Who knew we were participating in a movement. If you Google “Slow Travel”, you’ll find a collection of essays extolling the virtues of taking it slow. I’ve never moved quickly in my life. I’ve held my cards close and made studied moves that surprised others, but Donna will tell you I can be frustratingly deliberate. Call it whatever you want, “Slow Travel” is about my speed.
I don’t like living out of a suitcase. The pressure of getting oriented and seeing as many sights as possible within a narrow time frame exhausts me. Although I would like to deny it, I am not getting younger, or more flexible. There are always tours and tour guides, but they preclude aimless wandering. Taking the time to talk politics and falafels with the owner of a back street cafe in Grenada doesn’t always happen on a tight schedule. Neither does the exercise of getting strategically and purposely lost. Not having to be somewhere anytime soon facilitates those things.
Staying somewhere longer, or not cramming too much into a shorter trip, is about approximating what it might feel like to live someplace. It’s not about seeing the market. It’s about using it. You can’t know a place in a week. You can’t know it in a month. That’s fine.
Donna and I have lived in Seattle, and in the Seattle area, our entire lives. I can count the times I have been up in the Space Needle on one hand. I would never take someone there to eat. If someone mentions Chihuli Gardens with any level of reverence, I usually laugh. On the other hand Donna and I use “The Market” several times a season. We are old school Seattle enough that umbrellas mark you as an out of towner. Despite being lifelong locals there are great parks and restaurants we’ve never been to. Our Seattle experience is our own. It doesn’t require rushing around.
At this point in our travels we have a greater familiarity with canal boats, Grenada, and Bologna. We’ve spent two weeks on French canals, a month in Grenada, and fifteen days in Bologna. Even after a month we hadn’t run out of territory to explore. “Did we see…???” “No, maybe next time.”
Our fifteen days in Bologna allowed us to use it as a hub. We made day trips to Modena, Parma, and Reggio Emilia. We had a romantic getaway at the Sangiovese Festival in Ravenna. A convenient hub and a place to come home to made exploring a lot more comfortable.
Rome, Florence,Venice, or Paris??? Those were blips on our screen. We barely scratched their surfaces. I’m thinking each those cities requires at least a ten day visit, or an extended stay. After five nights in Venice we were just starting to get our groove on. It was Baba’s for breakfast, and then exploring a new corner of the city everyday. All those short stays felt like brief flirtations. At our age that’s nice, but we’ve learned depth is more fulfilling.
Our friend Micheline went to Paris to reconnect with family. She was there long enough to start calling a particular street her own. She visited her butcher, her baker, her produce vendor, and then she put their wares to use. She returned to her street with familiarity and purpose. Connections were made! Connections are where lasting memories reside. I don’t believe any of us travel just to look at buildings.
Is any of this “Slow Travel”? I don’t really know, but a connection with a place and its people was what we were looking for. Life was lived a little bit more deeply. We hit the travel wall fewer times, and with less intensity. However fleeting the sensation, another piece of our planet felt a little more like home. After all, “Home is where the heart is!”