Dolce Far Niente: Making the Case for Slow Travel

Dolce far niente, or the pleasure of doing nothing, can be applied to travel as well. Click to read why it's important to travel slower and deeper! |

I’m going to sound like a cliché right now but here it goes: I first learned about the concept of “dolce far niente” from Eat, Pray, Love. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you that Eat, Pray, Love changed my life or anything (it didn’t), but “dolce far niente” certainly stuck with me.

While the dictionary defines this Italian concept as “pleasant relaxation in carefree idleness,” its meaning stretches even further: it’s the pleasure of doing nothing.

Sound foreign to you? Don’t worry, it did to me too. What do you mean, “do nothing?” We’re busy people. We have things to do, places to be and people to see. How dare those Italians suggest we do nothing?

I’m going to be frank. This concept is a serious struggle for me. Not from lack of trying. But my to-do list is always long and the deadlines are always ASAP. Perhaps it’s my type-A-but-trying-and-failing-to-be-type-B personality. Perhaps it’s growing up in the U.S., where nearly half of Americans don’t take annual vacations. It’s probably both. Sadly, this same desperation to get things done often seeps into my travels. But I’m done(ish) with it.

I alluded to my guidebook attachment in this post about London. I don’t go so far as to plan out my daily schedule on trips, but I certainly do enough research to consider how many days I’ll spend in each city. The idea of haphazardly arriving in a new city without accommodation booked absolutely terrifies me. Before this year, I’d never visited a new city without at least having a little idea of what there is to do there.

Last year, for the first time in over ten years of travel, I applied the concept of dolce far niente during my travels. It was a bit forced as I had seemingly run out of things to “do” in Cordoba, and so I had no choice but to simply be. And it was fantastic.


There’s this concept of slow travel – the idea that you should spend an extended amount of time in each place you visit in order to explore it thoroughly and deeply. I understand that slow travel is not for everyone. Sometimes people can only get a few days off of work and want to make use of those days by actually seeing and doing things. However, for those of you that have a bit more time off and have a tendency to rush into a jam-packed itinerary, I ask you this: what if you didn’t plan your vacation? What if you had a few landmarks in mind you really wanted to see and spent the rest of the time actually seeing the city? Is it so bad to just wander, people watch, and enjoy doing nothing?

Some people already travel this way by way of beach vacations and all-inclusive resorts. More power to them. I’ve never really liked beach vacations because I’m from a city with a lot of beaches…and I like to do things. I know that’s a very type A statement. Finding the right balance can be a challenge!

Dolce far niente, or the pleasure of doing nothing, can be applied to travel as well. Click to read why it's important to travel slower and deeper! |
Beachside chilling in Puerto Rico

A few months ago, I took a trip to Puerto Rico. Instead of sticking to the tourist itineraries, my mom and I rented a car and drove around the island, stopping at little beach towns along the way. Our vacation was more or less one big road trip. We stopped where we wanted (but booked accommodation ahead) and did what we wanted. We had a few things planned out but ultimately, we weren’t doing much outside of driving and relaxing. Are there certain things we missed out on in Puerto Rico? Absolutely. Does it bother me? Not really. Maybe I’ll revisit one day. Maybe I won’t. But at the end of the day, I’ve realized it’s more important to enjoy my trip than to see every “must-see” thing. As much as I love to wake up and traipse around cities from dawn until dusk, I’ve realized the concept of enjoying a new place can simply be doing nothing. Just people watching. Taking a stroll. Having a coffee at an outdoor café.

The more I travel, the more I’ve realized that I don’t want (all) my trips to be a whirlwind of sites anymore. I still want to see new places and sites of course. But allowing myself at least a day to just wander reminds me that the beauty of travel doesn’t come from just seeing the sites. Rather, it comes from the enjoyment of feeling connection – to yourself, to a place, and to a culture.

So to my fellow type A planners: next time you take a trip, try planning a day to do nothing, as contradictory as that sounds. Ditch your map and schedule and just wander. You might be surprised by what you discover.


Tell me: What’s your travel style? Have you ever considered slow(er) travel? Share in the comments below!


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9 thoughts on “Dolce Far Niente: Making the Case for Slow Travel

  1. Grassroots Nomad says:

    I love travelling slowly as well – you are really able to connect with a community in a way that you would miss if you wizzed through!

  2. Eva Casey says:

    As someone who used to literally plan her travel down to the hour, I can definitely relate to this post. I don’t think I would even recognize myself now as the same person. I spent most of my Central America trip with no idea where I would be the next week. It’s a great way to live sometimes! I agree that we need to find that balance between doing and seeing things and just allowing for space to see what comes up. I’m still working on it myself! (It definitely doesn’t help when I have the option of working all day at a cafe!)

  3. gab_gone_dutch says:

    totally agree! I almost never plan anything for a trip ahead of time (unless I really need to) and I love it that way! having too much planned in a trip doesn’t it make it a vacation anymore for me!

    • Sally E says:

      I know exactly what you mean! I’ve definitely become much more chill the more I travel too. As long as I have somewhere to sleep then I’m usually solid haha

  4. Astrid Kaniele says:

    I love travelling slowly! I’m taking full advantage of working-holiday programmes for the next decade, so I’ll be in most countries I’m visiting at least a year and really get to explore them completely. I’m terrible at planning, though. I rarely look into what I want to do when I’m visiting a place, but it doesn’t always work in my favour. As you say, getting the right balance is key! 🙂

    • Sally E says:

      Me too! And that’s SO awesome that you have access to all those working holidays! It’s seriously the best way to travel slowly (and make some money too).
      Haha lately I’ve been showing up at places and just finding cool things to do when I arrive, so I’m with you – balance is definitely the right way to do it. Happy travels!

  5. Nele Giese says:

    So true! I never used to understand how people can Just spend two weeks lying on a beach. It sounded so boring to me. I mean, don’t you want to go and see things? My mindset canged once I started long-term travel. I still think it’s perfectly fine to have a full programme when you’re, say, in a weekend trip. But whem I’m on the road for several months, I need times in between for just doing nothing. Otherwise iget stressed and overwhelmed and stop enjoying myself. So now, I rather see fewer places at leisure then cram in everything I can but don’t even have time to let all those impressions sink in.

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