I highly recommend taking the time to slow travel. By spending a month in one location, I was able to learn about the culture, make connections and friends, and establish a relationship to the countryside. If everyone could have the opportunity to travel and spend time within a culture, the world would be a wealthier place.
Two summers ago I was accepted into an artist-in-residence program in Greve in Chianti a town in Tuscany, Italy. I was ecstatic to pursue one of my projects to help build my portfolio and repertoire as a professional artist which is something I was not able to do while in college.
I never realized that I could still pursue my dream of working abroad outside a college environment. The residency helped me fulfill that dream.
The residency, La Macina di san Cresci, was a month long. During the month, I worked on my project which incorporated the native flora in the surrounding hills. I have fond memories of roaming the Tuscan hills foraging for edible and non-edible plants and herbs to be used in my project.
The building which housed the program was rebuilt by two artists, who are now the directors. The 900 AD building originally had a church and a parish house, which was converted into the artists' residence. With support from the town, the artist-duo began the program and started accepting artists.
While in the program, a typical day included long sweltering afternoon walks through the Tuscan hills gathering plant specimens. I would bring them back to the studio which had a well-equipped darkroom – perfect for my artwork.
My evenings were filled with photo making, wine and cheese, and relaxation. I also spent time gaining inspiration from a book on scientific photography, which I'd gotten from the London Museum of Science while visiting a family member just prior to the program.
During the weekends, I made trips into Florence, which was only an hour away. Taking the public transit and riding through the Tuscan hills was quite an inspiring experience. The locals said that one of the best, most inexpensive things to do there was to ride the bus through the different towns.
In Florence, I stopped by the Orto Botanical to identify the plants I had been seeing in the hills. A part of my project was plant identification as my final portfolio pieces were named after the plant used. Through this project, I gained a deep connection to nature and to my surroundings.
Through this project, I gained a deep connection to nature and to my surroundings.
La Macina di san Cresci promoted the "Slow" culture by sponsoring the Slow Movie Contest where directors and filmmakers submit movies on the slow culture. "Slow" culture is a protest movement that contrasts the fast-paced lifestyle of many in the United States and other parts of the world.
From my extended time in Italy, I witnessed a culture that takes time out of its day to slow down, relax, and connect. If we just take time to enjoy our travels whether abroad or even to the nearby park or neighboring town, we may be surprised by the things we learn and the connections we make. Slowing down enriches our lives with experiences, which means our extra time spent is well worth it.