We recommend a change in life that can have an impact on everything you do. Embrace the slow movement. In mind, body, spirit and, of course, in travel.
Whether it is New Year, Lent or when we come back from a relaxing holiday, many of go through this rigmarole of vowing to change our ways. To only drink at weekends, exercise every day before work (who actually does that?), improve our work-life balance or have a phone-free bedroom. Yet so often we are slipping back down that proverbial slope of screens, spirits and slothfulness before we know it. There is a difference between slothfulness and going slow in a mindful, life-fulfilling way, however. Sometimes it is helpful to have a few ‘slow’ plans to give you an incentive to change the way you do things. Here are some of our top tips.
The Welsh wake-up call
There are some particularly stunning, slow ways to explore Wales. Take a train to Fishguard and walk straight out onto the magnificent 300km Pembrokeshire Coast Path. There is no shortage of sustainable and sumptuous places to stay either, especially at award-winning Under the Thatch. For full immersion, and ultimate Welsh wake-up call, go coasteering all year round at eco friendly adventure centre Preseli Venture by taking a train to Haverfordwest.
Go slow in Bordeaux
Some people may have resolved to sign up for a triathlon and others may prefer to just get the wind in their hair, pack nothing but a pannier and see where the world takes them. One of our favourite slow cycling options is to take a train to Bordeaux and just start pedalling. You can go for days and days along the River Garonne, out to the Atlantic, along the Canal de Garonne or just enjoy a selection of Bordeaux day trips.
From the Canal de Garonne you can also head out onto the great 240km Canal du Midi which runs between Toulouse and Sète, with plenty of stations along the way to hop on and off if you so wish.
The real Spa
We rather like Spa for slow too. Not just any old spa, but the actual town of Spa in southern Belgium and just over two hours from Brussels by train. Spa boasts a large number of springs which are called “pouhons” in Walloon, the regional language. Read more about slow travel options in Belgium this year.
For other traditional spa towns in the UK, Bath and Leamington Spa, Cheltenham and Harrogate are also easy by train. And there will always be Budapest, with a wide array of thermal pools, the most famous being the vast complex at Széchenyi, the Romanesque Rudas Baths and the Ottoman Gellért Baths.
Cornwall's eco beauty
Award-winning Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall is not only an eco escape but also one from children. However, this adult-only hotel is not anti-children in any way. It has a much loved sister hotel, Bedruthan that is a regular family favourite. But a bit of grown up time to contemplate all that lies ahead in the New Year, be it in the hot tub overlooking Mawgan Porth beach, or in one of their spa’s copper baths filled with healing seaweed, is just what you need sometimes. Scarlet offers a bottle of bubbly as well as 10% off your first night’s accommodation if you use the train to get there, which you can via Newquay or Bodmin, followed by a taxi to the hotel.
Swimming is the ultimate slow for many, although you may need to push yourself into that pool in the winter months. One of the best incentives is to book a swimming holiday on Lake Annecy, France, which you can easily access by train. You will be guided by expert open water guides at Swimquest. Or stay a little more local and take on one of the walks and wild swims so brilliantly described in the book, Wild Swimming Walks: 28 Lake, River and Seaside Days Out by Train. You may also be interested in our blog, Wild Swimming in France.
Download a meditation app for your train journeys. Our favourites are Buddhify, Headspace, Calm and Aura. The BBC Sounds app also has a brilliant Slow Sounds podcast to subscribe to, with birdsong, the sound of people walking over crunchy autumn leaves or the sound of night in the desert. Even better, you can listen to them on the train en route to a yoga retreat, one of our go slow heroes being the aptly-named Zest for Life. Based in a manor house on the Isle of Anglesey, take a train to Bangor, followed by a 5 mins taxi ride to mix yoga with wild swimming, trekking or meditation.
Park run and park fun
If you have vowed to take on Park Run but also love to get out of town at weekends, consider setting yourself a target of one different Park Run every month. And travelling there by train of course. They are all over Europe now, so you could run in Fontainebleau, Firenze or Fort William, Berlin or Brighton, to name but a few.
Hiking, the ultimate homage to slow
By taking a train to one of UK’s fifteen national parks that you have never visited before, you can experience the new you in a totally rejuvenating place. Read our detailed blog on UK national parks and how to access them by train. Interestingly, 93% of visitors still travel to them by car when, in most cases, they really don’t have to.
In Praise of Slow
Last but not least, treat yourself to the iconic book, In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré. The pioneer of the slow movement, this is a book to make you not only slow down, but, quite simply, stop and think. We are also in praise of Carl, who tells us: “I’m a huge fan of rail travel. Always take a train instead of a plane if possible. There’s something deliciously slow about scything through the countryside at ground level, I always find”.
Photo credits top to bottom: Coastline hiker iStock ©lzf, Canal du MIdi iStock ©jazzpote, Budapest spa iStock ©neirfy, Girl swimming iStock ©AleksandarNakic, Menai Bridge Anglesey iStock ©elgol, Women hiking iStock ©SolStock, Rhine River iStock ©KvdB50
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