Small stories told on a slow stroll

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Small stories told on a slow stroll

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Technological advances have made it possible for people to travel faster, farther and more frequently than ever before. That has brought a certain element of speed to the act of travel, and many travelers rush around to cram as much as possible into their journey before they are on to the next destination.

But a new book dedicated to the art of slow travel demonstrates that taking time to explore a single place can be a rich and rewarding experience.

In “A Slow Walk through Jeong-dong,” Michael Gibb narrates a day in the life of Jeong-dong, central Seoul, taking readers on a cultural and historic journey through a place where traditional Korean homes and lifestyles blend harmoniously with more modern accoutrements. Starting at dawn and continuing through the day, Gibb embroiders his narrative with stories of modern Korean history, which serve as interesting detours down a very enjoyable path.

“Sometimes, not always, a slow walk through a small neighborhood can cover great chunks of a city’s story: perhaps even uncover thick slices of a country’s history,” Gibb writes in the book’s introduction.

The book is beautifully illustrated with drawings by Ah-young Jung. The drawings are evocative without being intrusive, allowing readers enough space to imagine the road if they’ve never been there or to recall forgotten details if they have.

The story is divided into four sections - Dawn, Morning Stroll, Afternoon Delights and Nightfall - which further encourage the reader to slow down and appreciate each part of the journey.

At one point, Gibb feeds us details about the trees that line the street, and the historic places they frame, taking time to describe each one in his elegant prose. When we arrive at his favorite breakfast haunt, a popular restaurant chain that serves basic yet hearty Korean fare, we are invited to contemplate our need for nourishment and food’s ability to abolish class divisions.

That’s fitting because this is a book meant to nourish the mind. Its beauty lies in the rich details of sight, smell and sound scattered throughout the text and the deep muted colors of the illustrations.

“I wrote this book so that one day my daughter Bori, my regular companion on walks through Jeong-dong, can tell her children and her grandchildren about where she grew up,” Gibb wrote in the book’s forward.

Gibb lived in Jeong-dong for a year while he was working as deputy editor-in-chief at the Korea JoongAng Daily.

According to his biography in the book, the British-born author has worked as an editor, reporter, copywriter and university lecturer since moving to East Asia in 1992, and his work has appeared in various media outlets including Time, South China Morning Post and The Guardian.

A Slow Walk through Jeong-dong

Author: Michael Gibb
Genre: Travel literature
Publisher: Hollym


By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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