Monday, May 08, 2006

Converting To Slow Travel

My wife and I have just been converted!

It was neither as dramatic as the Damascus Road experience, nor like the dawning variety on the Emmaus Road.

Ours took place at a virtual location but let me first give our testimony (read tes-ti-moany for Americans).

Lyn and I have been dreaming of our forthcoming holiday in Italy. Given the job of preparing the itinerary and ferreting out champagne accommodation at Coca-Cola prices, I got to work.

Guide books were helpful with their draft tours and suggestions of how many days needed here and there. My first effort started in the mountains north of Milan and ended thirty-five days later at the toe of Italy’s boot.

I started to feel harried and exhausted plotting each day’s sorti into cathedrals and galleries, figuring out whether it was best to travel between Florence and Siena by train or bus and imagining dossing down in a different hotel or monasterio every night.

Then, like the person who kicked up a treasure in the field, I stumbled onto a web site called Slow Travel.

The author, Yvonne Kenny, is the instigator of the web site which nourishes a virtual community of people who love to travel slowly.

In a posting entitled ‘What is Slow Travel?’ Yvonne writes, “Slow Travel is independent travel where you enjoy a deeper level of experience by staying in one place longer and seeing the things that are close to you.”

Humorously, Yvonne draws a parallel with reading and quotes Woody Allen who said, “I took a speed reading course and read ‘War and Peace’ in twenty minutes. It involved Russia.”

Slow Travel involves moving out from where you are rather than flitting around in long, expensive trips to get a superficial snapshot of ‘the highlights’.

One liberating article is called, ‘You Don’t Have to See the Must-Sees’ in which Yvonne cites the ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’. In this movie Chevy Chase rushes around Paris with his check list, looks at a site for a minute, then happily checks it off his list.

Yvonne challenges the ‘English Village Syndrome’ in which a tourist returns from their first visit to a village and says to everyone, “You must see______________” [fill in the gap]. The assumption is that no other town will have quite the same character or impact.

We are being liberated from the compulsion to go everywhere and see everything. This conversion will need to kick in after our return when someone says to us, “You mean to say you went all that way and didn’t see ___________________?”

We have completed our second, slow travel, Italian itinerary and it has got that molto bene feel about it! In a very real sense, our most important journey has slowly begun. We are learning to travel more as pilgrims and less as tourists.

Geoff Pound

Source: Check out the Slow Travel web site at:

Image: Slow as an old countryside train...