Dan Kieran on his slow travel philosophy

When it comes to going places, Dan Kieran prefers to take the long way round, and reveals it’s not a bad philosophy for life in general

(Image credit: Illustration by Daniel Frost)

I’ve always liked the Slow Movement, and it’s often been associated with The Idler magazine (which actually predates it, although I’m not claiming we invented it). The thing I particularly respond to is its idea that time is a gift – people say time is money, but time is more precious than money could ever be. So, taking your time to travel allows you to experience it in a totally different way. My book, The Idle Traveller, came from a very simple idea that we don’t travel any more, we only arrive. I did some research into how the brain works, and it’s only when you’re faced with the unfamiliar that your conscious mind works hard. If you travel in a way that’s familiar – walking through the artificial shopping-mall environment of an airport, where time is irrelevant like in a casino, and then sitting in the same kind of plane with a screen showing familiar films and TV shows – you are moving, but you’re not really travelling. I find when I’ve arrived at my destination after a long journey, my head is in a totally different place, tangibly. I never see the physical act of travelling as a chore to be got through – if I’m taking the overnight train from Paris to Madrid, I’m watching the countryside pass by, drinking wine, eating dinner, meeting new people in the couchette… I’m never thinking, ‘Come on, I want to get there.’

My first proper experience of this was going to a wedding in Poland. It took 36 hours, during which I helped a kid do his English homework; realised I was following the same route people would have taken to the concentration camps; shared a compartment with a goat… When I got to the wedding, people who had flown to Warsaw in a few hours were talking about the same things we would over a drink in London, but I felt I’d left home far behind.

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