Slow Travel is the New Black

So I’m sat here bruised and battered; reflecting… On the one hand I know I’m very lucky.

I’d had a pretty major fall as I descended Victoria’s Mount Buffalo at dusk. The rocks were as unforgiving as they were slick with black ice. In fact it was the 1st-day-of-winter. Down in the valley it had been a pleasant 16 degrees C and sunny. Up at 1600m it was only 1 degree. I was unprepared for these alpine conditions and had my head in the clouds (literally) and mind on other things. Photography to be specific. For that’s why I had made the 3.5 hour journey from Melbourne for my first visit to this beautiful mountain.

So I’d been lucky. As I took to the air after slipping on a rock I actually remember having time to decide whether to land on my camera or myself. I chose myself! No breaks – thank god; and a major lesson learned.

You see this accident had been one-hundred-percent my own fault. I’d been rushing. Speed and mother nature are unnatural bedfellows. Instead of indulging in some glorious slow travel I’d had a rapid-fire agenda of sights to quickly photograph and ‘tick off’.

But as bad as my cuts and bruises were there was something that was making me feel much worse.

Mt Buffalo winter 2018
The Horn Carpark Lookout. 1700m

There is a difference between looking and truly seeing.

You see I had a batch of photos, and potentially a few scars but no memories of my time on the mountain. I had been too busy looking through my camera eye piece rather than genuinely ‘seeing’ what lay around me.  And what a massive mistake that was!

The beauty of Mount Buffalo is grandiose and yes, even epic (such an overused word these days don’t you think?). Lucky for me I can, and will, go back in the spring and this time truly connect with this wonderful place. But what if this had been overseas, far, far away. It would have been such a waste of energy, money and time. I would have left with nothing imprinted on my minds eye. No memories to recall in five years time with a knowing smile.

Mt Buffalo winter 2018 The Gorge lookout
Next time I’ll sit here *not* just photograph it

Mother Nature is slooooowwwww….

As an ex-arts student with little knowledge of, nor fondness for, maths or science I wouldn’t actually know how old the earth is. Google tells me about 4.5 billion years. It’s on the Internet so must be true right. So let’s just say that’s pretty old!

From my own personal observations I would say that about 99% of nature seems to evolve slowly. Over months, years, decades, centuries or even millennia. It seems that her sudden or unexpected events are often married with tumult and brutality.

Since I have tried to get a little more ‘serious’ about my landscape photography in recent months I’ve had two decent spills. One minor; one pretty major. Both hurt and both I see now were clearly my own fault. I was rushing on both occasions. Lugging cumbersome photography gear and skipping over rocks. Mind on the next picture not the next boulder. CRASH!

I get it. Light bulb flicks on. Slow down lad. Immerse and absorb. Don’t skim along the top. 45 year-old still learning. I like it!

I was so clearly at-odds with mother nature not in-tune with her.

So…what is Slow Travel

A trawl around the Inter webs delivers many different definitions for the broad term Slow Travel. For me I like to think of it as taking your time to get beneath the surface of a destination. To immerse yourself as much as possible with the local culture and to interact with the locals and their traditions. To learn rather than just visit. It’s the opposite of merely scratching-the-surface or the ‘it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium‘ approach.

In practice it’s not about squeezing in seven-countries-in-seven-days but rather spending quality time embedded in just one region. It could be slow lingering days spent in the rolling hills of Tuscany & Umbria, a week cycling amidst pristine beauty along the Alps2Ocean Trail in New Zealand or perhaps a slow meander along the venerated Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.

Tuscany by Saxon Templeton
The beautiful Tuscan landscape

In recent years I have noticed a rebellion of sorts, at least by experienced travellers, against the rush, rush, rush – tick, tick, tick form of travel.

To be fair our lives are all time-poor and hectic enough aren’t they? With pinging reminders every few minutes and technology enabling 24/7 accessibility to us and our lives. The next time my phone beeps at me after midnight with a gmail calendar reminder I may just go postal.

So what sense does it make to escape this maelstrom of hustle and rush only to do it again on the other-side-of-the-world and call that a holiday?!

The future for me. The five senses.

