Slow Travel: When Moving Slowly Helps You See More

Two girls sitting in a hammock overlooking the sea at Griffon Aventure.

In an era of “revenge travel” and hyper-fixation on capturing as many memories as possible, slow travel offers a reprieve. This approach is a way of interacting with the world with deliberate attention, a reduced carbon footprint, and an emphasis on quality over quantity. Sure, this trip may be your one escape each year, the first in a lengthy list of locations or the first in a lifetime, and I understand the desire to get the absolute most out of your hard-earned money. What slow travel asks of you is to divest from the notion of travel being an investment, and to instead focus on the richness of experience. In order to see more, slow travels asks you to choose to focus on less.

The Saintlo collective takes its approach from its namesake: the Saint Lawrence River. Like the river, each hostel and its surroundings offer bountiful activities that naturally shift through the seasons. If you are willing to slow down, each location offers ample opportunity to enrich oneself in cuisine, culture, nature and the outdoors that best reveals themselves to a present mind.

Whether you’re a gourmand, an outdoor enthusiast or a culture seeker, there is limitless discovery when you choose to focus on the now. Youth hostels like Saintlo invite you into the flow of slow travel, emphasizing immersive local experiences, authentic cultural exposure and most important:  . And with the snow thawing earlier this year, the warmth of spring and summer are calling for adventure. Let me show you!

Saintlo Montreal

First off, you do not have to see the entire island of Montreal! Slowing down means experiencing culture as a local. Take your time. Montreal has so many neighborhoods, rich with their own language and rhythms. Here are just a few I recommend you take your time to get to know.

Centre Ville – Feel more drawn to art and culture? The downtown area–just walking distance from the hostel–hosts numerous renowned fine art museums. We recommend starting with the Musee Des Beaux-Arts and the McCord Museum (Saintlo organizes a group trip every Wednesday to MCCord, just check for details at reception). Still yearning for more ways to explore slowly? Montreal’s Underground City offers eclectic cuisine, architectural marvels and hidden art installations for those wishing to discover the city’s lesser-known highlights at a mellow pace. Remove the pressure to see it all and choose the adventure that keeps your blood pressure low.

Visitors exploring the Underground City in Montreal
© Fitz & Follwell Co. – Frédérique Ménard-Aubin
© Damien Ligiardi

Verdun – Feeling drawn to a local experience with less tourists around? Head to Verdun, just a few stops away on the Metro (or a short Bixi ride in warmer months). Start your day with brunch at Jackie et France, a mainstay for Quebecois breakfast. Scoot down to the Verdun local pool (free for all during the summer months) to soak up on Vitamin D, browse the international book selection (English and French) at Pulp bookstore, and finish your afternoon with a mixologist’s dream at Bar Social. In one day you’ve positively impacted the local economy, gotten to know the city, and still been gentle on your wallet.

Montreal biking in the city murals street art
© Sylvie Li Shoot, Tourisme Montréal

Hochelaga – For the very Quebecois/Francophone experience! Off the Metro green line, Hochelaga is the location of the “Space for Life,” a consortium of natural museums that include:  the Biosphere, Biodome, Planetarium, Botanical Garden and Insectarium. Breathe in the restorative energy of the natural world! Relaxed and energized from your time among plants, grab lunch at Cafe Helico, shop for fresh goods and practice your French at the Maisonneuve open market, then finish your day with vegan ice cream at Hoche Glace. The toppings alone will satisfy your insulin levels for the calendar year.

botanical garden
© Laura Gérard @thediamondsoflife
ice cream
maisonneuve market
© Simon Lanciault

Montreal has more than three neighborhoods though, and should you wish to see them, I highly encourage it. Should you wish to only visit eateries within blocks of the Saintlo hostel, I encourage this too. Regardless of where you head in the city, the aim of slow travel is to reduce our environmental impact and encourage decompression from the intensity of our modern world. Take what you like and kindly leave the rest.

Ottawa Jail Hostel

Welcome to Ontario! You finally made it to the birthplace of Ryan Gosling! Built over 150 years ago, the Ottawa Jail Hostel offers all the modern amenities you need, cozy remodeled jail cells (I can attest to the quality night’s sleep), and a host of activities within walking distance (or right at the hostel).

A Tour in Jail The jail hostel isn’t just a novelty place to rest your head after a day’s activities. Staff offer daily hostel tours, outlining the history of the jail, famous prisoners, and the evolution of the location into the restorative resting spot it is today. Get registered online here. The tour also functions as a reminder that there are stories at every location you travel–so long as you take the time to slow down and find them.

Jail wall
Jail tour
hanging rope

A One Stop Cultural Haven – Ready to explore Ottawa but want to stay within walking distance of the hostel? Start your day at the Arts Court, an eclectic gathering of local galleries open to the public. Perk up your energy with a cappuccino and pastry at the Jackson Cafe, located oh-so-conveniently inside the Arts Court building, and then move over to Milk Shop, an independent and woman-owned store that is perfect for picking up local souvenirs to take home. With the day winding down, grab a margarita (virgin or regular!) and some exquisite Mexican food at Ahora Cafe. With your spirit and appetite fulfilled, catch the sunset from atop Parliament Hill and relish the serenity of watching the sun disappear after a gently fulfilling day. Gosling would be proud.

