Slow Travel — positively infect cultures around the world

The time has come for us to slow down. Remember the Paul Simon song,

“Slow down, you move too fast, you’ve got to make the moment last…”

you might ask me, what is “Slow Travel”? It’s any low-carbon form of travel that makes you more vulnerable and surprisingly, connects you to local people, flora & fauna, for mutual benefit. It can be walking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, sailboating, via horse, elephant, donkey, pack llama, all-electric car (hopefully renewably charged) or river boat. The chief purpose is to not escape hardship/suffering but to bring your gifts along with you and exchange abundantly along the way. You might not think you have the time for a slow travel trip. Think again. Money has made us all impoverished in our thinking and decision-making. We talk about sustainability and perhaps buy organic food at the local grocery but how many of us are out there, meeting indigenous peoples, rural Americans, Asians, South Americans and our own well-insulated hearts?! We berate the global economy for its massive energy consumption and heartless treatment of workers all over the world. Maybe the solution is more of us reaching out to people, off the grid, under an oppressive yoke, trying to get vegetables to market before they spoil. Slow travel is risky, time-consuming, riddled with uncertainty. And, yields rewards that you may never get from a job, a marriage, family, or a Nobel prize.

This is the first installment of the book “Slow Travel” that I am writing.

If you’ve already taken a “Slow Travel” adventure please consider sending me some photos and 2–3 pages about what was the core of your experience. Thank you in advance! (email: coachajs@gmail.com)

I’ve divided the book into three sections: Short (less than 250 miles) which I also dub “Staycation” as you are essentially going deeper in your own region, Medium (250–1000 miles) when you wish to connect with other flavors of your country or others nearby, Long (1000 miles +) which is when we go for the heart of Africa, Indonesia, Uzbekistan.

Setting the scope: what gifts do you have to offer? what do you wish to learn about most? what people and/or places speak to you in your bones? perhaps its taking a kayak trip with an experienced Inuit guide, maybe its learning to make a rug in Turkey, maybe its learning more about the history of your county and how your great-grandmother survived 20 years in a sodden house. Then there is the “Route”, how do you want to get there? what are you willing to do along the way? beg, sell hand-made walking sticks, write poems on a cliff, join a working farm/ranch and work your ass off. Who do you want to meet that intrigues and/or scares the crap out of you? Maybe you need only go as far as your state’s penitentiary. Maybe it’s learning the Chechen language as you find out how the Chechnian people are surviving. or maybe it’s visiting an intentional community, working and living there long enough to understand their vision and how they are inching their way there. We’ve all been coached by some relatives to choose routes in life that seem practical, a sure bet, with a high likelihood of financial, emotional, relational success. Slow Travel is none of that. When you get on that bike and make Tierra del Fuego your destination, you are going to encounter people in ways that will change you permanently. You could get injured, get sick, even die. But remember that many, many beings across this planet are experiencing that and often because of the actions our modern world has upon their cultures. As a slow traveler you are not conspicuously consuming non-renewable resources. You are putting yourself in the shoes and under the wings of what local shelter, food, song and stories offer. You bring what you’ve gleaned so far from a fairly sheltered life. And you allow yourself to feel what has been so difficult to feel in urban life.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you won’t make contingency plans — you will bring a certain amount of money, first aid supplies, dried food in zip-locks and you will know how to get to a major city and get support if major shit hits the fan. But if you trust and remain open you will get help that you never dreamed was possible. Because people essentially live to help one another.

Perks of Slow Travel: you won’t have to sit in some sterile airports listening to CNN drone on, contemplate eating food that could have been improved by a 3D printer. People will relate to you differently because you are traveling in a much more vulnerable and hence accessible way. They may ask you questions. They may offer you a place to stay for the night, if only to hear what you are experiencing differently from them. They may tell you about beautiful, secret, remote, sacred places like the beach in Oregon we were told about and found inspirational.

That’s all for now. I hope you are intrigued, have questions, want more. I hope to fill your cup like the smiling Fijian fellow who queried me with the jug of Kava-Kava, “High tide?!?!”