When you rush you may look at many things but are unlikely to retain much, if any of the experience as a memory. Slow Travel is the antithesis of this. It’s all about immersing your senses into the here-and-now. Being present. Taking time; touching; lingering; gazing. These tactile engagements are so much more likely to create memories for the future.

So when I return to Mt Buffalo this spring I will be doing a few things very differently. I will…

  • Not go up and back from Melbourne as a day trip. I will stay overnight in the beautiful region
  • Walk some of the trails on the mountain and breathe in the crisp alpine air and smell the scent of the alpine ash, wattle and snowgums
  • Drop in for a warming coffee or tea at the Dingo Dell ski area and take in the views
  • Hike to one of the scenic waterfalls on the mountain, close my eyes and listen to the cascading water. A sound I find so cathartic
  • Run my hand along the smooth surfaces of the spectacular boulders at The Horn and Gorge lookouts that have be hewn by mother nature across millennia

But most of all…

I’ll never stop learning!

Mt Buffalo winter 2018 overlooking Cathedral
Next time I’ll go slow enough to notice any naughty ice forming. Like the sheet to my right…

But what do you think? Are you also a fan of Slow Travel or do you prefer to pack in as much as you can on your trips? I’d love to hear your experiences & opinions in the comments area below 🙂


More Information about Slow Travel and Mount Buffalo.

  • What is Slow Travel? A definition and plenty of details about the entire slow movement.
  • I really fell for Mount Buffalo and can’t wait to return. Visit the park’s very comprehensive website for all the details you might need about a trip up this amazing mountain.

All photography © Saxon Templeton 2018. All rights reserved.

Saxon

I'm passionate about travelling, music, photography, blogging, 'Social Anthropology' (the posh term for people-watching) and creating content. I travel to learn and observe to understand. My dream day would look something like this.... A bottle of red (or two), fresh baguette (or two) & wedge of Camembert (or two), a balmy Paris September eve spent people-watching in fine company on the banks of the Canal St Martin.

9 thoughts on “Slow Travel is the New Black

  1. I love this post, even though it’s from a few months ago, and I’m glad I found it. Can totally relate to the slow travel, slowing down to smell the roses (cliched I know but so true) and taking the time to breath and really take it all in. Hope you’re well Saxon and happily traipsing and enjoying your photography. Wonderful snaps.

    1. Hey Miriam. Yes how very dare you!! I’ve been waiting ages for your comment haha 😉 Yes all well. In fact just been down in the very S W corner of Vic down by Portland and Nelson. Simply STUNNING! Did parts of the Great South West Walk too. Have you been. I know you would love it down there Miriam. Thx as always for your comment and we really do need to meet up for a photo shoot one day me thinks 🙂

      1. Hey Saxon, great to hear back from you. How funny, I’m heading down that way in a couple of weeks, Narrawong, near Portland and Cape Bridgewater. Love the area and Nelson is beautiful. Yes, one day I’d definitely love to meet up with you. Sounds good. 🙂

  2. Saxon, I was lucky enough to stay at the Chalet on Mt Buffalo many times. I never took a camera, went on numerous walks and horse rides and remember the area vividly. If the Chalet were to reopen you could spend a few days there and soak up the beauty with a glass of red at night!

    1. Now ya talking Ann!! I really hope that can be saved and restored. Such an asset for the mountain but I know that it has drained many investors of millions. #fingerscrossed

  3. As the unofficial official photographer whenever I go away with my friends, I always have to remember to put the camera away at various points and just enjoy what’s going on. Given that I do love photography so much, sometimes it’s important for me to remember photographing a particular event! But generally I am a slow traveller. I like to plan trips away so we have a purpose for each day, but I never put too much on for one day. You never know what you’re going to discover on your way to something else and I like to have time to explore or wander down interesting looking roads without worrying about missing our next stop.

    1. Hearing ya Katie! SO hard to put the camera down sometimes. I’ve really started getting into long exposures where they are appropriate. Best of both worlds in a way. Keeping up my love of photography yet also having 30 seconds or so to just gaze out while the shutter’s open. Nice observations and thanks for taking the time to share. Happy Travels!

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