A Message About Travel
from George Butterfield

There is a saying one hears around Kyoto: “Don’t just do something. Sit there”. I do not speak Japanese so I cannot personally attest to having heard this.

I am quoting Pico Iyer, a wise, thoughtful thinker, writer and travel explorer whom I have met and greatly admire (He wrote the introduction to our annual catalogue a few years ago.) Pico lives in Kyoto when he is not travelling. The thought struck me as so appropriate for many of us who are lockdown, unable to do much but forced to physically distance ourselves from others. This situation is not natural or easy for us to adapt to. Why is this so difficult? It was Blaise Pascal who said, ”All the unhappiness of men arises from one simple fact that they cannot sit quietly in their corner”. There is much we can learn from what we are experiencing; our reflections will deepen our journeys in the future.

The Art of Stillness is a short book written by Pico a few years ago extolling the virtues of slowing down. He says, “Every time I take a trip, the experience acquires meaning and grows deeper only after I get back home and, sitting still, begin to connect the sights I’ve seen into lasting insights”. He goes on to quote Leonard Cohen who said that his greatest journeys were inner ones.

“In an age of speed, I began to think”, says Pico, “that nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. And if you want to come back feeling new, alive, full of fresh hope and in love with the world I think that the place to visit maybe nowhere.”

We need actual journeys and it is not in B&R’s interest for me to be suggesting that we never travel anywhere. And I am not proposing that! Perhaps though, this is a time for us to reflect on those trips we have had, which we have loved and enjoyed, and which have taught us much about ourselves and our fellow humans. A new world order will come back some time; we hope soon. We can reflect and try to envisage that it would be a better, happier world if it all were a slower, less frantic, healthier place. Our travels have taught us what a wonderful world it is. Let’s hope we can help to preserve this wonder.

Here’s to a return to the new normal and many great travels when it is safe for us to be together and move again.

George Butterfield

Co-Founder, Butterfield & Robinson

The Slow Road

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