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The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel

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As we jet off on holiday, passing from airport lounge to hotel in our desperation to escape our everyday lives and find some better weather, we'd do well to ask ourselves what on earth we're doing. Do we really travel any more, or do we just arrive? This book calls on us all to reassess why we travel and what travel has become.

224 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Dan Kieran

24 books13 followers
Dan Kieran is Deputy Editor of The Idler, a bi-yearly British magazine. He is a writer, editor, and CEO and co-founder of the crowd-funding publishing platform Unbound.

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5 stars
153 (20%)
4 stars
291 (38%)
3 stars
217 (28%)
2 stars
73 (9%)
1 star
15 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews
Profile Image for Traveling Diva.
59 reviews23 followers
April 19, 2015
I thought this book would be a discussion on slow travel, and to some degree it was. The elements that matched my expectations were enjoyable to read, but on the whole I found the book to be disorganized and in parts the language was a bit clunky. There was noticeable overuse of the word "literally", often appearing where it was really unnecessary. Where it could be accepted in speech, especially in British English, it is used without effect frequently in this book.

In addition to that, the tone of the author often borders on arrogance as he insinuates his way of traveling is the superior one. Going to see the "must-sees" or even buying a travel guide for your destination basically guarantee you will have a terrible trip with no spontaneity or adventure.

The concept of slow travel is one I fully support and agree it is a wonderful way to see the world, and in my experience it offers a way to really explore the values of the visited culture, and even your own values and way of living. But it doesn't mean its for everyone, or that you should never go on a beach holiday. Sometimes we just want to escape somewhere warm and quiet, and sometimes you want to explore a culture or country or region and meet locals, feel adventurous, be spontaneous. There is no right or wrong, which the author even admits to after implying through two thirds of the book that vacationing is the wrong way to go about life.

I did like the references to other travel-related works and look forward to exploring the bibliography included at the end of the book.
Profile Image for Penny.
329 reviews82 followers
March 10, 2016
I have a feeling Mr Kiernan and I would not get on! We'd disagree about pretty much everything.
He would have nothing but scorn for me, as I am apparently a 'tick box tourist'. Yes, I commit the heinous crime (in his eyes) of researching a new place I am visiting and then actually going to some of the places listed as 'must sees'.
Even worse, I actually enjoy doing this!
I suppose the only good thing is that I am never going to be sat next to Mr Kiernan on a long flight - he never goes near an airport. Proper travellers would never get on a plane of course.
Despite all this I found the book really interesting and thought provoking, especially the neuroscience sections.
1 review1 follower
September 12, 2013
I thought this was quite an uneven, patchy book. I use the term book but it was more like a very long essay - it didn't feel particularly tight, and while certain themes tied the chapters together I thought the structure was too loose and lacking in clarity and direction. I didn't find the narrative voice particularly compelling, I noticed some clunky writing in parts (mixed metaphors and attempts at aphorisms that didn't resonate with me) and the author relied far too heavily on secondary sources, and referred to them at length (another reason why it felt like an essay. Another issue that I had with the book is that it didn't go into much detail at all about his journey across England in an antique (by automotive standards) milk float, which was the most intriguing aspect to the book for me. I have now found out that, along with his other two companions on the trip, he's already published a book about that trip across England.

Despite the gripes I have with the book, though, I still enjoyed it very much in parts. Some of the themes he explores are very intriguing (such as the differences the left and right hemispheres have on human behaviour, and the effect this has on society) and I have a similar view on travelling to him, that it's as much the journey as the destination that matters, although at times he strays too close to hubris when comparing his method of travelling to the package holidays and weekends away enabled by cheap flights. Through his writing I can feel his sense of awe and wonder at the world, and I think this overrides the technical issues I have with the book. I'm also grateful that he lists a bibliography at the back, as I intend on reading many of those books. Therefore it's a useful book to read as a gatekeeper, to make you aware of the wider canon that explores slow travel.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 2 books269 followers
December 19, 2019
Има значително количество истина в будистката максима "Пътят е целта". Много неща в живота е по-добре да бъдат приемани не само като средство за постигане на нещо, а да бъдат пълноценно изживявани. Но все пак и целта е ... цел, независимо дали ще е да пътуваш някъде бавно и да се насладиш на пътуването, или просто да стигнеш там, задето си тръгнал.

