “it often means getting hands-on experience of the culture and nature of your destination”. My line must have been something like that. 

Scott: That’s a cool sounding promo you were a part of Trevor. I sort of remember you talking about that way back when. You know – I’m quite interested in this episode, as I think I know what slow travel means and implies, but I’m not 100% sure. Like your intro, I think it might be making a deliberate effort to stay put in one spot for much longer than you usually would do on a typical ‘tour’ or trip. Have you ever had a ‘slow’ trip Trevor?

Trevor: How about some more buffalo stories?

Scott: I think I had an inadvertent one in 2013 when I went to Nepal for a month after selling out of my travel business Smiling Albino. I spent a week-plus up on the Kathmandu Valley at Shivapuri Retreat: walked the area, villages, jogged, and mostly rode my bike, but enjoyed that area and getting to know it. I then spent about a week in Patan, at one family-run hotel and just enjoyed being there. I think that was slow travel – in no rush to get somewhere else, check off a bunch of sites, and it was great. Actually something that has been on my mind for a while now is where to live during retirement (not sure when that will be), but I really like the idea of going various spots, rent a house for a couple of months, and get to know that town or area rather intimately.

Carving driftwood into thresher sharks: community income source (courtesy of Stuart McDonald)


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Stuart McDonald

Guest Intro: Originally from Australia, Stuart McDonald is the founder of, one of the best, most comprehensive, unbiased sources for Asia travel information.

Listen to the episode to hear Stuart answer the following questions about slow travel in Asia

  • Where are you originally from and what first brought you to Asia in a professional capacity?
  • You also run TravelFish – how’s that going?
  • You’ve been writing a lot about tourism sustainability since the pandemic. What prompted that pivot and interest?
  • I also see you’ve been speaking about and promoting slow travel the last few months. – – What exactly does ‘slow travel mean’?
  • Where did you start learning about it and what prompted you to take up that cause?
  • How does one travel slow?
  • Is it okay to fly when you’re traveling slow? Are there rules?
  • How does one plan a slow trip?
(Courtesy of Stuart McDonald)
  • How about some examples: You recently went to Cebu in the Philippines, yeah: three weeks for one island, diving and motorbiking. What were some of the pros and cons of slow travel on that experience? 
  • You also mentioned before the show that you went to Raja Ampat, Indonesia, recently for a “slow-travel” kind of trip: two weeks diving using one island as a base. What were some of the Pros and Cons of slow travel on that experience? Can you travel slow anywhere in Asia – even a big city?
  • Why is this kind of advice applicable across the region?
  • Who are the main drivers and promoters of this type of travel?
Dive crew in Malapascua (courtesy of Stuart McDonald)

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