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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shway shway, slowly slowly: slow travel

In the Middle East we tell erratic taxi drivers to "shway, shway", to go slow or slow down. It can also mean "take it easy", "relax", or "just wait", especially when used with a gesture where the fingers and thumb of an upright hand are brought together to say "be patient, just wait, please". One of the major travel trends of 2007 was slow travel. Some travellers have always taken the slow road, since the time of the great Arab traveler Ibn Battuta who travelled 117,000 kms over 30 years, to backpackers who spend six months to a year or more on the move. My husband and I have been on the road for two years on travel writing assignments. While not all of our travels have been slow, during that time we've rented apartments for a month or two in each of Amsterdam, Brussels and Buenos Aires, and have driven tens of thousands of kilometres in Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Western Australia, and Thailand. At other times we've bounced about the globe on long-haul and low-cost flights: one trip, intended to show that Scandinavia could be done on a budget took us to all Scandi cities on no-frills airlines in a couple of weeks. If we plotted our journeys with thumbtacks and string on a map, what a tangled web we'd be weaving. So as I think ahead to 2008 I'm telling myself to "shway, shway". Carbon footprints aside, the benefits of slow travel are myriad: you're immersing yourself for longer in the one city or country, learning more about its society and culture, living like a local, learning a little of the language, and you're contributing more to the local economy if you rent an apartment, shop daily in the local stores and markets, spend more at local sights, etc. You'll also return to work more refreshed and invigorated. Take time out to read about The Art of Slow Travel, the Slow Movement, the World Institute of Slowness and their idea of Slow Travel; check out Slow Travel,, Transitions Abroad, and the Slow Travel Blog; buy yourself a copy of In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed; share tips with other slow travellers on the forum; or simply read about other trips such as this Slow Train to Bamako to get ideas for your own travels. So, my message for 2008: shway, shway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Again a fair post. Because of your crony