Идеята на книгата не е лоша и може би ако авторът не беше такъв бездарник, можеше да се превърне в нещо добро. В момента е просто някакъв зле написан пътепис с описания къде е ходил Дан Киран и как е стигнал до там, подправени с преразкази на други книги, дето други хора са правили същото.
Profile Image for Radiantflux.
427 reviews410 followers
April 21, 2017
18th book for 2017.

After reading this book I can see that I already fall within what Kieran would call the Slow Travel camp so I am naturally setup to like this book.

I found the writing of his own experiences charming, particularly the stories about his own children. However, the book is somewhat spoilt by a sense of smugness/quasi-mysticism that his writing exudes at times, as well as his repeated, long, digressions into secondary sources.

If he had stuck to writing about his own experiences this might have been a 3.5, but as it is it falls much closer to a 2-2.5, raised up to a 3 because the book has given me some useful ideas for future travels.
Profile Image for Sve.
531 reviews180 followers
September 27, 2014
Приятно се изненадах от тази книга. Очаквах нещо доста повърхностно, тип travel advice в женско списание. Но освен свежия хумор тук се засягат и доста психологически, исторически философски аспекти на пътуването. Приятна и замисляща.
Profile Image for Lee Osborne.
311 reviews4 followers
July 31, 2018
I picked this up just before spending a long weekend in London, so it was an appropriate read given that I was travelling somewhere (ironically by plane, which isn't really in keeping with the philosophy of the book).

I've long been familiar with the idle/slow philosophy that the author advocates, and also have never been a fan of mass tourism or package holidays, so while the book appealed to me for encouraging a different attitude to travel, it didn't really teach me anything new. I've never been a fan of seeing stuff for the sake of it, or taking millions of selfies while trundling around on a tour bus. I also loathe the idea of spending two weeks in a resort complex and never venturing outside, so I didn't really need convincing.

While the book did contain some inspirational and interesting bits, I did find it quite long-winded, disjointed and dull in places. Still, it did make me feel inspired to engage with the world around me in a deeper and more thoughtful way, and it's given me ideas for things I'd like to do, so it was useful in that regard.

If you're not familiar with the ideas of the Live Slow movement, or of practical anarchism/idle living, you might want to read up on that a bit first, otherwise you might find you don't really get this book. Try Tom Hodgkinson's "How To Be Free" as a primer if all this is new to you.

Worth reading if you've never ventured beyond getting burnt to a crisp in Benidorm for 2 weeks every year, but probably give it a miss if you've already been a modestly ambitious traveller.
Profile Image for Paul.
2,133 reviews
September 13, 2013
Kieran feels that the point of travel these days is to get to your destination as fast as humanly possible, to collect picture of yourself in front of the sights, and tick them of your bucket list.

This book that is about the essence of travel, the journey to a location and the time that you need to take in making that journey. In the book he describes a simple walk that he takes in his part of the Sussex downs, a rail journey across Europe with his very young son, and a almost disastrous journey to see eagles on Mull. All of these he uses to reinforce the point that making the journey at human speed means that you appreciate it more, you take in the landscape, and you arrive more receptive to the destination.

He alos writes a chapter on his jaunt across England in a milk float; Three Men in a Float. I have read this and it is very funny, but what he takes from this journey is that by moving across any landscape a slowly forces you to interact with the environment and more importantly other people.

It is quite a philosophical book, and if you are expecting purely a travel book then it might not be for you.
Profile Image for John.
550 reviews34 followers
May 29, 2013
I had mixed reactions to this book. It's readable and well written, and I learned a few interesting things by reading it. However, I was a bit put off by its limited scope. Practically all the travel is confined to Europe or even the UK. This is part of the author's point - you don't have to go far to have new experiences. Indeed, part of his argument is that we have surrounded ourselves with things that reduce the scope of our experiences, rather than broaden them (e.g. smartphones), and we can tackle this while still being close to home. It does mean though that the book doesn't really deal with travel to further-flung places, where the author's ideas might have been tested more broadly. Also, he does rely rather a lot on secondary sources, without the standing of some of the authors he quotes being very clear. So: a stimulating but slightly disappointing read.
1 review
July 25, 2021
The writing style is refreshing; a good mixture between own experiences and re-narrations of a variety of literature/stories about the art of travelling. Some passages seemed to oversimplify mechanisms of society or reproduced some simplified versions of worldly wisdom, but overall really inspiring. Of course, reading the book reproduces feelings of wanderlust!
Profile Image for Timo.
37 reviews4 followers
March 13, 2016
Keegi ütles selle raamatu kohta väga tabavalt: If you pick up this book for the travel stories, you will be disappointed. If you approach this book to consider the philosophy of travel, you will be greatly pleased.

