The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel
by Dan Kieran
“The word TRAVEL itself comes from the French word for work, TRAVAILLE, which in turn originates from a Latin word TREPALIUM – a three-pronged instrument of torture. As I said a moment ago, travel is SUPPOSED to be difficult. We’re SUPPOSED to suffer, feel uncomfortable and put ourselves in danger if what travel is what we are REALLY looking for.”
I picked this one up on a whim in New York while I was trawling through The Strand Book Store; turns out it was a good decision.
Dan Kieran writes all about slow travel which is a completely foreign concept to many of us now. He writes about his philosophy on travel, that it shouldn’t be used as simply a means of ticking off the box on a list of tourist destinations, but more as a “therapeutic journey” of your own, giving yourself time to think and slow down and take it all in, for better or worse. We come to discover that Dan, originally afraid of flying, started to travel in other ways instead. What conspired was a 20 year love affair for travelling slowly (not always easily or comfortably, it must be said), and his discoveries, both geographically and internally, on the way.
Considering the fast paced world we live in now, and the need for everyone to have everything immediately, this is a really beautiful read which makes you think about why you travel to begin with, and what you originally wanted to get out of it (hint: it’s not running through airport terminals like a maniac). Everyone who wants to travel and not just vacation should add this to their reading list, and you can grab a copy here!
Some of my favourite passages from the book…
“In my experience, most travel guides work in exactly the same way. They concentrate on short cuts that allow you to experience something foreign, but without any real immersion in the places you go.”
“The idea of human beings struggling to achieve in the real world the perfect image they have of their own lives is something we see all around us. For one thing, it explains why we seem so content to live on the high-velocity conveyor belt of ‘tomorrow’, because it presupposes happiness in the future as a reward for suffering today. We’ll get what we want tomorrow just as long as we get our heads down and do something solid and organised right now – whether it’s taking years to get an education so we can have a career, getting a mortgage to buy a house, saving for a family, saving for a pension, all until we retire and finally die, at which point we might be embraced by a concept of religious eternity. We’re all planning for tomorrow at the expense of today, because that stops us living in the moment and having to accept the imperfect nature of things as they are. Nothing exemplifies this approach more than the carrot of the annual holiday that goes with the stick of work.”
“It suggests that when travel takes us out of a predictable routine we do become more aware, because our conscious mind has been activated to deal with the new things we’re experiencing… This could also explain why people seem to ‘find themselves’ when they are travelling, because they are more conscious of the experience of being alive when they are journeying in new and exciting ways. Being in alien places and cultures will inevitably result in an increased connection with yourself, because it’s in these new situations that your consciousness wakes up. You’ve turned off the unconscious autopilot that runs your normal life and started to take conscious control.”