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Rediscover slow travel on a midnight train through Europe

When it comes to travelling, the tick-box mentality is no longer in vogue as tourists and travel companies begin to redesign the holiday experience.

slow travel

If your last trip involved a combination of sightseeing and seeking out Instagram-worthy opportunities, you may have been left feeling tourism burnout.

Hybrid or fully remote workforces coupled with COVID-19 related setbacks, including PCR testing and quarantining, are just a few of the underlying factors of the global shift in favour of slower paced and longer trips that value quality over quantity.

A Pew Research Centre survey indicates that 71 per cent of US employees who rarely worked from home prior to the coronavirus outbreak are currently working remotely with at least three quarters of those surveyed reporting an easy transition. The increasing flexibility in work hours and location points towards a future where employees may be able to enjoy slow travel alongside paying their bills.

Even the needs of luxury consumers – millennials and gen Z – is undergoing change. Whereas traditionally purchasing consumer goods was the norm, three in 10 luxury buyers are choosing to invest their money in experiences, including travel, according to a study by GWI.

“On board a train, time is suspended. Landscapes roll past, inspiration comes, discussions start, until, suddenly, you reach your destination, just as if time had flown.” – Hervé Marro

With sustainability at the forefront of people’s minds, slow travel focuses on savouring each moment, supporting local communities and the environment by extending the time spent in one destination while reconsidering the worst offenders of carbon emissions.

“Slow travellers stay in one place for a while and they usually choose to rent holiday houses,” says Angela Carrick, Founder of Air Design Australia.

Undertaking a trip at a more leisurely pace not only eases the pressure of ‘seeing it all’, but also provides the conditions conducive to having an authentic experience that leaves the traveller refreshed as opposed to exhausted and craving the next adrenaline-filled adventure.

“Slow travel encourages the modern-day traveller to turn down the tempo, practise being present and to enjoy the luxury of time,” explains Marcelo Novais, Managing Director of Ker & Downey, Africa.

No other mode of transport captures the art of slow travel quite like a journey by rail does, and French startup Midnight Trains has engineered a solution for a more sustainable and relaxing way to acclimatise to one’s chosen destination.

slow travel
Homemade cocktails, craft beers and living wines are served at your table, at the bar or in your room on Midnight Trains. Image: Midnight Trains.

Connecting Europe’s major cities, the modern sleeper train is scheduled for 2024 – functioning as a compromise between the luxury of the Orient Express and the more basic railway offerings.

Equipped with private rooms, on-demand movies and en suite bathrooms – not to mention a restaurant serving seasonal produce and in-house beverages – the service is more akin to a hotel on wheels, and it can be booked via an app.

For the eco-minded traveller, Midnight Trains boasts a significant reduction in your carbon footprint – an estimated 23 trips from Paris to Rome via train is equivalent to one plane journey.

However, perhaps the most rewarding aspect of stepping on board is the stress factor that is eliminated from the experience, offering a compelling reason to rethink a one-hour flight that in reality lasts four hours.

“It’s been two years since I last took a plane. On board a train, time is suspended. Landscapes roll past, inspiration comes, discussions start, until, suddenly, you reach your destination, just as if time had flown,” says Hervé Marro, Communication Director at Midnight Trains.

The most scenic European train trips

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

A symbol of classic luxury and elegance, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a journey back in time, a historic hotel on wheels, offering its guests the opportunity to dine in style – yes, dressing up is a must – and take in the art deco features within original 1920s and 1930s carriages. With routes that span across such cities as London, Paris, Venice, Berlin and Vienna, the journey is a rare experience of a lifetime.

The Bernina Express

If you thrive on variety, this is the trip for you! In just four hours, panoramic windows can offer you a glimpse into both wintery alpine and Mediterranean palm-filled landscapes. The journey begins in the Swiss city of Chur and ends in Tirano, Italy, traversing the canton of Graubünden and moving through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges to reach an impressive altitude of 2253 metres.

The Flam Railway

slow travel
Norway's best AS. Image: Sverre Hjørnevik

Considered one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, the Flam Railway covers both fjords and mountain scenery, commencing from Aurlandsfjord and ending at Myrdal station. Enjoy travelling along one of the steepest railroads in the world from within the comfort of a vintage compartment, stretch your legs at Kjosfossen waterfall and you may even encounter some mythological creatures along the way.

Golden Eagle Danube Express

slow travel
On board the Golden Eagle Danube Express. Image: Golden Eagle Danube Express

The Balkan Explorer (Eastbound) route – often referred to as a rail cruise – on board the Golden Eagle Danube Express is a fascinating rail adventure that blends a myriad of cultures, languages and landscapes into one voyage over 11 days. Between Venice and Istanbul you can spend time in the Serbian city of Belgrade, Trieste in Italy and Sofia in western Bulgaria, to name a few. Alternatively, simply relax and take in what the Balkan regions have to offer both inland and along the coastline.

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