Why you'll get more from your travels if you don't rush

Slow down and wise up: You’ll get more from your travels if you don’t rush. Here’s how to savour each moment and TRULY experience the riches of the world — from a man who cherishes life in the slow lane

  • When you slow down, ‘your senses come alive’, says author Carl Honore
  • His tips for enjoying a slow travel experience include turning off devices 
  • He also recommends taking slower modes of transport – bike, train or boat

Things are shifting. These days, more and more of us are waking up to the folly of turning every moment into a race against the clock.

We are doing the unthinkable. We are slowing down. And guess what? It turns out that a slow life is not a boring one. On the contrary, slowing down is the best way to live life to the fullest.

It makes you calmer, healthier and happier. You do everything better and enjoy it more. Many start by slowing down with food. You are part of this trend if you bake sourdough or shop at a farmers’ market.

Carl Honore, author of It’s the Journey Not The Destination, reveals that when you slow down on holiday, ‘you start noticing things, your senses come alive, you come home recharged… ‘

Millions are now trying slower forms of medicine (acupuncture or massage) and exercise (yoga or Pilates), too. Consider SuperSlow weightlifting. Instead of taking six seconds to lift and lower a weight, you take 20 seconds. This works the muscles to exhaustion, so it’s more effective.

Slowing down also does wonders in the bedroom. We chuckled when Sting talked of romping tantric-style for hours on end, yet couples are now flocking to workshops to learn the art of unhurried lovemaking.

Even the business world, where the cult of speed runs deepest, is warming to the idea of slowing down. Why? Because slowness boosts communication, accuracy, creativity, teamwork and deep thinking.

Carl recommends taking slower modes of transport, such as bike, train or boat. Pictured is a holidaymaker in a canoe in Utah 

As Mae West put it: ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.’ That is especially true of travel. When you move too fast through the world, you miss small details that make each place unique, and visit areas without really experiencing them.

When you slow down, you start noticing things and remembering them later. You connect with people. Your senses come alive. You also come home recharged. Here are my tips for slow travel…

Relish the journey

Taking slower modes of transport — bike, train, boat, your feet — makes the journey a moveable feast. I recently travelled back to London from Italy by rail. Watching the light and landscape change as we trundled through the Alps was exhilarating. The same goes for cars. Driving more slowly lets you soak up the views and saves petrol.

Get lost deliberately

To plan or not to plan? Carl reveals how in Buenos Aires (above) he had a more authentic experience by strolling around without a map 

When you always know where you are, you never find anything new. Try strolling without a map. I once did this in Buenos Aires and stumbled across an asado (barbecue). I spent the evening chatting and dancing with the locals. Thirty years later, I can still recall the deep, smoky flavour of the chorizo served straight off the grill.

Eliminate distraction

Technology can be your best friend — or your worst enemy. Every minute spent gazing at a phone is a minute not spent savouring the world. So turn off your devices and turn on your senses.

The other day I was looking at my phone in a taxi heading to Dubrovnik. When my battery died, I looked up — just in time to see the sun setting behind the stone walls of what might be the world’s most beautiful medieval city.

Be spontaneous

Planning out every detail of your trip kills spontaneity, the cornerstone of great travel. The richest experiences are often unplanned. Leave empty blocks in your itinerary so you can do whatever you fancy. Lie on the grass, join a passing parade, accept a sudden invitation to hit the beach. Or simply people-watch.

And don’t worry about children getting bored. What bores them is rushing around on someone else’s timetable. If you slow down and let them help choose what to do next, everyone will have more fun.

Start sketching

Drawing is an antidote to the drive-by approach of taking photos. I always travel with a sketchpad. The results are often the butt of family jokes. But drawing helps me stop and stare. I can still remember in forensic detail every travel highlight I have sketched over the years.

Open your mind

Fancy learning a new skill on holiday? Carl says he still uses tricks he picked up in Valencia when making paella at home  

Learning takes time but is the best souvenir. Travel with a phrase book and learn how to flirt, order coffee or discuss the weather in a new language. Or sign up for a course with a local historian or artisan. When I make paella today, I still use a couple of tricks I picked up in a cooking class in Valencia.

Less is more

Don’t feel like you have to see every site on the tourist trail. Pick a few and give them the attention they deserve. The rest of the time do whatever feels right in the moment — or nothing at all.

Keep it simple

When you slow down, even the simplest activity takes on a deep resonance. This is especially true with children. I have done many memorable things with my son during our travels. But my highlight is the hours we’ve spent just horsing around in swimming pools.

Meet the locals

Carl talks about the importance of getting to know the locals.  He says he’s on first-name basis with staff at a wine bar in Paris (above)

Befriending people from other cultures is the lifeblood of travel. Take your children to a playground so they can make friends. Breakfast in the same cafe every morning and get to know the waiters and regulars. There’s a little wine bar in Paris where (almost) everyone knows my name.

Keep it simple

When you slow down, even the simplest activity takes on a deep resonance. This is especially true with children. I have done many memorable things with my son during our travels. But my highlight is the hours we’ve spent just horsing around in swimming pools.

Find yourself

The sweetness of doing nothing: Pictured is Altiplano in Bolivia where Carl experienced a life-changing moment 

By offering an escape from the daily grind, a slow journey is the perfect moment to take stock, reflect on life and ponder your next steps. While hiking in the sun-drenched scrubland of the Altiplano in Bolivia, I had a revelation about my future. A week later, I returned home and changed my life.

Tread lightly

Travelling slowly goes hand in hand with saving the planet. Use cleaner forms of transport. Buy local. Consume wisely.

  • It’s the Journey Not The Destination, written by Carl Honoré and illustrated by Kevin and Kristen Howdeshell, is published by Magic Cat Publishing at £20.

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