Our first trip to Europe was a low-budget, 11-month-long tour that covered the length and breadth of that continent. Without knowing it, we had become “slow travelers” by stretching our budget and keeping ourselves as relaxed as possible. We had never heard the term “slow travel” when we began our journey but we had discovered inexpensive short-term rentals and planned much of our trip around them.
Our journey included cruise ships, visiting all the major cities of Europe, a seven-cities-in-ten-days rail tour to places formerly behind the Iron Curtain, and putting more than 20,000 miles on rental cars but our pace was usually slow. Most of the time we stayed in “self-catering” cottages or apartments. We usually cooked our own breakfasts and dinners and had peanut butter and jelly picnics anytime we could find peanut butter. And truly, when we added all our expenses together after the trip, we discovered we had spent no more than we normally spend just staying home.
“Slow travel” means different things to different people. The term was coined not very long ago in conjunction with the “slow food movement” that began in Italy but the practice of traveling slowly has been around for a very long time. It’s today’s jet-age with its “if it’s Tuesday in must be Belgium” big-bus tours and cruise ships that have speeded up travel. Granted, these recent changes make travel less expensive and enable people to fit Europe into a two-week vacation. That travel style suits many people very well.
Slow travelers return to the pace of the horse and carriage days, taking time to discover the local culture, meet a few native people, sample the local cuisine. They make time for seeing the great art and ancient churches and temples of their destinations. They come home a bit wiser perhaps, less fatigued and with some money left in the bank.
I’m making plans now to return to Europe at the end of this year for an extended stay. I’ll begin my journey in Paris because it’s my favorite city. I’ll explore Antwerp and Lisbon for the first time. I plan to stay longest in the Mediterranean region in rented apartments, driving cheap rental cars along country roads and taking many pictures. I’ll share my itinerary and a little about the places I’m going to visit in the next few weeks. Then, as I travel, my plan is to share my experiences here. I hope you’ll come along.
An apology for the poor quality of the photograph shown on this entry. It was taken with my first digital camera about 14 years ago but I wanted you to see the house in Tuscany where we stayed in an apartment for three weeks. The view is from just outside the grocery market in the village of Montaione. Our place, called Piè di Costa, is the building just to the left of the tree trunk. It was wonderful!
Here’s a link to a British newspaper article that thoroughly explains the “Art of Slow Travel.” http://www.independenttraveler.com/travel-tips/none/the-art-of-slow-travel
Here’s a link to an online magazine dedicated to little known places to be discovered by slow travelers: http://www.hiddeneurope.co.uk/a-manifesto-for-slow-travel
While searching for short-term rentals mid-way through our first journey I discovered the website at SlowTrav.com and its forum at SlowTalk.com. They are still my favorite sites for reading the opinions of other slow travelers.
This site is about the entire “slow movement”: http://www.slowmovement.com/