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The Idle Traveller. The Art of Slow Travel – More than a Review

Slow Travel - Die Kunst des Reisens von Dan Kieran Dan Kieran, Author of the idle traveller
Patric Ganz
  • On November 18, 2013

Review Overview

Narrative Style (German Edition)
Depth of Topic Coverage
Persuasive Power

Great, Inspiring & Thought-provoking

Dan Kieran`s Book & Philosophy of Slow Travel will change your thinking about traveling and life to a greater extent than you like (at first).

In The Idle Traveller – The Art of Slow Travel Dan Kieran explores the essence of slow and idle traveling that could not contrast more to modern mass tourism and sightseeing tours. In his debut book, Kieran develops his philosophy of slow travel by disclosing the contradictions between what people usually are looking for when traveling and how people actually travel. Once you are aware of these contradictions, you might be able to change the mode of your travel activities. And therefore experience your personal travels as more rewarding and meaningful (to your life as a whole).

Instead of a conventional summary, I try to disclose Kieran`s seven key principles (according to the main chapters) in greater detail. While reading the German Edition of The Idle Traveller – The Art of Slow Travel I discovered the following sub-principles and resultant travel qualities upon which slow travel is built according to Dan Kieron. I am fully aware that the content below is fairly elaborate and at great length but I think it`s well worth the time to go through it to be able to change the way you (think about) travel.

Don`t travel only to arrive somewhere

  • Principle (P): Take the bus, train, car, bicycle or walk.
  • Travel Quality (TQ): This will allow you to generate a more complete overall picture of a place.

  • P: Never look at photos to remember a particular trip.
  • TQ: If something was really important, you will remember anyway.
  • TQ: Travel photographs diminsh the fascination that blossoms in your mind with age.
  • P: Travel solo sometimes
  • TQ: When you travel alone, your own identity dissolves, especially when you travel slow and for a longer period of time. You talk less, which is by itself already kind of meditative.

Stay at home

  • P: No matter on which latitude you are, the actual travel takes place in your mind. Therefore it is an interesting exercise to explore your surroundings with the eyes of a traveler.

    Slow Travel - Die Kunst des Reisens von Dan Kieran

    The Idle Traveller. The Art of Slow Travel.
    By Dan Kieran

  • P: Traveling is inseparably associatedwith taking your time.
  • TQ: “If someone can`t keep up the pace of his companions, he`s maybe doing it because he listens to a different drummer than the others. Let him march to his music, no matter its rhythm and how far away it might be.” (Henry David Thoreau, quoted by Dan Kieron, p. 58) Dan himself is convinced that this impulse, to slow down, is shared by all travelers.
  • P: On the one hand language is an approved and reliable signpost for the concious perception of the world, on the other hand language prevents that we can experience our surroundings in a new way. It also fails to offer us all the innumerable options of how to perceive and experience life. 
  • TQ: The slow traveler however has the time to notice this and to think about it, because he or she avoids the beaten tracks – as well as the ostensible conceptions and concepts, whereas those who consume the world in a hurry have to limit themselves to familiar and purposeful notions.

Be your own guide

  • P: Abandon conventional guides
  • TQ: Conventional guides restrict the personal travel experience to such an extent that there is not much left to do by yourself.
  • TQ: By using a conventional guide, you admit that you need help and you transform yourself upfront into an insecure Traveler.
  • P: Don`t travel in a phonetic way (read the book for more clearness!)
  • TQ: According to Dan`s experience most travel guides work in the same way as the usual cookbooks. They focus on shortcuts that enable you to experience the unknown without engaging profoundly in a certain visited place.
  • P: Rather go for a novel, a detective story or a historical background book
  • TQ: By reading while traveling your fantasy and reality get mixed up. The result of this effect can be bombastic.
  • TQ: By reading a historical tome while traveling your travel experience becomes more profound  and more comprehensible. These kind of books, given that you like them, allow you to get to know a place through your own interest and your own couriosity.
  • TQ: One purpose of traveling is to leave a place with a new understanding for old ideas. That`s what a conventional guidebook rarely can deliver.

Welcome disasters

  • P: When it comes to slow travel, speed and distance are not central, but reflection and profoundness.
  • TQ: A long train ride`s better than a short flight regarding the principle above.
  • P: Inconveniences should be welcomed
  • TQ: Most of the people start talking to strangers and telling jokes what wouldn`t happen if everything goes according to plan.
  • P: We all plan for tomorrow and in doing so we neglect the right now. This prevents us from living the moment and to accept that the world around us is imperfect.
  • TQ: More often than not you will be rewarded with unexpected joy, if you take your time.
  • P: One thing is out of discussion: When it comes to traveling – or to love or creativity -, it is essential to lose not only your control but also your prejudices.
  • TQ: When you travel slow, you will be rewarded by the so-called coincidence.

