My summer “passion project” has been to slow down and take pleasure in my surroundings, wherever I go.
I’m a detail person at heart, and lately I’ve been delighting in them: the way a lush summer tree sways in the breeze; the long, slow fade of evening light; a splashy work of street art cropping up in an unexpected spot; or even a person with a strange and fascinating face.
Today — Tuesday, August 6th — American Express and Hilton Hotels & Resorts are sponsoring a $100 gift card giveaway using the hashtag #PassionProjectHH on Twitter. You could use this windfall to get away from your usual routine for a few days or even a few hours, and stop to smell the roses…or simply enjoy having the time to notice them.
5 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the World While Traveling
Remember to look up. When you’re at the beach, looking up from your book or nap allows you to see subtle changes in the clouds that you miss by being inside at work all day. You could spy a flock of pelicans in flight, or catch the very first blush of sunset. When you’re in a new city, step out of the pedestrian flow every now and then and look up at the tops of buildings. You’re bound to see intricate architectural details, like the inscription bearing the year the building was finished — or even gargoyles and dragons.
Looking up reminds me that I’m just one small person in the world, and very little is worth stressing about in the grand scheme of things.
Remember to look down. At the beach, you might find a special shell, or a piece of sea-tumbled glass. On a city street, you could find a sweet message scrawled on the sidewalk, or an ornate brass fixture. At a park or garden, you could see a plant or flower you’ve never seen before, something that only grows in that particular place. I especially love to sift through the pebbles on Cambria, California’s Moonstone Beach, stumble across unusual manhole covers on the streets of New York City, and hunt for rare plants at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Phipps Conservatory.
For me, looking down and getting absorbed by details I’m usually too busy too notice is a meditative exercise, a quiet way of letting go of my daily routine.
Explore a historical museum. By nature, historical museums invite you to slow down. They feature objects, films, photos and descriptions that encourage you to lean in and focus. They’re generally quiet, there are often benches scattered around (inside and out), and you can stay for hours. Spend some time in a museum that explores the history of the place you’re visiting, and for the rest of your trip you’ll notice people, places and things that you otherwise might have missed.
My favorite historical museum yet so far? The amazing, comprehensive Amsterdam Museum, where ornate maps, anecdotes, portraits, models, architectural details and hundreds of objects illuminated a graceful, complex city that at first glance felt quiet, calm and a little stand-offish. Before I left the city a few days later, I’d noticed enough rich, warm details of its art, design, history and people to feel like I was leaving behind a good friend.
Set aside a couple of hours to sit at a café and watch the world go by. For the price of a cup of a coffee (and maybe a cookie, because hey — you’re on a vacation), you can hang out at popular neighborhood cafe and watch the greatest show on Earth, anywhere: other people going about their business. The less typically touristy the area you choose, the more you’re going to learn about the faces, fashions and accents of the people who live in the place you’re exploring. Sit long enough, and you might even strike up a conversation with some locals — a great way to discover something new, fun and unexpected about the place you’ve chosen to visit.
I’ve perched myself at cafes in 30 countries around the world, and it’s always been a treat. Oh, and if you’re asking, my drink is a double cappuccino with an almond biscotti on the side.
Pack a sketchbook and a few pencils and create your perfect souvenir. This can be a surprisingly fun activity for two people to do while traveling: imagine the opportunity to see the world the way your partner, dear friend or relative does. Artistic talent isn’t necessary for this pursuit, just a desire to capture the spirit, feeling and sense of a place. You could each get your own book and take turns doing a page at a time in the other’s, creating special — and shared — memories of your trip.
Need a little inspiration? Check out the beautiful travel sketchbooks of artist Chandler O’Leary, or the amazing I Was Here: A Travel Journal for the Curious Minded.
My passion this summer is exploring my own city in search of the finest details of art, architecture and natural beauty.
What’s your summer travel passion?
Do you travel to discover the finer details of the world or to visit big, splashy attractions? Do you plan trips to get away and relax, or to fully explore a new place? Do you like to pack as much excitement as possible into a given day, or do you like to simply sit still and watch a different version of the world go by?
This post was sponsored by American Express Membership Rewards Program,
and I was awarded with a Hilton Hotels & Resorts gift card.
The five suggestions, photos and opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.