Travel is a very personal matter. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to choices such as destinations, accommodations, the pace of travel, or whether or not to join a group or go it alone. There are endless variables. Some prefer the type of tourism that hits all the best known locations in a country – such as the ubiquitous Rome/Florence/Venice tours of Italy. Some slow travelers prefer to rent apartments or perhaps bed and breakfast accommodations in only one or two locations within in a given region. It comes down to personal choices. Of course, like everyone else, I have my own preferences, but I would like to offer you an optional way of traveling that is not often considered, particularly in this age of social media and instant international communication. I realize that this option is not for everyone for various reasons and might even cause extreme stress and upset to some, so if the idea sounds like punishment or an impossibility you are probably not a candidate to try this.
Have you ever considered being out of touch when you travel? I’m talking about leaving all cell phones, pads and pods at home, avoiding English speaking newspapers or TV, and no checking of email, favorite websites, or social media? I imagine that some folks might think that these are the ravings of a Luddite, a ridiculous suggestion, but if you are still reading please hear me out for just another moment, there is some method behind this madness.
Here’s my theory: Just as modern communication makes it possible to virtually travel the world from our homes, the converse is also true. We now have the possibility of staying in touch with nearly everyone from anywhere and we can be alerted of every disturbing international disaster or scandal instantaneously. This enables us to travel physically, without leaving home psychically. My premise is that this may not always be a good thing.
We began our Italy travels in the days before cell phones and internet access, but even then we made every effort to stay in touch. Although we now use all modern communication devices at home we intentionally leave them behind when we travel. We have come to gauge the success of our trips by how little we think of home. Please don’t misunderstand me – we love our home and our friends and family, but we see travel as the rare opportunity to leave all entanglements behind, both good and bad, and to experience only what is on our plates at the moment in a context and environment so different from our norm. We are not connected, and I love being out of touch – even temporarily! For the most part when we return home we really do not know what has taken place while we’ve been gone. We enjoy the surprises. Even going through the hundreds of emails that inevitably await our return is an adventure, just as it is sorting through the large stacks of physical mail that have piled up. Sure, I could check my email daily and respond while we‘re away, but I find it’s therapeutic to take a complete break from routine. Like I said, this mode of travel is not for everyone, and business responsibilities or family obligations may make this impossible for some, but how many of us spend hours a day connected to a communication device of some sort? From Twitter to television, is it always necessary to be informed from minute to minute? You might actually be surprised at how relaxing and refreshing it can be to take a break from the “real world.” I see it as taking a break to experience the “real world.”
Matthew Daub is a professional artist and university professor with works in major public and private collections throughout the United States and Europe. He has been leading plein air painting workshops in Italy since 1994. In 1999, Matthew and his wife Barbara formed Arts Sojourn as “a vacation for artists and their friends.” The program is designed to appeal to artists of all levels as well as non-artists who enjoy the company of creative people in a slow travel format.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.