I still don’t think much of January 1 as a starting point for a new calendar. But that doesn’t matter since, whenever the dividing line occurs, it provides a good excuse to pause, reflect on the recent past, and plan for the near future.
Although I don’t do the reflection thing very well, I’m pretty good at looking forward. Especially during the physical isolation of this pandemic, as we all dream of returning to some version of a “normal” existence.
One part of my normal life that I’ve missed greatly during the past year has been the opportunity to travel. So, as a poor substitute, I’ve been looking forward by consuming lots of travel media: books, videos, podcasts. And articles like this one from Afar Magazine in which the writer offers a travel manifesto: “5 Ways to Be a Better Traveler”.
Locked down for the past few months, I had plenty of time to think—about past travels, naturally, but also future journeys. What will they look like? What fresh attitude will I bring to them? I devised a few new principles, refined a couple of existing ones, and stitched them together into a kind of Travel Manifesto. “Manifesto,” I realize, is a strong word. It suggests boldness and daring—revolution, even. This is precisely what I need, what we need: a new way of traveling.
The writer’s advice to Travel Selectively is pretty well taken care of by having a much smaller budget than someone who writes for a travel magazine. Lack of funds tends to force selectivity. And his suggestion to Travel Joyfully reflects how I always try to travel (and mostly succeed).
However, his recommendation that I really need to work on is Travel Slowly.
Speed is the enemy of travel, because, as the French philosopher Simone Weil observed, speed is the enemy of attention.
Good travel is slow travel. Loiter. Linger. Find a café in Amsterdam or La Paz and plant yourself there for longer than seems normal. I guarantee you will see or hear or feel something you would have missed otherwise.
I will admit to being one of those speedy travelers. Someone who plans out the day and sees loitering as wasting time. It’s one reason I don’t think I’d be good at traveling solo. Visiting a new place with a few other “strangers” tends to slow things down, as well as providing companions who may see the world a little differently than I do.
Ok, I realize that, in the context of a world-wide crisis, I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I can dream about the next trip, rather than worrying about more basic needs. I understand that the freedom to travel is something unique.
Once those opportunities return, I will not take them for granted. But I certainly will try to take them slower.
The image is a favorite from a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2017. While lingering in a sidewalk cafe, these gentlemen performed for us. A xylophone is a rather unique instrument for street musicians.