By Camille Meyers, on April 29, 2020

Relaxing Virtual Travel with Slow TV

What do you find most relaxing about travel? Taking a trip not only gets you away from everyday obligations like work, it also puts you in a new environment. Travel invites you to enter a different state of mind. Perhaps you find yourself enjoying mundane activities more or that you give yourself permission to just unwind and watch the scenery. Even if you can’t physically travel, you can still unlock many of these same relaxing benefits with virtual travel through slow TV.

What is slow TV?

Slow TV train ride from Bergen to Oslo

Slow television is an unscripted reality show, where just like real life, almost nothing exciting happens most of the time. An episode is filmed in real-time, with minimal or no editing. Artist Andy Warhol pioneered the genre in 1963 by filming his friend sleeping in real-time for five hours. Since Warhol’s slumber film, slow TV has become a phenomenon—and is usually more interesting than a nap.

In 2009, the Norwegian television station NRK strapped cameras on the front of a train going from Bergen to Oslo and aired the entire journey—all 7 hours of it. Nearly 20% of Norway’s population tuned in to watch the gorgeous scenery slide past and experience 182 dark tunnels.

NRK followed up with the smash hit Hurtigruten minute by minute – a coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. The live broadcast of the ship’s coastal journey lasted 134-hours and reached over 2.5 million viewers. Cheering crowds came out to greet the ship with flags and signs, adding excitement to the long voyage. Other NRK slow TV programs include hours of salmon fishing, knitting, and firewood stacking.

Why do people like slow TV?

Slow TV might sound boring, but that’s kind of the point. It lets your mind take a vacation from the fast-paced demands of everyday life and just chill out for a while. Because you watch the “action” minute by minute, it can feel as if you’re there. On a slow TV canal boat ride through the London Borough of Hillingdon, you can hear birds singing in the trees, see clouds reflected on rippling water, and wave at hikers who eventually outpace you.

Some people equate watching slow TV to meditation. It’s a way to be present in the moment. The mind wanders and starts to tell its own stories for what’s happening on screen. So, if you’re looking to satisfy your wanderlust from home or just want to unwind, take a virtual vacation with some slow TV.

Where can I watch slow TV?

Lighthouse near Oslo in Horten, Norway

We’ve compiled some of the best virtual travel slow TV videos, including a Bergen to Oslo train ride, for your viewing pleasure. Take a stroll through Tokyo’s crowded streets or watch fluffy clouds float over New York City for hours. The free streaming service Pluto TV features a channel entirely dedicated to the genre. You can also find dozens of these relaxing videos on YouTube. Put on your comfy pajamas, maybe take out some knitting, and ease into a virtual journey with slow TV.