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Friday, October 4, 2019

Slow Down: Why You Should Travel As Slow As You Can

woman leaning out the window of a train, smiling
Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock

Traveling slowly is a special pleasure—and you should do it. Next time you have to drive long-distance, take an extra two days and go slowly through the backroads. Or take a train across the country instead of flying. Or best of all, spend a few weeks cycling or walking somewhere. The slower you go, the better.

I love traveling slowly. At least once a year for the past few years, I’ve embarked on a deliberately slow trip. The kind of trip where the whole point is the journey and the stops along the way, not the start or endpoints. I’ve walked 250 miles through rural Spain, sailed 700 miles along the European coastline, spent three days in a train crossing the 2250 miles from Chicago to Portland, and driven more miles than I can count through mountain roads and country towns.

Each one of these trips has been incredible. I think about them far more frequently than any luxurious beach vacation or city break I’ve been on. Here’s why.

You See More

hiking in spain
Harry Guinness

Traveling slowly gives you time to take things in. If you fly across the continent at 500 miles per hour, you see nothing. Big cities and mountain ranges flash by below. Even on an interstate, you don’t see a lot—driving at 70 mph surrounded by 10-wheelers takes focus. You can’t look around and appreciate what you’re passing through.

The big sights you see when you arrive at your grand destination are all well and good, but I’ve found the small, random things I’ve experienced along the way to be much more memorable. Sure, going up the Empire State Building was cool, but it’s got nothing on weathering the tail end of a hurricane in Mobile, Alabama, or the beer I had after trudging 20 miles in the fog through Spanish mountain passes.

Traveling slowly also lets you go deeper. When a friend and I took his classic Mustang along the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, we averaged well under 100 miles a day. We stayed in small Irish towns and ate in rural pubs. By experiencing five towns and 20-odd pubs over a few days, we were able to really get a feel for the West coast. If we’d just stopped in Galway and called it done, we’d have missed out on so much.

You See the Changes

And it’s not just the things you experience that are great. It’s the transition between them.

On my train across America, I saw the Louisiana swamps turn into the Kentucky countryside, and the Big Sky country of Montana slowly give way to the mountains of Glacier National Park. On the road trip in Ireland, we saw cow fields become bogs become rugged, rocky, un-farmable coast. In Spain, we walked from the Atlantic Ocean through the Andalusian mountains to the ancient pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela.

On every trip, seeing the ground slowly change beneath my feet was incredible. Mountains started as a dark haze on the horizon and over hours grew in size until we were staring up, or even standing on, their peaks. It puts things into perspective.

You Get Bored

mustang ireland
Harry Guinness

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