How do you... travel like a tortoise?

Matt Little
Matt Little


If anyone knows about professional success, it’s Andy Murray’s tennis coach, Matt Little. That’s why we’re all ears as the star trainer outlines his philosophy for getting results in The Way of the Tortoise – his guide to taking the slow lane to long-lasting success. So, as you start to consider travelling once more, he gives us the inside scoop

So, what does it mean to be a tortoise?
My book is largely about the two animals in Aesop’s famous fable, The Hare and the Tortoise. Being the tortoise is all about taking the longer, slower, more meandering route to success. This is an especially pertinent message in today’s society, which craves instant success, gratification and acknowledgement. Being the tortoise means that not only will your rise to the top be less stressful and more meaningful, but also that when you achieve success you will be ready for it because of the lessons you have learned along the way.

How do we start living in line with these principles?
Firstly, in order to prepare for any new journey, be it a new job, career, hobby or vocation, it is important to establish your values and strengths. The strengths that the tortoise displayed – patience, persistence and positivity – are all ones you will need to help you achieve your goals, so you first have to know them and flex them. Secondly, change the way you talk to yourself: thinking along the lines of ‘how to be’, as opposed to ‘how to do’. That’s what makes the difference between fleeting and enduring success.

Think along the lines of ‘how to be’, as opposed to ‘how to do’

How do you think this philosophy could impact the way we travel, post-pandemic?
Put simply, slowing down buys you time. Those with no time pressure have the least stress – and this is part of the reason why we crave holidays so much in the first place. Instead of focusing on how much time you need to ‘do’ things, we simply focus on time to ‘be’. Even more than ever, holidays will become times to be with our thoughts, be with our loved ones, be with nature and be at peace. Our gratitude and appreciation of this idea has been one of the few positives out of this challenging time.


Matt Little takes a photo of the team during a practice session ahead of the Davis Cup. Credit: Getty

And what if you feel life stresses filtering into your travels?
Literally just slow down. From the moment you leave the plane in your destination, you should walk more slowly, breathe more slowly, make decisions more slowly, chew on your food more slowly and even try talking more slowly. Allowing additional time to creep into everything you do will allow you more special moments. You’ll notice more of your surroundings, more smells and sounds, more flavours as you eat – and it’ll even allow you to have better conversations as you will buy the time to listen to your companions more deeply. What’s not to like?

Do you put this kind of thinking into practice with your players? 
When I travelled to Madrid for the Davis Cup Finals with Team GB, we organised several fun things for the players to do in the city. This isn’t something you’d typically do on a tennis tour, simply because there isn’t a great amount of downtime between all of the practice, training and recovery that the players need to do. Making the effort to slow down the schedule like this made it one of the best trips and helped hugely with our team camaraderie. To top it all off, we made it to the semi-finals of the tournament, among the best tennis teams in the world.

Where are you next planning to go on holiday? How will you employ tortoise traits to the experience?
I haven’t travelled since 2019, which is most unusual for someone who usually spends 20-plus weeks a year away from home. The impact this has had on me is that I’ve missed this side of my life so much, and I know that I will do exactly as I have said above in the next holiday destination I visit. Even on the next tennis tournament I travel to, I will value it all so much more by refusing to operate at the speed the modern world demands.

Any final strategies for travellers?
Think of the hare from Aesop’s fable. How would it holiday? Pushing its way off the plane to be the first to the baggage carousel? Racing to be the first to the sunbeds? The tortoise displays the opposite of these behaviours; it isn’t in a rush, is humble, polite and respectful, while being firm enough to get the things that it needs. This is achieved by having clear values, as well as possessing the soft skills to deal with people who may not speak the same language. When you read this, which holiday would you prefer? Which one strikes you as the happier and more stress-free experience?

Matt Little’s The Way of the Tortoise (£14.99, Michael O’Mara Books) is out now

This article has been tagged Adventure, Wellbeing