“Travel is more than the seeing of sights. It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Elizabeth Drew
We were fortunate, especially with the current economic and housing crisis, to have sold our small apartment in New Hampshire for a bit of a profit. Since we had recently retired after over thirty years as educators, we now had the time, the incentive and the self-determination to follow our long-loved passion of slow traveling. In other words: we are senior citizens who will spend our junior year abroad. For the first time in our 45 years of marriage we were homeless, jobless, and after giving our 2003 Honda Hybrid to our daughter, also carless. What were we to do? Follow our passion!
According to the Council of International Studies Abroad (2007-8), 241,791 American students were studying abroad, which represents a 143 percent increase from a decade earlier. Conversely, the U.S. Census Bureau indicated that there are over 37 million people over the age of 65, and that number grows each year. We figured there was room for both juniors and seniors to co-habit abroad.
We never had the opportunity to study abroad when we were younger, so we decided to make our passion a reality. We are both enthusiasts of travel and the visual arts: sculpture, painting and architecture. We have had no formal training in any of the arts, but many previous travels had opened our eyes, hands, and hearts to the visual arts. The theme of personal development became our slow travel focus. Slow travel, as we defined it, is spending quality time in one location to be able to engage in and take advantage of the cultural opportunities (visual arts, history, the people and their living patterns) that the location offers. In other words, slow your travel down, but your motivation and passion keep you moving forward, and to take the time to learn about and reflect upon the quality experiences that await.
As an aside, neither of us are linguistic wizards. In fact, I have diagnosed myself as having ‘‘L.D.“, or Linguistic Dyslexia, not really a clinical diagnosis I might add. In other words, I have always had difficulty learning another language. Emily, on the other hand, has a marvelous capacity to be able to understand a few languages but certainly is not fluent in any foreign language.
Not to be daunted by our language inadequacies, we wanted to follow the great visual arts and history scene that traced almost 2000 years of progress in three distinct areas: Rome, Florence and Paris. These Western treasures of the sculpture, architecture and painting would be our slow travel homes for a full year. We selected Rome for three months because it was here that the benefits of the cultural rebirth (Renaissance) were most evident. The economic and human powers of Rome proved to be the grounding for the eventual Italian Renaissance in Florence.
For our „second semester“ we selected Florence and Tuscany for two months. The obvious reasons were the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance: its sculptures, architecture and paintings. The third location chosen would be Paris for four months to finish off the year abroad. The major reason for Paris was because of the many opportunities to experience, first hand, the evolution of the pre-Impressionists, Impressionists and the Expressionist painters and writers. These three slow travel locations would provide us seniors with a full year abroad.
The research, planning and preparation were not that difficult, albeit time consuming. The added assistance for us, of course, was the wider scope of research that information-technology provided. Moreover, by having an agreed upon goal and shared passion, it made for an enjoyable and thought provoking experience for both of us. We also agreed that two to four months in one location would be ideal.