I work and travel as a digital nomad with an interesting restriction. I don't fly. A year on the road has taken me to 15 countries across three continents. I've spent weeks of time on trains, buses, and ferries.
Planes are often cheap, usually convenient, and always dreadful for the planet. My motivations are environmental, but I am fortunate enough to have the time, freedom, and patience to travel slowly. Not everyone is. I don't judge.
The world can feel like a small place when you look at it as a network of international airports. A day or two will get you pretty much anywhere.
Now take planes out of the equation and look at the world again. Oceans. Closed borders. Visas. Language barriers. Political instability and conflict zones. Scary sounding stuff before you even get started. I don't care much for motivational quotes, but if I had to make an exception, it would be for "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone". Nothing healthy comes from living within the confines of what you already know.
All you need to do is to get onto a train or bus. It doesn't have to take you to the other side of the world, just to somewhere that you can get onto another one. Then another one. You get used to waking up somewhere new. You learn to look at networks on a smaller scale and start to see a much richer set of dots to connect.
Transport can be a fascinating lens into the culture and the history of a country. There are hundreds of miles of railway tracks in Albania, but it's unlikely you'll use them because they fell into disrepair after the collapse of communism. Instead, you'll probably find yourself in a car park full of furgons (shared minibus taxis), hoping to find one that's going to your destination, and hoping that it fills up quickly, because it won't leave until it does.
Google Maps might say that there's a train from Tunis to Tozeur that leaves once every day, but even with the full extent of the internet you'll have a hard time discovering that Tozeur's train station has been abandoned for years. Then you find yourself connecting the dots with louages (the Tunisian equivalent of an Albanian Furgon) and trying to distinguish between توزر and تونس on the front of a bus.
Time and patience are the currency of the traveller, although you might find that the small hops are the most interesting. When that's not an option, travelling by night often is. Sleeper trains and ferries are the best way to do this, but a bus will do too, if you can sleep sat up.
And sometimes there are no shortcuts and you find yourself with full days of transport. Crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa to Southern France. Or traversing the length of Italy in a day. I pass the time watching the world outside, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and taking notes on my reMarkable, or getting some work done on my laptop.
A critical part of my approach to slow travel is not to make complicated plans. In fact, I don't plan much at all. I don't enjoy that process and I find that meticulous planning is fragile. Every contingent step of a plan is an opportunity to miss something and become a problem. The world is going to throw you unpredictable scenarios, and handling them often means changing tack.
It's still frustrating to discover that certain journeys are logistically, or politically impossible. I can't figure out a way to get to Egypt or Jordan without a plane. There seems to be some information about a ferry from Iskenderun in Turkey to Alexandria in Egypt, and I'm in Turkey now, but Iskenderun is right in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes at the start of February. My logistical problems are nothing. All I can do is contribute financially to the relief effort and change tack.
Unpredictablity is important. Something about the way my brain works means that I struggle when I get stuck in a routine. Being the digital nomad at the same sandy white beach resort for 2 months is not that interesting. Give me some variety, some challenges, and a blend of experiences along the way. Nowhere to be and all the time to get there.