Travel in the Slow Lane
Find yourself a home exchange base somewhere in the world, says Sandra, and then take off in the slow lane for the kind of travel you’ve always dreamed of.
In 1976 Tirtiani Terzano was told by a fortune-teller in Hong Kong that he had to take special care for the whole of 1993. ‘The omens are bad,’ the fortune teller said, ‘you must not get in an aeroplane for the entire year.’ And despite being an international journalist, reporting on stories all over the world, Terzano didn’t. He took buses, boats, trains, rickshaws, cars, trucks and his own two feet and instead of missing the story and losing his job Terzano discovered an essential truth. Skimming over the surface, which is literally what we do in an aeroplane, means we miss the detail.
Down there in those villages, beside that lake, climbing up the side of that mountain are people with stories to tell and experiences to add to ours.
Different dialects have been formed, sometimes even different languages over the space of several hundred years, but we, in our pressurized cabin, with the in-flight entertainment flickering in front of us and helpful cabin crew offering another drink, sandwich, chocolate chip cookie, have sped over it all in a matter of hours. Rushing from one place to another, without noticing anything of the journey except how long it takes, is not travelling. It’s just getting there.
Tirtiani Terzano was so enchanted by his discoveries during his year of ‘aeroplane abstinence’ that he wrote a book about it. My copy of ‘A fortune Teller Told Me’ was given to me by the concierge at the Hotel Des Deux Continents in Paris a few years ago, to help ‘fill in the time’ he said, with a twinkle in his eye, after missing a connection to Venice.
It not only changed my travel plans, it changed my life. Travelling across Europe by train for two days on my journey to Venice I helped an Italian graduate tweak his CV, shared home-brewed Chianti and salami with a family who didn’t trust railway catering and woke up, halfway across Europe to find the Alps inches away from my window. I watched landscapes change; mountains turn into plains and chatted in two different languages along the way. By the time we rolled into Venice railway station I had already been speaking Italian for a good 24 hours and not only Venice the city, but also Venice the experience and everything I had been hoping for was waiting for me.
If you have never been to Venice please go by train. Step off the platform and watch the Grand Canal reveal itself in all its crazy, chaotic, watery beauty. It is as if you have stepped into a Canaletto painting.
For the next three weeks I am going to be inviting you to try Travel In the Slow Lane. It is travel that throws up the most remarkable serendipity. Travel that opens your eyes, your heart and your senses.
Come along and enjoy the ride.