Follow your instincts

  • P: What we did – Dan and two of his friends traveled slowly for a month through England -, changed the context through which our minds determined our existences. It is exactly this changed perception that we seek after all when we travel.
  • TQ: We did not only perceive the countryside – we became actually a part of it. Hereby I don`t mean that I`ve lost my identity, in fact I `ve just started to see my place on earth with completely different eyes.
  • TQ: Maybe slow travel discloses a certain kind of view on life that is contagious and that infects other people around you likewise.
  • P: In case we are confronted with an familiar situation, our unconscious is in charge. As soon as we leave this comfort zone, our consciousness takes over.
  • TQ: What follows is that we become more attentive when we leave the predictable everyday life, because our consciousness gets activated to deal with the new experiences. That could be one explanation why traveling is so exciting and fascinating.
  • TQ: Additionally it could also explain why people “find the way back to themselves” when they travel due to fact that they experience their lives more consciously if they take new and interesting paths.
  • P: (Their story shows us) that ALL of us have the ability to reach other, yet unknown parts of our consciousness through traveling even if the extent may differ considerably.
  • P: … three Principles: The intuition to do the right thing, to travel slowly and to rely on the generosity of a community.
  • TQ: … because traveling is an experience that continues to evolve continually. A trip doen`t consist of photographs or of past moments that are overrun by Chronos (one of the greek gods of time). Instead of that you keep your travels in your own memory. Whenever you need a part of that memory, or a different perspective or something that remained hidden until now, they will emerge from the unconscious.

Lose your head

  • P: Avoid “Must do`s” & “Must see`s”
  • TQ: If something is a “must”, my amazement and my fascination seem to disappear when I am finally standing in front of it.
  • P: Our most beautiful travel experiences are made up of a combination of or an equitable balance between order and the unknown.
  • P: The foundations of our own identity and self-concept are in danger to collapse. Traveling poses exactly this challenge for our unquestioned self-perception.
  • TQ: “If you stay at a given spot, you see the same stars again and again. They are beautiful, but seem to be well structured and ordinary. However, if you travel the world, you will soon start to grasp the greater complexity of the universe.”James Howell (1642)
  • P: Write a travel diary
  • TQ: Travel diaries that we`ve filled up with our thoughts and ideas will – without any doubt – provoke travel experiences more vividly than tons of gigabytes of meaningless pictures.

Be adventuresome

  • P: When it comes to our own life, we are all like Odysseus.

    Dan Kieran, Author of The Idle Traveller

    Dan Kieran,
    Author of The Idle Traveller

  • TQ: Slow Travel really appeals to me because it makes me understand my own life as the only epic reality I am ever going to experience.
  • P: Pause for a moment
  • TQ: We are all the authors of our own experiences and that`s why it is crucially important sometimes to pause for a moment and to have a look around. If you allow it to be reduced to a series of “phonetic” experiences by only ticking off items, one after the other, life is flying by surprisingly fast.
  • TQ: The larger the distance to our everyday life, the more concious we are are about what we do and the slower our time seems to go by.
  • P: If you want your life to slow down and to not run away from you, you should live the moment and entirely engage with the present.
  • TQ: Hereby your life really turns into an adventure that you can enjoy, instead of a routine process that keeps you on the go till your dying breath.
  • P: In life as well as when traveling it is not about length of time or distances. It`s about the intensity of experience.
  • TQ: One person leads to another who maybe takes you a step forward on your path or who deviates you from your track. It`s a loss of control, but it is also totally life-affirming and liberating.

All principles and travel qualities mentioned above were extracted from the book of Dan Kieran (German Edition of The Idle Traveller). I acknowledge that some of the principles are difficult to understand without knowing the context of the whole text passages. Well, obviously the purpose of this review is not to rewrite the book, but to crystallize the principles that allow you to slow your travel and make you curious about Kieron`s philosophy of slow travel.


I am convinced that this book achieved its aim to identify the nature of slow travel and the different aspects on which slow travel is based on, as well as to explain how slow travel can fundamentally change the way of thinking – in general (p. 27).

Especially interesting to me was the fact that slow travel and its amenities are quite an old hat. Yet hundreds of years ago people all around the world practiced slow travel and even wrote and enthused about it. Rising travel possiblities came along with technical advances in the 19th and 20th century. Nowadays this fact requires great thinking effort of us to resist the temptation of the easily accessible travel consumption offered today by cheap and convenient means of travel. The principles stated in Kieran`s book can be of valuable assistance to you if you are interested in intensifying your travel experiences.

The many anecdotes of both Kieran`s own travel experiences and other slow travelers help to understand the principles more in-depth and make the book worthwhile reading. In addition, the scientific and philosphical concepts picked up by the author and applied to slow travel are described in a comprehensible and meaningful way. And at the very end of the book, Dan even made me suppress a tear or two when he ended the story of his well-traveled grandma.

My approach to slow travel

I personally started to really love slow travel when I was walking the Camino de Santiago, which is most probably the epitome of slow travel. However, I`ve already been taken with slow travel prior to this walk and I`ve thought a lot about improving the quality of travel and what really matters when traveling. And interestingly enough, most of the principles described in The Idle Traveller – The Art of Slow Travel were not new to me, but were thought about more in-depth and in a more exhaustive way. Thus it is this book – The Idle Traveller. The Art of Slow Travel – I would have written, had I the writing skills and had I not found it by accident in a little bookshop while I was waiting for my connecting train.

Thank you for reading and please leave a comment if you feel like it.



Patric Ganz, alias Traveling_Pat

Note: Since I`ve read only the German Edition, all content above is translated and therefore not equivalent to the original English Version.

Informationen zum Buch – Information about the book:

Deutsche Ausgabe

Dan Kieran

Slow Travel – Die Kunst des Reisens

Berlin: Rogner + Bernhard GmbH & Co. Verlags KG, 2013

224 Seiten, CHF 28.90

ISBN: 978-3-95403-012-5

English Edition

Dan Kieran

The Idle Traveller. The Art of Slow Travel

England: AA Publishing, 2nd Edition, 2013

224 pages, USD 13.00

ISBN: 978-0749574734


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