Confessions of a Slow Traveler

by B.J. Stolbov


I don’t like jets.  Yes, I know, they are the most convenient way to get somewhere far away quickly, but I still don’t like them.  Jets are just tubes with seats.  Soulless.  They make me feel detached from the earth.

I don’t like taxis, either.  I know that they get me quickly from place to place, mostly to or from airports.  They are a necessary convenience.  I often try to engage the taxi driver in conversation, but we both know that this is only a business transaction, and I know that the taxi driver’s job is to make the most money from an uninformed traveler.  I find it unpleasant, and I’m glad to pay and get out of a taxi as quickly as possible.

I do like to travel slowly.  I try to choose the slowest form of transportation available: be it car, bus, motor scooter, bicycle, boat, canoe, kayak, raft, horse, mule, elephant, or, my favorite, walking.  I like to see the landscape; I like to see mountains and rivers, rocks and caves, trees and plants.  It is the scenery moving by me slowly that soothes my soul.

Sure, I want to go somewhere, but the where is not really the point.  A hotel room is just a bed with a roof (when you close your eyes, all hotel rooms look the same).  A simple guesthouse with a friendly host is fine for me.  A bed under the stars is better.  When I want to see places, I want to see the roads, rivers, and paths that connect these places.  The adventure is in the getting there.

For me, traveling is in the snap of a twig underfoot bringing me directly into the world around me, the creaking of a bicycle seat at the turn at the bottom of a hill, the rocking in the wind and waves of the small boat, the bumping and bouncing of a bus, the road and the trees and the fields rolling by, the houses with their doors open, and the people, especially the children, smiling and waving as I go by; they are all a part, the most important part, of my journey. 

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Zen and the Art of Doing Nada

by Ellen Barone

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a guest in the lobby of the Inn on the Alameda, where I love to stay in Santa Fe. Perhaps some of you know her: 30-something, Pilates lean, size zero designer jeans, stylish hair cut, perfectly nice. When conversation turned to travel, as often happens in hotels, she told me that she and her husband had recently returned from an African safari. "Sure, the wildlife was awesome, but what they don't tell you," she said, "is that there's a lot of down time with nothing much to do. Four hours a day, at least," she said, "to entertain yourself with no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage."

So there I was, in my not-even-close-to-size-zero Patagonia quick-dry travel pants, snuggled in front of a flickering piñon fire, quite prepared to do absolutely nothing for the evening, wondering if I should admit to this kind stranger that my favorite part of any vacation is her dreaded down time.

In fact, I confess, one of my favorite escapes was a month spent doing nada at a friend's no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage, Mexican beach casita. I like to think of myself as an adventuresome sort, the kind of gal that says yes to rappelling down 9,000-foot mountains, yes to a 2-week camel trek across the Moroccan Sahara, yes to cycling up a rumbling Mount Etna, yes to sailing across the Atlantic, and have in fact done all of the above. But, to my ego's horror, I have come to discover that I am, in all honesty, an A-plus student of doing nothing. I can hang-ten in a hammock, watch butterflies, swing in a porch swing, listen to surf and read 17 books in one month, with the laziest of them.

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