Slow travel

So why go slow when there’s so much to see?

Let’s start by considering something Nicky Gardner wrote recently in Hidden Europe Magazine . Nicky evokes the image of a 29-year-old Robert Louis Stevenson as he traveled by donkey through the French countryside, attentive to every twist and turn in the road. She contrasts this donkey trip of long ago, immortalized in Stevenson’s unforgettable book, to modern travel in people pack themselves “like sardines into fragile aluminium tubes and speed through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour.”

Nicky suggests that often the pleasure of the journey itself is obliterated by the focus on arriving at the next “target” on a long itinerary of “can’t miss” destinations. Speed is essential because the journey is regarded as a stressful interlude to be shortened as much as possible. Slow travelers, on the other hand, take time to explore communities along the way, to “dawdle and pause” as the spirit moves them to “check out spots recommended by the locals.”

Slow Food Movement

Slow Food Movement

Carlo Petrini founded the Slow Food Movement in 1986. For him the “art of living is about learning to give time to each and every thing.” Slow Food began in Italy began as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s near the Spanish Steps in Rome. But the movement was always about a lot more than just hamburgers.

Adherents of the Slow Food movement hope to promote the preservation and enjoyment of local foods, honoring traditions of gastronomy and food production created centuries ago. Added to a desire to preserve what is sane and healthy is a general resistance to all things fast, such as hastily produced industrial fast foods distributed through global food production chains. Currently more than 25,000 Americans belong to 225 chapters of Slow Food USA.

Slow Travel is about much more than speed, it’s the antithesis of mass travel. The key ingredient of a slow travel vacation is staying put in one place long enough to see and experience it. Slow travelers usually opt to spend at least one week in one place. They live in vacation rentals rather than hotel rooms because hotel rooms seem very cramped after a few days. They sit by a fountain and listen to it gurgle. They sketch, read, and explore side streets in the hope of getting lost. They try talking to local people even when they don’t speak the local language. They sip coffee (or wine) as they watch people and clouds pass by.In slow travel, distances are short: day trips on foot, by bike or bus, or by rented car to points of interest nearby.

Women sitting in Paris cafè circa 1925

Women sitting in Paris cafè circa 1925

Slow travelers aim to be home each day in time to relax before dinner in a local restaurant. They try living for awhile like local people do. Most vacation rentals include a fully equipped kitchens, so they buy fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, cheeses and fresh pasta in specialized local stores.

Slow travelers who are adventuresome ask for advice on how to prepare local recipes. If they manage to use a few words of the local language they will usually, having demonstrated a willingness to blend in, get lots of help and suggestions in a curious blend of the local language and English. Plenty of adventures await those who don’t take themselves too seriously and have a sense of humor.

There are many variants of Slow Travel. You can stay in a cottage in the countryside to get a whiff of farm life, rent a small apartment in a provincial town if you want to avoid renting a car. Families with kids usually rent houses, sometimes close to a beach. Those with bigger budgets rent villas that sleep up to 15 and hire a private chef.

What is your take on slow travel vacations? We’d love to hear from you!

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