In Praise of Slow Travel

I recently shared my article below with the Huffington Post, which you can find here, or below as I wanted to share it with you all here as wel! 

During my travels over the past few months, I have noticed a trend. In today’s connected society and new, impressive devices, smart phones, and DSLRs, we are keen to snap photos and share them on our favourite social media sites. However, while taking in the views of the River Arno in Florence, it quite literally hit me when I was jostled out of the way by a group of 15 nuns on an organised sightseeing tour, who proceeded to reach their smartphones out in succession, snapping photos of the Ponte Vecchio and dashing away to the next sight without taking time to stop and look at it. I realised then that an epidemic of fast-food travel has hit us.

Don’t get me wrong - I love photography and enjoy social media. Photographing new places is a great joy. But over the past year in particular, I have been making a conscious attempt to stop, observe, and take in sights and the world around me first by taking a mental picture. I don’t want to have to recall my trip by having to scroll through my camera phone; I want to be an active participant in the world around me, and remember the experience and memories.

I have also been more consciously observing what others around me are doing. It’s a sea of smartphones snapping photos. People taking more selfies of themselves rather than the sights. Trying to manoeuvre around the masses of selfie sticks waving in the air. At a museum in Florence, I watched a large group of young people on a school trip walking past exhibits filming everything on their smartphones without stopping to read or take in what they were looking at. I saw others taking photos of relics where a sign next to it read to respect the sacred nature of the artefacts in the room.

I wonder how much the people around me are taking in of their experience. Travel should be about using all of your senses to interact with a new place and immersing yourself in the experience, rather than trying to cram in as much as possible to tick things off a list and take hundreds of snaps to post on social media.

The joy of travel comes from learning about a new place, a new culture, new people. On park benches, outdoor cafes, museums, and restaurants, on their own or with others, people are engrossed in their phones rather than their surroundings or company. Last weekend, while sitting in the hotel lounge with an incredible view of the Hong Kong skyline, I was enjoying lunch while taking in the view. A friendly waiter came by to inform me that they did indeed have free wifi, seemingly concerned that I was apparently the only one not using my smartphone and taking selfies with my lunch.

So, I’ve got a proposition for us. Let’s put down the smartphones more, enjoy our surroundings and make memories by being fully present when we’re exploring new places (or everyday life, for that matter). Take in new sights, meet new people. Let’s embrace ‘slow’ travel and observe the world through our own eyes and not just the lens of our camera. Life flies by quickly enough. Let’s slow it down by enjoying the precious holiday time we have by living in the moment in real life and not just on social media. Take the time to breathe, unplug, and enjoy the break that we have worked hard to get. Discard detailed itineraries and go with the flow. In essence, slow travel is the newest old way to travel and a luxury in today’s busy world. 

A Traveller's Best Friend For Packing

After being very excited that Muji finally opened its first store in Toronto, I made my over to visit. While there, I picked up my new packing hero - Muji's mesh double-zipped garment bag. Available in various sizes, I decided to pick up a medium and try it out. As a frequent traveller (currently travelling somewhere new for work every week these days), I am working on getting my packing down to a science to save time and effort.

This bag is lightweight, folds up into a small bag for storage, fits my small suitcase perfectly, and keeps my clothes neat, contained, and organized. All I have to do is lift it out of my case, unzip it, and find exactly what I'm looking for quickly without having to rummage through my case. 

I like using this bag to keep my work blouses, suit jackets, and t-shirts together. I've found that they wrinkle less now, saves room in my suitcase and saves time in re-packing. I feel such a sense of calm when I open my suitcase at my new destination and pull out this neat little package of clothing. And -  it also fits quite a lot inside the case. It's a great price and durable. I highly recommend trying it out! 

Photos above courtesy of Muji

Postcards from Paris: Place des Vosges

On my first morning in Paris, fresh off an overnight flight from Toronto and desperate to stay awake and beat jet lag, I took a walk around the Marais after dropping off my bags at my apartment. Having left Canada in snow flurries, the bright blue skies and 20 degree temperatures felt invigorating! I grabbed a tea from my favourite tea institution, Mariage Freres, and a sandwich and began walking to Place des Vosges to have a picnic. As this was one of the first nice days in Paris this spring, I think the rest of Paris had the same idea! Although the lawn was packed with people, it was lovely to see everyone outside enjoying the beautiful weather in high spirits. 

Postcards from Paris: Sunday Morning in Le Marais

Ahhhh, Paris! Paris is beautiful in all seasons, but I truly believe that it is most magical in the springtime. People are out and about again, soaking in the spring sunshine, drinking coffee outside in bistros on boulevards, and riding on bicycles. The city is awakening with the green buds appearing on the trees and shots of colour with tulips appearing in gardens and parks. And perhaps most mesmorizing is when the cherry blossoms burst into bloom in shades of fluffy white and candy floss pink. 

I wanted to take a few days off from work and to have a break between finishing my last course module of my MSc before launching into my dissertation. That, combined with a flight sale from Air Canada, and I couldn't say no to a trip to Paris last minute trip. I booked a lovely flat in Le Marais through Airbnb to try a new arrondissement (I stayed in Saint-Germain des Pres last time and loved it there too) and I was all set.

My flat was located just off Rue Vielle du Temple - a fantastic location as it was close to both the St Paul and Hotel du Ville metro stations on Rue de Rivoli, Place des Vosges, as well as a wide selection of wonderful restaurants, boulangeries, and shopping - including some of my favourites like Le Mary Celeste, Mariages Freres, and L'Eclair de Genie.  

It's a beautiful arrondissement to stay, visit and explore with many nooks and little streets to explore as it is one of the oldest areas of the city with many important historical and architectural sights. Make sure to wander around its winding streets and let yourself get lost - that's always how you make the best discoveries! On my walk, I stumbled across a wonderful little boulangerie called Au Petit Versailles Du Marais, which has the most bread and pastries - but you must try their pain au chocolat as they are to die for! Their bread was also an award winner for the Top 10 baguettes in Paris. It's tiny but beautiful indoors, with all of the meticulously prepared, colourfully pastries that look too lovely to eat (but not quite because they are so delicious!) on display under a glittering chandelier. There is some outdoor seating when it's nice outside, though no indoor seating.

Sharing a few photos with you from a lovely Sunday morning two weeks ago wandering around Le Marais in the beautiful, warm morning spring sunshine. There's nothing like taking a few deeps breaths of the fresh air and turning your face to the sun to feel its warmth after the winter, and taking in all of the sights and the scents around you, like the aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries, to make you feel reinvigorated and ready to take on the world!