The Benefits of Traveling Idly

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Journalist (and recently published author) Dan Kieran likes to travel the ‘slow’ way.

He hasn’t been on an airplane for over 20 years – preferring to travel by road, rail or sea.

In fact, it seems he doesn’t like ‘traditional’ ways of traveling at all… “We don’t actually travel anymore,” Dan says, “we only arrive. We’re completely missing out on what travel is actually supposed to be about.”

Dan explains that his dislike for flying came to a boiling point during a trip to America. “I always found it a horrible experience and couldn’t explain why, then I started to travel slowly.”

Dan’s first experience of traveling idly was on a trip to Poland, where he was attending a wedding. “Everyone flew and I went by train; it took me a day and a half to get there and everyone else got there in four hours. But then my attitude when I arrived was completely different to theirs, because you kind of culturally acclimatise as well as geographically by going slowly, and it just made me completely rethink the idea of travel.”

Trains

Dan also explains how part of his dislike for the traditional methods of traveling stems from how the world has quickly become westernized. “You go from a Western country to an airport where you do Western shopping, then you get on an airplane and watch American TV shows, then you arrive and get into a taxi which takes you to a hotel you’ve chosen because it has a Western TV and Western food. You’ve moved but you haven’t travelled. So I’m trying to kind of reclaim the idea that travel is about curiosity, it’s about things being difficult, about embracing the fact that things don’t go to plan.”

Dan’s philosophy is a noble one, and it seems the benefits of traveling this way run deeper than you might imagine: “If you’re constantly in an environment or a situation that’s familiar you are less conscious, so if you travel in a way that means you don’t have to change anything and it’s all routine and easy you will have a less conscious experience than if you go into the unknown; and that’s when people ‘find’ themselves when they’re travelling – because they’re putting themselves in a different situation and they’re forcing themselves to be more conscious in that situation.”

In Dan’s world, “the journey is one of the reasons for going somewhere rather than a chore”, as he says that there is very little difference between modern-day traveling and commuting.

But what if you just want to escape the miserable weather of home and go and lie on a sunny beach somewhere? Not everyone has the time (or the inclination) to spend two days on a sleeper train when they could fly there in four hours instead, or to take a two-week ferry across an ocean when they could fly there in a less than half a day.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to fly,” Dan says, “I’m just saying I’m not interested in that experience. Holidays have become more like an anesthetic; you lie on a beach, pretend to be famous, get drunk a lot, get a sun tan. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying there is a right or wrong way to travel.”

His advice for those who do want to do that (i.e. the ‘Easyjet generation’) is to not take a guidebook. “Forget about guide books because they pigeon-hole your mind in a place where you’re devolving ownership of your holiday immediately. Follow your own curiosity.”

Dan instead recommends reading books relevant to the place you’re going (for example, reading ‘The Day of the Jackal’ while in Paris) as they’ll give you a much more authentic feel of what the place is about.

That’s an easy way to take a slow travel mentality to a package holiday, there’s nothing stopping you reading a book that’s relevant to where you are, and it will take you away in a much more interesting way than the guide book.”

The Idle Traveller’ by Dan Kieran is out now.

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