And remember: this itinerary is not meant to be an exhaustive push to cover every suggestion. Take your time sipping that espresso. Walk around the galleries and just head home if you like! However you wish to move, we encourage you to relish the moment and savor it like a four-course meal.

La Secousse – La Malbaie

You’ve made it far outside the concrete confines of the city. Rejoice! La Secousse is built into a home from 1948, adjacent to the Saint Lawrence river and walking distance to the quaint downtown of La Malbaie. The in-house resto pub offers innovative cuisine that prioritizes local ingredients that will make you shout expletives with each bite (I can confirm). Don’t be surprised if your dinner is soundtracked by a mind-blowing musical act–the hostel hosts many in the warmer months.

La secousse
malbaie waterfall

Get Outside – Look in any direction in La Malbaie and the natural surroundings transport you to a place of verdant calm. The Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Riviere-Malbaie National Park offers hikes for all levels, breathtaking views, and ample opportunities to hug a tree. Spend one day or two (or three!) wandering the trails, breathing crisp air, and perhaps even moving in silence. Nature, as many can attest, is the greatest anti-depressant.


I’m so proud of you for taking it slow this trip! If you’re sensing a pattern in Saintlo collective hostels for being extra relaxing, then you, my friend, are good at sensing! Built into a historical mansion, the Rivière-Du-Loup hosts nightly campfires, a grand communal kitchen, and attracts a community of laidback outdoors people. Even I, an urban dweller by day, found comfort here!

Get Outside/Have a Drink Slow travel is 100% DIY. There are no rules. Which is why having multiple options is part of the process. Wanting to keep exploring outside? Parc Des Chutes is over 10 km of woodland trails to wander at an easy pace. Ready to relax? The Tete d’Allumette microbrewery continues the tradition of finishing an outdoor experience with the proper spirits. Snack on world-class beer, wine, and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and relish the sunset across the Saint Lawrence river. Take that, Instagram algorithm!

Two people drinking a beer and enjoying the view
© TQ-Gaëlle Leroyer
Three people in front of a waterfall in Rivière du loup
A group of people around a fire

Sea Shack

You’ve reached the sea! But not the end of your adventure. Known fondly as the “festive hostel,” Sea Shack truly embodies the choose-your-own-adventure approach of slow travel. Camp by the water or on the beach, stay in the chalet, and enjoy a summer music lineup that is the envy of the entire province.

Someone who fishes
Cantine Barberousse - Sea Shack

Sea Shack Adventure – There’s more to do here than can fit the page, but that is the joy of having bountiful options. Paddleboarding, snorkeling and fishing are top tier activities in this region, and the best part? All the equipment is free with your stay. The convergence of fresh and salt water makes for a riveting exploration of the world under the sea. Get to know the crabs, starfish and saltwater fauna, and finish your day at the Barberouse Canteen with a regional staple: Classic Poutine.

“There really is nothing as relaxing as a day swimming the ocean followed by cheese curds.”


Auberge Griffon

Think there isn’t any more slow activity along the Saint Lawrence? Do you really doubt me this much?! Griffon is like visiting a fantasyland for adults. Sleep under the stars in a tent, rent a Prospector Tent, or get cozy with your loved one(s) in one of the individual cabins scattered across the village property. Here is where time stops for many, and slows down for most. There are no hard deadlines, no calls from the boss. The rhythms of the sea–just a short walk from where you sleep–dictate the movement of the day.

One Last Splash – Did I mention Griffon is the Adventure Hostel? Among their top outdoor activities is canyoning. If you are not familiar, this involves strapping on a helmet, and slip-sliding across rocky waterways (in a safe manner, of course). Yes, there are natural waterslides and yes there are leaps into sun-soaked fresh water, and yes this activity is open to all body types as well as accessible to folks with major physical disabilities. Nature is meant to be enjoyed by all, and canyoning will surely bring you closer to that pure bliss state.

Traveler reading in the living room at L'Anse-au-Griffon
Boat in front of a rocky wall at sea
Forillon National Park, Cliffs by the water

But if canyoning is not calling you, I suggest you do whatever the heck it is you wish to do! Want to grab a book and watch the sunset along the river? Wonderful. Want to cook a meal with your newly made friends and share stories over a fire? I support this 100%. At the end of the day, Saintlo’s activities are there for cultural enrichment, an appreciation of the natural world, and for you to relax. The rest is entirely up to you.

A person meditating in front of the water
© @bassaintlaurent

In Closing

Whether you visit Quebec for a few days, a few weeks or much longer, the Saintlo Collective offers a chance to break the mold of frantic tourism and get closer to the land and people. Take your time. Choose which path suits your desires. Walk in the woods. Wander in a museum. Jump into the sea. Do nothing for a while. Any direction you go, the serenity of slowness will make you thankful you chose to go at your own pace.