Ma olin pleased.
Profile Image for Ben.
626 reviews
January 22, 2019
There’s a lot of value in Kieran’s (perhaps not so original) ideas about ‘slow travel’ but he takes quite a hard line, with little room for compromise. Yes, reading literature set in the location you’re visiting can make for a more meaningful trip but isn’t there also a place for a standard guidebook? Personally, I think there’s a place for both. If there’s something really outstanding in a place I visit, I do want to try to see it, even if it isn’t featured in whatever local literary narrative I’m reading. The alternative might be to never even know it’s even there: ignorance. And seeing outstanding things, I would argue, can be good for you - can inspire and teach. Perhaps Kieran needs to take a lead from Buddha, to whom he occasionally refers, and open his eyes to the case that there may be a Middle Way. He also goes into far too much detail about what he’s read about the cities he’s visited, to convey how much the literature has enriched his visits. I take his point, though, and it’s a good one.

Kieran does come across as wise when he surmises about the nature of time, though again, there’s little that’s original here. He suggests that doing something difficult instead of easy, for example a backpacking trip across Europe by train instead of a quick flight and a stay at an all-inclusive luxury resort, can force you to think consciously about what you’re doing, because you have to. Having to live in the moment in this way, rather than cruise on unconscious autopilot, has the effect, he argues, of slowing down time. This method of travel, then, and by extension this way of living, lengthens your life - not in measurable terms but in a way that is real nonetheless.

The chapter describing his trip to Mull to see eagles is the standout, exhilarating, beautiful and inspiring, from drinking beers on the train up to Glasgow with his mate to spotting two white tailed sea eagles on the wing. It’s a very good showcase of what can happen when you persevere and, against the odds, it all comes together to create an unforgettable, unrepeatable experience.

On a more mundane level, the writing is a little clumsy. I found myself having to reread sentences a few times to make sure I was understanding what was being said. There’s also an overuse of the word ‘literally’, which starts to bug. This is a verbal tick in modern British speech, which is becoming pretty irritating, but you wouldn’t expect to see it in a book. A good editor could have fixed these problems.
125 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2020
Interesting idea and some compelling stories. Flavoured with smugness that his way of travel is what all of us should be doing.

I was intrigued to read about an appreciation for travel and visits to new places where the traveller can take their time and enjoy the new experiences. But according to the author, that is at odds with the type of travel "encouraged" by guidebooks that list the top 10 sights to see.

Explaining his disdain for tourism that encourages sightseeing, using the example of the time he saw the pyramids: "If anything, seeing a 'must-see' for myself tends to reduce the amazement and intrigue I felt for it before. Sometimes it has a shock value, because it's so immense, but I usually find my mind slips into a state of emptiness as the throng of tourists I have become part of consumes me and we file along in an orderly queue. I've wandered aimlessly, but not in a good way, around quite a few of the world's most famous sites and always found the experience oddly hollow. [....] I'm beginning to wonder if we're all colluding in a conspiracy of silence. Does anyone find this practice remotely enriching?"

Many more examples of this, which made his whole narrative quite pretentious and preachy.

One segment I did enjoy was the idea that traveling to new places allows us to access our brain's right hemisphere - to be open to the new experiences and the unknown, an idea first explained by Iain McGilchrist.

However, then the author goes on to compare travel from the left brain (informed by guidebooks and top sights lists) to travel from the right brain. His example is from an author of her travels that no common person working a 40-hr week would be able to do. She visits South American indigenous communities, native tribes of the Amazon, and does ayahuasca. Not something most people have the time or, in the case of ayahuasca, desire to do.

My own travels are more similar to the kind he derides, but I don't believe I experience any less wonder or appreciation for new places than he does.

