Slow has become a four-letter word in our accelerated culture. And yet … when it comes to travel, how can we possibly expect to truly experience a place at a breakneck pace? How can we savor a blur?
My husband and I are currently planning a mini-break. With three kids, three dogs, three cats (see a pattern developing here?), we’re lucky to escape at all, but we’re working toward a three-day getaway.
But as we plan, we’re recalling our most memorable trips, hoping to recapture whatever made them great.
And we discovered the common denominator: In every instance that we remember as truly outstanding, we were doing something other than what we had planned … and we were taking our time.
I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I long ago determined that most “must-sees” are disappointing. My best memories are made of the “stumbled upons.” The vineyard where workers tossed me grapes as I rode by on a country road somewhere in Northern Italy. The toucan that watched us eat a lazy lunch on a patio in Belize, his colors so much more brilliant against the blue sky than those of the toucans we’d seen at the zoo. The incredible moon the night our ferry headed toward Martha’s Vineyard. The ferry had been delayed, thus we were traveling in the dusk instead of daylight. But it afforded us that moon!
By traveling without plan or deadline (or flexing it when necessary), we’re free to experience the journey. To see, as G.K. Chesterton suggests, what we see, instead of only what we came to see. To be a “traveler” in the truest sense of the word instead of a “tourist.”
It’s a cliché, to be sure. But don’t clichés exist because they reveal to us some universal truth — some shared experience?
There are, of course, other benefits to slow. For one thing, it’s frequently a healthier choice for the planet.
Abandoning get-there-quick air travel and taking a slower, more eco-friendly mode of transport, such as a train, boat or bike. Staying in a destination long enough to get to know the locals.
What’s more, getting to know the locals frequently means supporting their economy through eating at their restaurants, staying at local accommodations and caring about what concerns them, such as water quality or wildlife.
So wherever your summer travels take you, I hope you take it slow.