Ticking off as many tourist attractions as you can used to be a prerequisite of a good holiday. The problem was, all that rushing around often meant you'd come home more exhausted than when you'd left.
Being burnt out after your holidays just didn't make sense, especially if you had a stressful job. So, inspired by the increasingly popular slow food movement, out popped an inspiring alternative: Slow Travel. It promised to awaken your senses, restore and revitalise your body, and invigorate your imagination.
The concept revolves around travelling mindfully. It's about being increasingly in the moment, and taking your time to absorb everything around you.
Instead of dashing from one place to the next, you sooth your mind and body by staying put. You get to enjoy the local culture. You eat the local food. You buy from local markets. You travel by slow train rather than airplane, and let the scenery seep into you. Locals get to recognise your face, and you stop to have a friendly chat instead of ignoring passing strangers. You have time to reflect.
While immersing yourself in your surroundings you can also enjoy the local architecture, literature, music and art. Absorbing local creativity can help distinguish one place from another. Perhaps there is a novel set in the place you are situated in. Bring it along. Seek out local concerts. Explore local art galleries.
Above all, concentrate on using all of your senses. This can really help you 'be' in a place. Linger over tastes and smells. Listen attentively to the sounds around you. Touch as many things as you can. Use your eyes to pick out details. Let things flow. It can really improve your wellbeing.
Explorer and travel writer John Harlin is an expert when it comes to Slow Travel. As well as climbing the treacherous north face of the Eiger, one of Switzerland's highest mountains, he is the author of Swissotel Hotels & Resorts Vitality Guides.
"The first time I go somewhere I often want to survey the landscape to get a broad picture of what it's like," he says. "Then I'll come back on another trip to settle in one place and really experience it."
You can't truly experience a place when you're zooming through it, he continues.
"That would be like talking to everyone at a party and thinking you know them all. To make friends you need to have dinner together, take a walk together, spend time with each other. It's the same for a location: to really know it you have to live it. Or at least pause, relax, and listen."
Harlin thinks the Slow Travel Movement is a good thing because it helps you connect with the local culture.
"Skimming the surface of things doesn't build connections. It takes time to let the flavours take hold of you. It takes immersion. The kids playing soccer in a dirt field might be in school the first time you walk by, but laughing and sweating under the setting sun on the second or third time you pass by on your way to the corner market. It takes pure luck to see something small, subtle, and wonderful the first time you look. Give it some time and you'll see so much more."
Harlin says walking is one of the best ways to slow down on holiday.
"It hardly matters how far: if it's walkable, that's how we get there. Often we see the things we remember most while walking to get somewhere. If you drive, or take a taxi, subway or bus, then you're dumped like an alien in one exotic 'location' after another without a sense of scale or connection.
"I love the little things you see along the way too. The laundry on the line, the building that's decomposing so you can see its internal structure, the cobbled street that hasn't yet been paved over, the little hole-in-the-wall bakery you'd never know was there if you didn't smell it as you walked by."
Can hotels be an effective part of the Slow Travel Movement solution too? Can they help you unwind and reconnect with your inner vitality?
"The short answer is 'yes'. You can slow travel from a hotel," he says. "If the hotel is well located, you can stroll out of it for deep immersion all day and then return for familiar comfort at night.
"Ideally the hotel will help steer you to what's worth walking to and experiencing repeatedly during your long stay. If they bundle you into a cab and send you to shopping malls, it would be tough to call that slow travel. So it really depends on the individual hotel and how much they appreciate the subtleties of their own surroundings".
Swissôtel Hotels & Resorts shows its support of the Slow Travel Movement by producing the Vitality Guides, which focus on nature, architecture and art, all within easy reach of the hotel. It also offers inspirational and soothing podcasts, and beautifully-designed postcards curated by Sebastian Fässler, a well-known Swiss goldsmith, illustrator and Alpine craftsman based in the mountains of the Appenzell region of northeast Switzerland. Find out more here.
This article has been produced in association with Swissôtel
See also: Stay healthy on holiday
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