I've actually talked myself down from 3 stars to 2. Perhaps partially in self-defense but primarily as a result of the one-sidedness of Kieran's judgement of travel.
Profile Image for Lucy.
132 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2017
Dan Kieren je propagátorem líného cestování. Dovolená na slunci, tak jak ji nabízí tlusté barevné katalogy, ho neláká. Stejně jako skupina Sex Pistols, která o tom zpívala už před mnoha mnoha lety, v ní vidí jen předražený únik do světa levných snů. Vnímá ji jako odměnu otroků odsouzených k doživotnímu nudnému zaměstnání.

Dan Kieren tvrdí, že cestování se změnilo na dovolenkové výpravy k moři, případně pasivní objíždění notoricky známých míst z dlouhého seznamu zajímavostí a pamětihodností, které prostě musíte vidět - jako bychom zcela zapomněli na hlavní důvod, proč vůbec vyrážíme na cesty, jímž by měla být touha po neobvyklých zážitcích, s jejich pomocí nově definujeme svoje místo ve světě a samostatnou podstatu poznávání.

Povinná četba pro všechny, kteří vyrážejí v dalších týdnech na dovolenou :).
Profile Image for danjonesdj.
3 reviews
November 7, 2013
What I learned:

- To truly discover a place you should always try and be your own guide: work it out for yourself, go with the flow, go on your own journey.
- Slowing down is meditative. Taking the time to reflect, to think and to take things in is important. By physically slowing down, our perception of time also changes.
- Doing something you wouldn't normally do and going out of your comfort zone gets the right hemisphere of the brain working (the creative side). This can help you become more lucid and conscious. It can also help you tap into your inner voice, which we often fail to listen to in our scheduled daily routines.
- Always keep a journal to write things down as you go along.
720 reviews9 followers
November 21, 2014
Ganz sicher bin ich mir nicht, was ich von diesem Buch erwartet habe, aber irgendwie nicht das, was es enthält. Dan Kieran erzählt ein paar Geschichten aus seinem "langsamen" Reiseleben, setzt sich mit der eigenen Art zu Reisen (die natürlich die beste ist) immer wieder theoretisch auseinander und verliert mich dann völlig bei der eingehenden Betrachtung der rechten und linken Gehirnhälfte und deren Zusammenhang mit Slow Travel. Ganz nett, aber nicht wirklich mitreissend und inspirierend. Gelesen übrigens auf einer Bahnreise nach und von England... passend zum Buch, wie der Autor das ja auch immer macht.
887 reviews
December 9, 2018
A great book to read if you are interested in getting more out of travel and life. I find the slow movement so fascinating as it is the opposite of what our culture tells us to "strive for". Instead be in the now to truly experience life. The inclusion of discussions of other books and authors in the 2nd half of the book made it my favorite part and why I'd read this book again. I look forward to reading the books by the mentioned authors. For instance, funny how we focus on Poe's dark stories instead of Domain of Arnheim that literally describes how to be happy - exercise in the open air (travel), love, the contempt of ambition, and an object of unceasing pursuit.
Profile Image for Neven Panchev.
8 reviews
September 15, 2021
I must say, I was very close to giving this up at around half-way through, but then I got inexplicably immersed in all of the digressions as the author moves us along with him on his journeys (of course, the journeys themselves were immersive on their own).

I found something in this book which I wasn't really looking for right now, and it aligned well with some of my own experiences as a solo traveller. I felt inspired to plan new adventures. I'll be giving the referred books a go as well.

Giving it 4 stars just because the transitions between his journey and other works felt bumpy and the overall structure was very essay-ish.
335 reviews4 followers
March 6, 2015
Matkustaminen on niin paljon muutakin kuin pakollisten nähtävyyksien perässä juoksemista, se on mielentila. Erityisesti hidas matkustaminen vaikkapa kävellen tai yllättävät, etenemistä hankaloittavat sattumukset matkan aikana jättävät mieleen aivan erilaisen jäljen. Perinteiseen, välillä kuivakan humoristiseen ja pohdiskelevaan tyyliin kirjoitettu opus sai pohtimaan omaa matkustustapaa uudesta näkökulmasta. Haenko matkustamiselta maksimoitua mukavuutta ja statusta vai saisiko siitä jotain enemmän kuten yhteyttä ihmisiin?
Profile Image for Chris.
557 reviews
June 17, 2015
This is a high 3 stars, more like 3.75!

