Read this: The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran

The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel
by Dan Kieran

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.”

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Read this: Journeys by Jan Morris

Journeys
by Jan Morris

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I picked this book up, as with so many other travel books I own, at a second-hand book shop for a few dollars. It was a great get. Jan Morris, Welsh travel writer and historian, put this book of travel essays together in 1984, chronicling some of her more memorable journeys through places like Las Vegas, Sydney and Shanghai. I found it to be very different from any other travel book I’d read, in that there were no big events, no dramatic re-telling of epic adventures. The essays were simply journal of what had happened, what had been observed, on a regular day of travel. To my mind, it seemed her writing was very skeptical and she seemed, to me, to find the dull and the boring and the unimpressive in the places she visited, rather than the exciting, special and different. I’m still not sure whether I liked that or not…

I did find it a good read, though, with her essays being long enough to get to the point, but short enough to keep you engaged without getting bored. It was also a nice look into the average, the every day of travel, when the crazy things that you can’t wait to write home about aren’t happening. If you can’t find a battered old copy in a second-hand book store like I did, you can pick up a copy here.