Travel at a Natural Pace; Enjoy the Journey

In famous footsteps, Caudebec-en Caux, France 2014

New Opportunities

Over the winter we have been working on rebuilding The Winding Way web site and making changes to our motorhome. We will be travelling more than we did in 2015, and living The Winding Way much more as we originally intended. Initially that means we will be travelling slowly and spending time in the UK and France, but as we get into our new life we expect to extend our horizons. The new web site will better support our new approach.

The aim has been to create an underlying structure for the site that can change as The Winding Way develops. If the readership grows as we hope then we will be able to add forums and perhaps even groups, communities of like-minded slow travellers who can share their experiences and ideas. For now we hope you enjoy the increased use of pictures and the new layout.

Preparing Mind and Transport

We are using the quiet time before we start new journeys to catch up with past travels, local excursions and musing on the mindful approach to travel and places. It is a form of meditation and practice to prepare the mind for the awareness needed to make the most of the journey, and the uncertainty as to where one is going. The travel will, as far as possible, determine the destination rather than, as is more usual, the other way round.

It is the same with our transport. Our motorhome (RV, camping-car) too is being prepared. We have struggled the last two years with the refrigerator. We made a wrong decision when we had the 'van built.  We went with an electric refrigerator which has got in the way of our freedom to stay overnight without facilities. We have had to either use a camp site every two or three days or spend too much time driving. We have had a three-way fridge (gas, 12 volt and mains) installed so when we have had chance to try out the new refrigeration we will cover the story  in more detail in Mobile Living, a separate section for those who are interested in self-contained travel using campervans or motorhomes.

Some Moments

Some of the places we have stayed have hardly been pretentious and wouldn't be everyone's choice. 

Last year  we stayed in a supermarket car park on the edge of a tiny French village, woken up in the early morning by farmers arriving at the adjacent agricultural supplies merchant. We stayed because it was the only one in the immediate area and we wanted to explore the 'town' which described itself proudly as a 'small town of character' (petite cité de caractère). We found it hard to reconcile that with what we saw, and didn't stay around too long the following morning.

Graindorge Fromagerie, Livarot, France, 2014Another 'car park' stop was outside the Graindorge cheese factory in Normandy. This time one or two 'vans' pulled up and considered parking, but didn't stay. We decided to, and had a quiet undisturbed evening after walking into the town and exploring it. When the shop and visitor centre opened the following morning we enjoyed a very interesting tour of the factory, and after sampling some of the cheese in the shop we bought as much as we had room in the fridge for.     

One of the highlights of our travelling to date was the night we spent on a farm in Normandy, a kilometre up a narrow single track road. We were directed to park up in an area that looked like the front garden of the farmhouse by a young girl who introduced herself as a student, helping out on the farm. It was one of the most beautiful and peaceful sites we have stayed on, with deer grazing on the hillside opposite. Geese, ducks and chickens grazed on the lawn and wandered around the farm at will, as did an elderly dog and the occasional cat. I was fascinated by the antics of a sheep dog puppy in a pen, who went wild with excitement when anyone talked to it.

On the farm, Normandy, France 2013At dusk, the farmer appeared and offered to take us on a walk, and in particular to see his wild boar. We didn't hesitate, even though the flip flops I was wearing were totally inappropriate shoes for  walking on farmland! We saw not only sheep, and cows, and the horses that his children had outgrown, but he took us to an area of forest where he farmed wild boar. Even though it was getting dark at this point there was enough light to see these fascinating creatures. Martin made the mistake of touching the electric fence that kept them in, and his pained exclamation showed that it was live! It was decided at this point to retrace our steps, and enjoyed a nightcap of local Calvados with him in the farmhouse kitchen. His local French dialect was a bit of a challenge, but we got by with a lot of nodding and Gallic type shrugging…  We were impressed by his unsentimental but genuine affection for his animals.                             

Our journeys to date have been relatively gentle but slow travel is not intrinsically quiet and sedate. We have plans to feature some long term slow travellers whose journeys are anything but gentle. Indeed their adventures in remoter parts of the world are well off the beaten track; it is Extreme Slow Travel, but the underlying philosophy is similar.

Slow Travel is What One Makes it.

Slow travel is just that. Everyone can travel slowly, whether locally and in familiar places  - see Day in The Park, the local park we have known for more than 30 years - or further afield. We share our thoughts on  rediscovering the familiar, and increasing the awareness of our home town. We try to show that there are always surprises to experience, time and places to appreciate, even close to home - as in a Day in Slab Square and Haven of Peace . The Winding Way is not about jetting off to new destinations but taking a mindful approach to the journey where the destination is much less important than how one travels. Increased awareness tells us more than a guide book; we appreciate and remember more because we discover it for ourselves. We aim to be childlike and try to see things as if for the first time: with childlike curiosity tempered with age and knowledge, to appreciate so much more.

A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.

Lao Tzu

There are many ways to travel slowly, many routes to follow. The most valuable resource for travel along The Winding Way is time: time to interact with the journey, the people and places. Time to explore whatever catches one's imagination. Time to travel at a natural pace in tune with our minds and bodies. There is no jet lag on The Winding Way.

So slow travel is what you make it within a broader philosophy and approach that your journeys are about travel at a natural pace rather than charging from sight to sight. Don't be driven by the guidebook; make your own choices and let the people you meet, and your own discoveries, be your guide.

Join Us

Follow us on The Winding Way and share your experiences. Mindful, slow, travel liberates the mind as much as the body. Slow travel is not just about the places we visit but the experiences and above all, the people we meet along the journey. We take the mindfulness from our slow travel into our everyday life, most people might not see the change. But change is there in the way we live our lives: we feel our eyes and minds are much more open. That enhanced awareness enriches our lives and informs how we live - another story in itself. For now share The Winding Way with us and explore your own route. Remember it starts as soon as you step outside your front door.

Happy travels.

Alison & Martin Wilson

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