In Comes the Horse but hey, Please Slow Down
Siew Hoon on the importance of listening to crickets
And so as the world moves faster, and our attention spans become shorter as our devices oblige us to respond instantly, remember to slow down every now and again in 2014.
And so we gallop into the Year of the Horse… and my only wish for the New Year is that it will not fly by as quickly as the last one did. Yet I know it’s wishful thinking because whether we like it or not, everything seems to move faster thanks to the fast flow of information.
Did you know that 57 per cent of consumers abandon a web page that takes more than three seconds to load and 47 per cent expect it in two seconds or less? Not only does information flow faster, everywhere in Asia, buildings are getting taller, lights brighter and trains faster. The only things that are being streamlined are our mobile devices, although even that is changing now as “phablets” enter the picture.
These devices change our daily habits, particularly the way we make our travel plans. I spoke to an executive from Spring Airlines, the Shanghai-based budget carrier, who told me that 50 per cent of airline sales are made through mobile channels. Ctrip, China’s largest online travel agency, also sees almost half of its bookings made on mobile devices, and a high percentage of those are same-day hotel bookings. We are getting more last minute in our requests, and when we want things, we want them now.
However, last year some of the travel experiences I recall most fondly were those that allowed me to take me my time. My last journey in 2013 was a trip across the Pacific to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and then across the Atlantic to Amsterdam before returning home. A round-the-world trip, just the wrong way round. Sometimes it’s nice to go against the flow and be a traveller, not a tourist.
In 2013, these are some of the unhurried moments I remember most:
• A horse cart ride on a wet day on the ancient tea and horse caravan trail of Yunnan-Tibet
• A walk on The Bund in Shanghai, taking in skyline views that represent the past, present and future
• Having “the best burger in the USA” at Le Tub, Fort Lauderdale
• Strolling down the streets of Amsterdam in winter and getting the occasional whiff from its floral coffee shops
• Lying in my lodge in Danum Valley, Sabah and listening to the crickets as I fell asleep
Speaking of crickets, have you heard this recording of chirping crickets slowed down? If not, it’s worth a listen: https://soundcloud.com/acornavi/robert-wilson-crickets-audio. The recording resurfaced because when singer Tom Waits was asked about the most beautiful recording he owned, he chose this clip.
“Wilson, he's always playing with time,” Waits said of Jim Wilson, who created the recording. “I heard a recording recently of crickets slowed way down. It sounds like a choir, it sounds like angel music. Something sparkling, celestial with full harmony and bass parts – you wouldn't believe it. It's like a sweeping chorus of heaven, and it's just slowed down, they didn't manipulate the tape at all. So I think when Wilson slows people down, it gives you a chance to watch them moving through space. And there's something to be said for slowing down the world."
And so as the world moves faster, and our attention spans become shorter as our devices oblige us to respond instantly, remember to slow down every now and again in 2014. And oh yes, listen to crickets.
Happy slow travels in the New Year.