This book has a little bit of everything: a zen-like master teaching us to move to the slow lane in life and not rush through things, when you're traveling and in life. I'm a bit of an idle traveler who makes lists, which usually get thrown out the first minute I land somewhere and my eyes and attention are diverted in a million different directions. This was a nice, slow read, I just wish there was more about his travel experiences rather than educating his readers about history and science.
Profile Image for Stefano Zanella.
57 reviews1 follower
February 3, 2018
Don’t get mistaken by the title, this is a book about traveling only on the surface. Slow traveling is a thread that puts together inspiring reflections on life, and Dan Kieran is a master in making the journey through his mind feel coherent and pleasant.

I usually judge the quality of a book from the books it inspires me to read after it, and from the conversations that can start from reading it. This reading definitely excels in both aspects.
Profile Image for Lucy S.
95 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2019
Yes yes yes. This is now a kind of bible for me. I feel like it’s woken me up to so many philosophies I already believed in, but that had been buried, or I’d forgotten them somehow. It voiced them in a way I’ve not been able to do before, and it’s inspired me to act on them.

And Dan Kieran is such a brilliant companion - I could not put this down.

51 reviews1 follower
July 20, 2013
Some of the neuroscience lost em a little but this exploration of the benefits of slow travel, as opposed to tourism, chimed with me. Inspirational read - got me out walking on my own and planning other journeys within days of finishing it.
Profile Image for Daniel.
68 reviews3 followers
May 12, 2022
An antidote to the over-instagrammed holidays we are so used to seeing and hearing about. How many of them have just been on a 30km walk through a forest anyway?
For a return to reality, read this alongside some Wendell Berry and Freya Stark.
Profile Image for Wayne.
305 reviews
January 30, 2015
Interesting in parts. Too much secondary referencing , creating disjointed rhythm to the writing.
Profile Image for Eli.
4 reviews
November 1, 2015
Took me a little while to get into it, but was definitely worth it. Enriching, fun and covers a broad spectrum of subjects.
Profile Image for Connie Robinson.
18 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2021
Want to read again when I'm less distracted. Found it hard to concentrate despite being very accessible.
Will read again when I'm travelling next myself.
6 reviews
March 31, 2023
I enjoyed the concept of the book very much and really align with the general concept of slow travel. It’s really about being present in the moment and applying mindfulness to travel, in contrast to rushing around trying to tick off all the must sees.

I thought the authors suggestions of choosing a book to read about the place that you will be travelling to in order to foster deeper insights was brilliant and is something I hope to do more of on my travels in the future.

Similarly being forced to ask for help from locals and getting off the beaten track and putting yourself in different situations will provide more experience than taking a guided tour.

Personally I think there is a place for all kinds of travel, be it by plane at an all inclusive, or self catering in a little known city or camping in the middle of the wilderness. I like to experience it all. I would day that even when I have stayed at a resort I have to apply some of the concepts of slow travel by getting out and taking my own trips and finding places by myself, otherwise I find myself feeling like I am in a gilded prison and haven’t experienced any of the country I came to see.

I did find the authors writing style did not flow so easily for me and it took me a relatively long time to read this short book but I read it thoroughly and perhaps that is the art of slow reading.

All in all a worthwhile read with interesting tales and concepts but it was not written in the most engaging style for me.
April 15, 2018
Книгата ми попадна точно в момент, в който планирам следващото си пътуване. За щастие ми повлия много положително и ми помогна да осъзная, че не всичко трябва да се види на всяка цена и че истинското преживяване се съдържа в спонтанните и случайни неща.

В повече ми дойдоха лирическите отклонения и подробностите на моменти, но определено си заслужаваше отделеното време.
Profile Image for Dan.
108 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2022
Knappe 3-Sterne, da die Themen aus „Slow Travel“ 10-Jahre nach Erscheinen doch schon etliche Male an anderer Stelle durchgekaut wurden.
Die philosophischen Exkurse sind gekonnt eingeflochten.
Die Machbarkeit einer tagelangen Zugreise quer durch Europa als entspannenden Start in den Urlaub für Berufstätige bleibt mal dahingestellt.
Trotzdem: Slow Travel ist ein Fast Read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews

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