Slow Down… Words to Live By


“Slow down, you move too fast

You got to make the morning last,

Just kicking down the cobblestones

Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy…


Got no deeds to do

No promises to keep.

I’m dappled and drowsy and ready for sleep.

Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.

Life, I love you,

All is groovy.”

Paul Simon got it right… and something made me dig into my unconscious for those words (59th Street Bridge Song) while sitting at a sidewalk caffe’ in Rome stressing out about the lack of a good Wifi connection.

Here’s the message I got; “You’re not in Rome for Italy’s state-of-the-art technology. You have that in Seattle. Stop it! Get over yourself. Get out.” I got it! I really am here to hang out, watch the people, catch local flavors, and “let the morning time drop all its petals on me.” Much as I love my devices – Macbooks, iPhones, Kindles and Jam Rewinds – they’re only important as supporting cast members.

So—yes, Jack—slow down, take a deep breath and relax. Travel isn’t a race, or a job, or an obligation; it’s a privilege. I’ve been more privileged than most. I’ve been on the road for more than 50 years, and long ago decided I had seen most of the museums, monuments, ruins, churches, and historical sights I needed to see in order to complete that part of my education. I’m not suggesting they be ignored. They give us a sense of history and our place in it. I had to see them too. It would be crazy to visit Paris for the first time and skip the Louvre or Rome and miss the Coliseum, but once you’ve taken in those attractions I think the real education is on the back roads, streets and sidewalks of the world. I think of my personal travel biography in three phases. Phase One is the historical context. Where do I fit in to it? How does this apply to me? What does it mean today? Now I’m on to Phases Two and Three, and drinking in what the world is like in view of that history.

I still have a passion for adventure despite the rigors of modern day travel. I spent 30 years flying people to interesting and exotic places. I had a great time – but it was a different time. I still get on airplanes and they take me where I want to go, but they’re just conveyances now. The romance of air travel is gone. Now it’s simply a means to an end. Hours of stale recirculated air, cramped legroom, dirty lavatories, and processed food (if any) are not fun.

So, Phase One of my travel bio was full of sights and attractions; then, thirty years ago, I moved on to Phase Two – sailboats and bicycles   – a little closer to the ground (or water). First came the sailboats, a luxurious, indulgent, and sometimes scary way to skirt the coasts of Spain, and Sweden, or wander between between Ibiza and Mallorca, or cruise the Florida Keys, the Virgin Islands, Tahiti, or the Bahamas. After that came bicycle trips through the interiors of France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, the UK and Vietnam. There is no better way to see the world or meet its people than to move slowly through it – on foot, on a bike, or on a boat. Smell what it smells like. Feel what it feels like. Taste it. Feel helpless. Experience what it’s like to need and rely on a stranger for directions. Be vulnerable. There is a different quality to the experience. It brings humility but over time it feeds a growing confidence and appreciation for other people and their ways. It helps us feel connected to the world in the bigger sense.

Now it’s on to Phase Three – the extended stay. Five years ago my wife and I initiated ours. We still ride our bikes around in the US, but we no longer take long overseas bike trips. We never took guided tours (except in Vietnam), but that’s personal and I realize they do make things easier, especially when time is of the essence. But on our last European bike trip we found that shipping the was prohibitively expensive. After riding around Holland and Belgium we shipped them home from Amsterdam, and the airline charged us $150 per bike. Round trip that adds $600 to the cost of the trip. Too much. It was time for us to move to Phase Three. Besides, we were ready. We’ve aged up to the extended stay.

The extended stay is a relaxed way to stay close to the ground but focus on the local rather than passing through it. It’s all about hanging out. We practiced it in Vietnam, Cambodia, and South Africa. Last year we rented an apartment in Paris for two months. This year we’re doing the same thing in Rome. Total indulgence. We arrived six days ago and haven’t been further than 10 blocks from our apartment. But… in those six days we’ve made friends at a couple of local Go-To places. There’s Novecentotredice, a trendy caffeteria/gelateria around the corner from our apartment where the sensational lattes, fresh squeezed orange juice and pastries are served by the owner’s daughter every morning. From its outside tables we watch the Romans come and go.

Novecento signorina

Then, for dinner it’s Il Colibri, a cosy Roman restaurant two doors down from our apartment. We’ve eaten there three times in six days. It’s crazy with so many restaurants to choose from, but it’s hard to think of going anywhere else when the miraculously fresh bufala mozzarella with San Daniele prosciutto and the fried artichoke are like nothing we’ve ever tasted. But… I did have devastatingly good cacio y pepe pasta at another place last weekend. Thanks, Anthony Bourdain.

Fried artichoke

So, it’s OK to slow down. After all, “slow cooking” is a major trend in the culinary world these days. “Slow down, you move too fast/Got to make the morning last.” Great advice. Try it. I’m positive you’ll like it.


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