In a fast-paced world, slow travel provides a more thoughtful option
Itʼs not a race, itʼs a journey, say fans of rail travel
Vacations neednʼt be about racing from place to place, trying to pack a monthʼs worth of sights into a week for the sake of ticking off as many items as possible from a bucket list. That approach to travel can be exhausting, leaving you more drained of energy than when you left home.
Thankfully, thereʼs a more rewarding way to see the world – slow travel, where the journey itself is a big part of the appeal.
Niels Nielsen agrees that slow travel is the way to go. A mathematics professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, he has travelled extensively by rail in many countries. Itʼs his preferred way to see the world.
“With slow travel, the trip is the destination,” he says. “You can read a book or watch the scenery go by. This kind of travel also allows you to focus on relationships. People do form tighter bonds. You continue the trip with friends you didn't have before just days ago.”
In Canada, Nielsen saw the best of the west with Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury rail company that has provided journeys through the Rocky Mountains since 1990. What stood out most about his time onboard? “The scenery by far,” Nielsen says. “The mountains blew me away. I also remember coming down the Fraser River Valley – it was really impressive. The alpine scenery was lovely, particularly the glaciers.”
Slow travel has roots in the slow food movement, which began in Italy in 1989 with the goal of preserving local food culture and regional traditions and encouraging a more relaxed pace of life. The movement now has millions of followers in more than 160 countries, and includes designated ‘Slow Cities.’ In Canada, these include Naramata and Cowichan Bay in B.C. and Wolfville, N.S.
But you don't have to visit a Slow City to enjoy a less hurried pace. The journey itself can be just as important as the destination. Rocky Mountaineer, for instance, caters to slow travellers with attentive service and gourmet meals prepared with fresh, local produce. The goal with slow travel is to truly unwind.
"We [Canadians] often don't look in our own backyard,” says longtime Rocky Mountaineer Train Manager Barry Crawford. “So this is a great opportunity for our guests to come onboard and experience this historic railway of ours."
When people arenʼt racing around, ticking off boxes, they are more open to socializing and making new connections, Crawford adds. “It's often the highlight of their trip.”
Possibly the greatest inducement to relax? Not being subjected to constant interruptions from smartphones and laptops. “People are a little surprised when they learn that there is no Wi-Fi onboard,” Crawford says. “But once they realize that the only thing they can do is sit back and enjoy the scenery, reconnect with their loved ones, as well as indulge in the beautiful food prepared for them, they don't want to miss one moment of the journey.”
All come together to form a unique travel experience, Crawford explains. “You get the scenery as you wind your way across the western Canadian region and experience Mother Nature's finest, the onboard service and rich historic storytelling by our Hosts, the socializing with fellow travellers and plenty of delicious meals and snacks that are freshly prepared for our guests by our expert chefs.”
In fact, it’s the onboard Hosts that are instrumental in creating a congenial mood, Crawford says. They elevate every journey by sharing their knowledge and engaging stories with guests, he says, and are always ready to provide context to the amazing “picture show” outside the coach windows for guests who come from Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and all over the world.
But the delights of slow travel arenʼt confined to the rails, Crawford says. “To stand on the Athabasca Glacier, to cruise the icefields of Alaska or to float on the Bow River in Banff … the journey is as much off the train as well as onboard.”
Ready to explore?
Rocky Mountaineer travels across four routes through the Pacific Northwest and into the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Its GoldLeaf Service, launched in 1995, features bi-level, glass-dome coaches with stunning panoramic views on the upper level and a dining room and outdoor viewing platform on the lower level.
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