Carl Honoré, widely referred to as the Godfather of Slow thanks to his seminal book, In Praise of Slow, has recently published a book for children all about Slow Travel. A beautifully illustrated hardback book, it suggests over 40 slow adventures by boat, bike, foot and train and includes trips such as walking the Great Stones Way in the south of England or trekking the Inca Trail in Peru.
Carl Honoré is the author of several books for adults, not just about Slow but also how to make the most of our longer lives in his book, Bolder. Now he has turned his attention to writing for children with 'It's the Journey not the Destination', which was published in September 2022. It is more than just a simple picture book as it introduces the concept of Slow Travel to a whole new generation, hopefully for whom Slow will become the only way to travel, so we can rid the world of the current trend to visit as many places as possible in as short a time as possible, to the detriment of both the environment and indigenous cultures.
The book introduces Slow Travel to its young readers as a way to experience the richness and wonders of the world, taking time to notice the details, the people, the sounds, aromas and flavours as a 'banquet for the senses'.
Carl says in the introduction that he wants the book to 'fire your imagination and inspire you to explore the world at your own pace' and it certainly does that.
Each set of double pages is a different adventure with 40 in total, divided up into journeys on foot, by bike, by boat and by train. Just a brief outline of each route is provided - this book isn't intended to help actively plan a trip, it is inspiration to get the mind immersed in the possibilities of what you could encounter along the way.
The illustrations provide simple and beautiful depictions of the sights you could see on each adventure, but it is the vivid written text which I found the most evocative. Locations are described with a focus on the smaller details that adults would probably miss but which would be a priority for kids; the colours, smells, weather, the people you may meet on the way. A river running through a rainforest is described as 'tumbling 90 metres into a pool of blazing turquoise fringed by emerald flora', a beach next to a Hawaiian mountain range as 'Green mountains huddled together like bowling pins, their peaks kissed by clouds'. It is expressive, powerful and pregnant with the possibilities for adventures and exploring the world.
The text is also surprisingly in depth, filled with facts and little nuggets of information for its readers: why something was built, who by, how old something is.
He has managed to find a slow connection in many of these journeys - an Odyssey on the Aegean Sea based on Odysseus taking 10 years to make just a short journey, seeing sloths in Tenorio Volcano Park who are 'masters of slowness', the giant tortoises on the Galapagos who take more than three hours to walk a kilometre and spend most of their time napping.
It is not just about exploring rural environments and wildernesses though. A bike ride through Los Angeles, Amsterdam from a canal boat, the Orient Express through the cities of Europe; all are covered with the small details to look out for and the joys to be found on the way that may be far removed from the natural world.
The book is a gentle, unhurried exploration of slow journeys across the globe and is a wonderful addition to any child's library, immersing them in the sights, sounds and smells of Slow Travel.
At the end of the book, Carl outlines ways to travel Slow, the important aspects of it being given as delightful examples: 'dawdle in the pool, daydream in the shade, marinade in deep thought, master the art of people-watching, keep a light schedule' amongst others, all of which crystalise the essence of Slow Travel for children.
The whole book made me want to hit the open road, rucksack on my back and just a vague itinerary in my hand, to experience the joys of slow journeys.
Carl recently wrote in his newsletter to followers:
"... travel is a form of magic. It opens the mind. Makes you stronger and happier. Teaches you about the world and yourself. Brings you closer to other people. Travel creates Proustian memories that last a lifetime."
And the best way to travel is slowly.
When you move too fast through the world, you miss the small details and fine grain that make each place thrilling and unique. You visit places without really experiencing them – and then return home more tired than when you left.
When you slow down, travel levels up. You start noticing things and remembering them later. You connect with people. Your senses come alive, opening you up to new sounds, aromas and flavours.
When you travel slowly, you experience the world in all its richness and wonder."
At Slow Travel, we couldn't agree more.