Slow Travel

Treading Softly – the joy of slow travel
Mike Robinson, RSGS Chief Executive

RSGS - Slow TravelJoseph Thomson’s favourite saying was the Italian motto “chi va piano va sano, chi va sano va lontano” (“he who goes softly goes safely, he who goes safely goes far”), which still seems to have resonance today. With adverts reminding us of the dangers of speed on rural roads, and the Scottish Government “putting pedestrians first” by imposing a 20mph limit on new residential streets, maybe it is time to reconsider the way we travel.

Are we prioritising shallow haste over deeper experience? Are we missing something by always racing about? Maybe it is time to remind ourselves of the joy of travelling, and to embrace the motto of the country whose appetite for enjoyment and quality of life first inspired the slow food movement.

Lower speed limits would lower CO2 emissions more quickly and effectively than any other single measure. With the added concerns around peak oil, is part of the route to sustainable travel simply to slow down, and sometimes to leave the car behind?

When I went abroad on business a little while ago, I got a peculiar thrill out of stepping onto a train in Perth and stepping off in Amsterdam to attend a full-day meeting in the city. And with WiFi, an MP3, a mobile phone, a laptop and a pile of paperwork, it was one of the most productive days of the year. Long journeys by public transport have become my only chance to find the time to read anything these days.

By planning our journeys, stopping off, and taking our time, we can both lower the stress in our lives and adopt more sustainable travel habits.

Maybe we should follow Joseph Thomson’s example and learn to travel softly once again.