“Slow travel is being in a place long enough to experience it without having a strict itinerary. It isn’t about seeing everything but experiencing the soul of a place.”
― Bhavana Gesota, The Art of Slow Travel: See the World and Savor the Journey On a Budget
In April, I took a girls’ trip with my sister-in-law to north Georgia and North Carolina. We ambled around Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia at a leisurely pace, admiring the tiers of tulips and daffodils before embarking on the scenic drive to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina, where we sat by the huge stone fireplace and sipped coffee in those relaxing wooden rocking chairs you see in the mountains in places where life is simpler and a fresher type of air cleans the lungs and awakens the senses.
“I’m loving this,” I told her. “I don’t feel rushed, and it’s a more relaxed pace than the itinerary I usually keep when traveling. I zip from place to place, and I don’t generally sit down and breathe until day’s end.” I was especially thinking about the EF Tour I’d taken with students to Europe in June 2019, when we’d visited four countries in ten days with a full day of air travel there and back as two of those days. It had drained every bit of me!
Sitting in the huge stone-walled lobby, I noticed the quotes on the rocks in the wall. On a breakneck-paced trip, I would have never noticed such a detail. As I observed more, I discovered that they were scattered throughout the hotel, and I visually scaled the walls on a self-secret scavenger hunt, making pictures, taking the time to ponder each one and to consider why it was selected out of all the quotes they could have chosen to etch there.
We stumbled upon the gingerbread house display from the annual competition and noticed each captivating detail of these winning designs. Further down the hall, we found the desk F. Scott Fitzgerald used during his time at the Grove Park Inn. Our room was directly across the hall from the two rooms that were “his” at the inn. We strolled through the gift shops, too, taking time to peruse the books about the history of this historic hotel. We each bought one and returned to the great fireplace to read them.
That’s why months later, when I saw the book The Art of Slow Travel, I knew it would be my next read. Four months into 2022, I was already beginning to realize that a more relaxed pace when traveling has more than mere physical benefits. Throughout 2022, most every trip that didn’t involve our camper held a hard lesson about taking life at a slower pace, lugging less on the journey, and savoring more tranquil moments.
My experience goals for 2023 are to cut back on entertainment in the form of concerts, sports, plays, and movies and instead focus on the experiences that are found outdoors – kayaking, hiking, long walks, conversations over orange spiced tea and playlists by the fire pit (my son and daughter in law gave us one for Christmas). It’s time to open the windows and relax the pace. To breathe. To embrace slow travel not only on trips, but as a daily living practice.