Slow traveling is a special treat ̵
I love to travel slowly. In the last few years, I have been on a deliberately slow journey at least once a year. The type of journey where the whole point is the journey and the stations on the way, not the start or end point. I've walked 250 miles through rural Spain, sailing 700 miles along the European coast, spending three days on a train crossing 2250 miles from Chicago to Portland, and driving more miles than I can count through mountain roads and country towns ] Each of these trips was incredible. I think of her much more often than a luxurious beach holiday or a city break that I took part in. Here is the reason.
When you travel slowly, you have time to get things done. When you fly across the continent at 500 miles per hour, you will see nothing. Big cities and mountain ranges flash down below. Even on a motorway, you do not see much – driving at 110 km / h, surrounded by ten-wheels, is focused. You can not look around and appreciate what you happen.
The great sights that you see when you arrive at your big destination are all well and good, but I've found the little random things that I've experienced on the way to being much more memorable. Sure, going up the Empire State Building was cool, but it has nothing to do with surviving the tail end of a hurricane in Mobile, Alabama, or the beer I had after plodding through Spanish mountain passes for 20 miles in the fog.
Slowly, you can also go deeper. When a friend and I drove his classic Mustang on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, the average was well under 160 kilometers per day. We have been to small Irish towns and have eaten in rural pubs. By experiencing five cities and more than 20 pubs in a few days, we really got a feel for the West Coast. If we had just stopped in Galway and found it over, we would have missed so much.
You see the changes
And it's not just the things you experience that are great. It is the transition between them.
On my train through America, I watched the swamps of Louisiana enter the Kentucky countryside, and the Big Sky country of Montana slowly made way for the mountains of Glacier National Park. On the road trip in Ireland, we saw cow fields becoming rough, rocky, unmanageable coastal bogs. In Spain we hiked from the Atlantic Ocean through the Andalusian mountains to the ancient pilgrimage site Santiago de Compostela.
On every journey, it was incredible how the ground under my feet slowly changed. Mountains began as a dark haze on the horizon and grew for hours until we stared at their peaks or even stood on them. It relativizes things.
They get bored
Occasionally boredom is a good thing. Constant stimulation is exhausted. Non-stop tension makes you want more. That's why games like Candy Crush and social media like Facebook are so addictive.
Slow travel is a great way to get bored a bit. The slowly changing landscape is unbelievable, but not exciting. Fantastic views are interspersed with long periods of very little. In an age of constant conversation, slow travel is a wonderful balance.
And if you get a bit bored, start thinking. It is the perfect time to consider what you want in life and if you are on the right track. You can not help but turn the big questions in your head.
Unless you are talking to your travel companions. If you have hours together, you really have the opportunity to talk. Courtesies and generalizations lead to deep, uncomfortable, honest conversations.
They estimate the distance
For millennia, distance has been one of the most important factors in human existence. Many people never walk further than a few hours from home. Generations of Irish sailed across the sea to America, seeking a new life knowing that they would never return. Now I can fly from Dublin to New York in six hours.
If you travel a long distance, you can really gauge how far a barrier has been. On foot we went in Spain between 15 and 20 miles a day. On an interstate, your car can do this in less than 15 minutes – an airplane can do it in less than two minutes – but it took us six to eight hours.
If you drive so slowly, you will realize what a significant undertaking everything from the Roman era was to the California Gold Rush Empire. Cheap Ryanair flights to Rome do not have the same effect.
It's all about the journey
It's a banal stereotype that life is about the journey, not about the destination, but at least when it comes to slow travel, it's true. Where you go is much less important than how you get there. The people and situations you encounter on the way make the journey memorable, not your ultimate destination.
You do not have to wait long. Even a 200-mile loop over two days in your car will give you enough time to see the places you travel through. But if you can go further and slower, it's even better. It took us three weeks to run the 250 miles. It is an experience that I would repeat tomorrow.
If I've convinced you to try a little slow travel, be sure to read our guides for road trips, long train rides and hikes.