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(Published: 2009-05-26)

Summertime, and the living is easy….at least it’s SUPPOSED to be ‘slow and easy.’ For most of us, however, that’s not the case, especially in these economic times. We hurry to do more, in less time, convinced that we are being more productive. Somewhere along the road in America, ‘fast’ came to be recognized as ‘efficient’ and ‘busy.’

I find it a fascinating paradox to discover that London, the epicenter of the capitalist work ethic, recently held a “Slow Down Festival.” It ran for 10 days in April, and was kicked off with “The Big Slow Walk” across the London Bridge at rush hour. The Festival was an offshoot of the Slow Food Movement. It offered an eclectic program of events, from serious intellectual debates to thrash out a new slow philosophy, to more practical opportunities to live the slow life. Sessions included poetry, yoga and meditation, and even a Snail Mail workshop. In true Trend/Countertrend fashion, Poet Miriam Nash led an effort to revive letter-writing, urging people to at least occasionally use pen and paper, instead of sending emails or texts.

Carl Honore, author of the bestseller “In Praise of Slowness” was the keynote. He advocates a common sense approach to living slow in today’s fast-paced world. He suggests that slowness doesn’t have to be a literal deceleration. Instead, slow can be about how we personally approach every moment of the day. Honore suggests that instead of asking ourselves “how can I do this as quickly as possible?”, we approach a new task in the spirit of “how can I do this as well as possible, and how much time and attention does this task require from me?”

It’s an interesting synchronicity that the recent issue of Elle magazine had a tidbit about Slow Travel. It’s a movement that encourages people to commit to one destination per trip for a week or more, and to explore it in concentric circles, first becoming familiar with the inner circle, rather than dashing to distant must-sees.

Like the Slow Down Festival, Slow Travel is an offshoot of The Slow Food Movement, which emphasizes connection—connection to food, connection to families, and in the case of travel, connection to local peoples and cultures. The Independent Traveler ( ) suggests that Slow Travel will help you avoid post-vacation burnout. A recent article titled “The Art of Slow Travel” promotes taking time to really enjoy your journeys. This implies more trains, hikes and bikes than airplanes and automobiles, but it’s not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mindset.

Slow Travel promotes less manic sightseeing and more taking in your surroundings at a relaxed pace. It allows you to form a stronger connection to the place you’re visiting. With a ‘slow’ itinerary you’ll stay in one place long enough to recognize your neighbors and shop in the local markets. It’s also more environmentally friendly.

Slow Travelers assume they don’t have to see everything in one trip—there will be other trips. They tend to opt for holiday rentals—homes that are fully equipped so you can move in and start living--instead of hotels, where you tend to drop your bags and run. The idea is that you settle in to a place to ‘live’ instead of just ‘stay’ at your destination, so you can experience a place more intensely.

Summer is here, and for many, that means vacation. If you’ve ever come home from a vacation feeling more exhausted than you were before you left, you might want to consider this quietly emerging solution to tourist burnout—Slow Travel.

But you’d better hurry—you know how the summer flies!

The Big Slow Walk

Honore's book

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