Thoughts on slow travel

I’ve been thinking a bit about this article on vagabond travel, and realizing that–while I’m not quite ready to travel with no plan and no advance reservations yet (though I think I’d be the better for it if I were), that part I most agree with is–if you want to save money (and have a better journey), traveling slower is the way to go.

Which got me to thinking in turn about how, during our trip to Switzerland, I turned down the chance to spend a day in Paris.

I was initially pretty excited when I realized that the high speed train from Basel would let us go to Paris and back in a day. When the rest of my family began talking about going, I was really tempted. I mean, Paris. How could we not have a blast, spending the day there?

And then, around the time I saw the cost of the tickets (in the vicinity of 250 Swiss Francs per person), I began really thinking about it. We’d have seven hours in Paris–just enough time to take in a handful of high-profile sights and head home again–and would spend another seven hours on the train (three and a half hours each way). Would that be fun, or would I merely leave frustrated with only getting to skim the surface of things? Would I really see–or more–experience anything of Paris in that time?

I thought, too, about how that money could cover a chunk of the airfare for a separate trip to Paris, one where I gave the city the time it deserved. Didn’t Paris deserve a week of its own? I’d maybe be able to afford that week a tiny bit sooner later if I didn’t go now.

So lnhammer (who unlike me was sensibly never really tempted by the idea of seven hours in Paris) and I stayed behind, and spent the day exploring Basel more instead, visiting the city’s art museum for much of the day, spending some more time with my brother and sister-in-law, and serendipitously running into other folks who attended the wedding and getting to know them a little, too.

It was a lovely day. It’s not a day that we brought home many pictures from–but it is one we have fond memories of.

And in the morning, I found I didn’t regret missing those seven hours of rushing from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre (only an hour in the Louvre!) at all. I still don’t.

There’s a danger, of course, that I’ll never make it back to Paris to do that longer trip–it’s not as if I can hop a plane to Europe every day, and life has a way of scrambling plans around. So I understand that urge to see what you can, when you can.

But I’ll never see everything in the world that I want to anyway. So I figure I may as well really see the things I can see–deeply enough that I can take something of them back home with me afterwards.

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