There is a movement you may have heard of – the Slow Movement – which advocates that all of us should make the cultural shift of slowing down our pace of life.
“It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.” – Carl Honoré, from In Praise of Slowness.
The Slow Movement encourages us to savor everything, using all of our senses. This means assuming responsibility for our lives, for what we think, feel and do in the present moment, rather than what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. It all comes down to becoming aware of what and how we are doing what we do, and valuing how it affects our lives as a whole.
While Slow Travel is a movement, it is so much more a reaction against the culture of speed. The pleasure of the journey (getting there) has been lost in the anticipation of arrival at our destination.
The state of mind of the slow traveler is instead focused on the unhurried, the engagement with what lies along the route and who we might meet along the way. The slow traveler holds some values in common with the eco-tourist who longs for low-impact traveling on trains, buses, boats, donkeys, horses, camels and human-powered vehicles such as bicycles and feet.
The slow traveler avoids participating in the type of holiday that packs as much as possible into the 2 or 3 weeks paid vacation time, bringing them home more tired than before they started.
If you try to include everything on the “bucket list” of what to see when in Europe or Asia or the USA, you’ll miss all the connections you could have made by staying in only one city and getting to know the best cafe, the best patisserie, the best local market and that friendly old woman who sweeps her steps every morning, among so many other possibilities.
Slow travel means experiencing people and things rather than just making pit stops. Engagement with the local people, the local history, the architecture, the landscape, the culture, the food, makes journeys and traveling meaningful again. Bring home memories rather than a bunch of slightly out of focus photographs of you standing in front of some well-known landmark you’ve seen in some many other pictures or films.
Take the Back Roads
Sometimes we do want to cover a fair number of miles but rather than driving through the “green culverts” that every major highway appears to be or taking the fastest train that speeds through gorgeous countryside you never even see, take the slower more peaceful back roads. Often these now little-used back roads were once the first transcontinental roads, such as Route 66 that traverses the United States. These roads will reward you with a living history you’d never see otherwise.
In many countries, using buses, trains, boats or bicycles and traveling along old routes is often the only way to see wonderful ancient villages, enchanting castles, romantic gorges, or vineyards set at precipitous angles.
Slow travel is a state of mind and the experiences gathered along the way are the things memories are made of, these are the memories that stay with you as the highlights of your life.