The art of slowing down and staying awhile

We’ve all seen the look. Eyes glazed over after attempting to see too much great art at one shot in a major museum. By that time even the greatest art is overwhelmed by the desire for physical, intellectual, and emotional rest. I have seen the same look in those who backpack or travel by any mode across the world, attempting to “do” as many cities and countries as they can. You can almost feel a sort of pity–not condescending, but empathetic–for those who attempt to take in too much at once.

My experience is that one can enter into the unique space and time of a particular city or region of the world by taking one’s time and not attempting to impress others with all the cities, sites, and places you have “done”–as though it is genuinely possible to take in centuries of history, culture, and customs abroad in a rush of superhuman energy.

Whether staying in youth hostel, homestay, bed and breakfast, agriturismo (farm stay), or short-term rental, there is no reason not to make longer-term reservations in order to allow a deeper immersion into the local culture, life, and their unique experience of time.

Rather than attempt to see all of Italy in one trip, for example, try to find a central hub from which to plan one’s exploration. When staying in Tuscany, why not make Florence or Siena a home base and take day trips to the hundreds of local and regional sites?

By staying in one location, you can:

  • Find the time to read the literature and history which permeate the atmosphere, to daydream, to visit the great museums, churches, mosques, and city streets again and again at different times of the day while in different moods, and begin to feel the rhythms of the land you are visiting.
  • Discover the best food markets where the local produce is sold by memorable characters who respect your interest and curiosity. Rather than searching your guidebooks for great local eats, you can enjoy a great picnic in your own room or in a beautiful historic park.
  • Visit cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs regularly and perhaps make friends with the natives or other travelers.
  • Get up and go to sleep at any time without being bound by the type of schedules which are often exhausting and from which one has possibly sought escape while living a more mundane life at home.
  • Begin to feel that the distinction between being a tourist and living like a local starts to becomes blurred, and how unconsciously the local language begins to permeate your imagination.

TransitionsAbroad.com has compiled some great lodgings and locations to stay a while. Check them out and give the slower life a chance. The experience will likely leave a deeper impression on you than those you might wish to impress at a cocktail party in some "Amazing Race" across the globe.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | January 25, 2007
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind


4 Responses to “The art of slowing down and staying awhile”

  1. Karen Bryan Says:

    I agree completely with your post. I believe that far too many people try to see too much and end up really seeing very little. In my travel business, Europe a la Carte, I have enquiries from potential clients wanting to see several countries in Europe in 10 days. I recommend that they stick to one country or even one region of a country for their trip. I have written seven tips for planning a trip in Europe:
    http://www.europealacarte.co.uk/sevensecrets.html

  2. agoseta Says:

    Journeying on to Florence through the Tuscan countryside: Lucca, Pisa and other delightful towns dot the road to Pisa where who are guested of the Agostini family Villa di Corliano. The family – and 2 resident ghosts – still welcome guest at the Villa, much as it they were at the height of its fame in the 1770’s. The stay at Bagni di Pisa or San Giuliano Terme (health giving waters are still offered to an international clientele) and visit Pisa during one of the city’s festivals, staying at the Agostini Palace to enjoy the best view of the festivities.

    http://www.montipisani.com/english/journeying_monti.htm

  3. Timen Swijtink Says:

    This is a post that is entirely inline with my feelings, and I think backpackers should stop and take note.

    I have seen far too many see-the-world-in-80-days travelers. It makes me sad when I hear people doing such things. And after they’re done with their itinerary, I act interested because I don’t want to be rude.

    Great post.

  4. Alex Reed Says:

    I believe this art is more easily practised in less tourist infested locations. I write about such a trip at
    http://www.monticolo.it/arealsliceofitaly.html
    The pace of life is slower and less commercial and apart from lacking the brand name, has much to offer.