Be honest: the last time you took a holiday, was it the stress-free experience you had been so long hankering after, or did it end up being a bit irritable and disappointing? And - be honest - did you take to Facebook or Twitter while you were holidaying?
The art of travel is to relax and be away from work, but it's also to engage with different surroundings and learn more about yourself and the world you live in.
In the world of budget airlines and cheap deals, have we lost sight of what travel really is about?
Dan Kieran, whose book The Idle Traveller is all about the 'art' of slow travel, spoke to HuffPost UK Lifestyle about how to create a better state of wellbeing and get the most out of travel.
What’s the book about?
The premise of the book is to say we don’t travel anymore we only arrive, we’ve lost sight of what travel is about. It’s not prescriptive to say you’re travelling or holidaying in the wrong way, but for me travel is a completely different thing, Slow travel changes the way you think, and the most crucial component, it’s where my mind goes between my home and where I’m going.
What is slow travel?
It delves into neuroscience, into the way the brain works. Most of the time, your unconscious mind is in control, and your conscious mind is brought into play when confronted with something new.
Once you’ve learned how to do something you require less brain power to do it. And once you crack it, you stop learning how to do it. When you travel in a ‘slow’ way, you’re forced to confront new things. This is why people ‘find themselves’ when they go travelling because they are more aware of who they are because they are more conscious.
Let’s start with when you arrive at the airport. You see the same brands, it’s the same aeroplane, sitting on the same type of seats, and you watch same TV shows. You arrive at another airport, to get into a taxi to a hotel which you’ve chosen for its western comforts.
You’re moving, not travelling, If you travel slowly, the language changes, the landscape, everything about your experience is different. You’re pulled into that different state where you’re more aware – that’s why we love travel. We’re so worried about things going wrong but actually, all those things you love ARE the things which went wrong.
How can we be more slow in our travel?
One of the most simple things to do is once you get to destination is to put your phone and watch in the safe and leave it there. There are two kinds of time – how we perceive time; Kronos – the god of chronological time – is the time frame of the holiday. The other god of time Kairos is about ‘seize the moment’ divine time. That for me is what travel is about. The watch is about work – so put it away. You’ll find you’re perfectly able to function. You eat when you’re hungry. And once you’re out, you start to discover things.
So no guidebooks then?
Forget about guidebooks. Travelling across the world to see something you know is there is ridiculous. I went to Barcelona and I thought, I’m not going to set out to see anything by Gaudi because it’s in all the books. Through my travels, I stumbled across them anyway. But because I stumbled across them the experience was better than if I’d looked it up in a book.
The world is not a spreadsheet you have to complete – if you can, disconnect yourself. Take cash, leave your card at the hotel. Get a map from lobby and head out - even if you do it just for one day.
But what if things go wrong?
We’re a bit feeble, and the big thing is vulnerability. Everything about travel is seen through a prism of fear. What if everything isn’t like it is at home? Then you start worrying about what if you break your leg. You’re always looking for reasons why it hasn’t lived up to your expectations.
The certain type of popular travel most people do now actually insulates you from people you are visiting. At a luxury hotel, the only interaction you have is from people who serve you and that affects your mind.
- Leave the guidebook behind
- Put your watch and phone in the safe
- Don't even THINK about going on Facebook
- If something goes wrong, it's not going to ruin the holiday
- Say no to a guided tour
- Go walkabout
Erm, so no social media then?
Facebook and email is like an enormous pole with a hook at the end and it has just yanked you back to your desk. It’s like a box-ticking mentality. It’s not enough to experience it, I have to record it.
And of course, it depends what you want to go away from. What I find interesting is most people are looking for a kind of experience but then end up booking some sort of package deal, and then it never lives up to expectations. That’s why people get stressed out and then start to argue.
What are the benefits of slow travel?
When you read books about time, you find out that there is no time, the only thing that exists is now. Past, present, and future – these are just concepts in our brain.
Everything you experience is the interpretation of consciousness, it doesn’t matter where you go physically. Slow travel is an amazing way of accessing who you are and where you are going. And - time is a construct, slow travel makes your holiday last longer.
Longer holidays? Who doesn’t want that?
The Idle Traveller, £7.99, AA
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