I’m delighted to be writing the first weekly post to our Slow Travel Tours blog. To get us started I wanted to answer some questions and share more information about our group and our plans for the blog.
Who is Slow Travel Tours? How did you get started?
Slow Travel Tours began to take shape about a year ago. Our group members are all small business owners who met through the Slow Travel website. Slow Travel is a community of travelers who enjoy traveling more slowly, especially in Europe.
In 2005 when my husband Charley and I were planning our first Luberon Experience tours in Provence, I reached out to two people I had “met” on Slow Travel who were leading successful small group tours in Italy. Gail Hecko of Gail’s Great Escapes and Cheryl Alexander of Italian Excursion were so helpful in sharing their experiences with us and offered valuable suggestions and encouragement. As The Luberon Experience continued to develop, I got to know other small group tour leaders online, like Bill and Kristi Steiner of Adventures in Italy. Later we connected with Cynthia Abbott Zalambani, Matthew Daub of Arts Sojourn, and Anne and Kirk Woodyard of Music and Markets Tours.
I was so impressed with each of these interesting and enthusiastic people, who were all so passionate about their small group tours in some special part of Europe. It was clear to me that there was a potential synergy; we were running compatible trips and shared a similar philosophy about travel. We began to get to know each other better, exchange ideas, and explore possible ways to work together.
We describe Slow Travel Tours as an “informal affiliation,” which means that we don’t have any legal or financial relationship. We share ideas and information, and we have some joint initiatives like our webpage and this blog. Although our trips have some similarities, as you’ll see from our webpage summaries, we’re each quite unique and focus on different parts of Europe, often with a special theme. We don’t see ourselves as competitors. If one trip isn’t right for a traveler because of the destination, focus or timing, we hope one of the other Slow Travel Tours will be a great fit instead.
Our group is fortunate to have the support of Pauline Kenny, the founder of Slow Travel and another passionate European traveler. Pauline and her husband Steve Cohen are now developing a wonderful new website called Slow Europe. They have also developed Cotswolder, a destination guide focusing on one of my favorite places in Europe, the beautiful Cotswolds in England. Pauline helped us develop the Slow Travel Tours webpage and this blog and has also provided a way for us to communicate easily with each other. Although Pauline’s sites have focused on traveling more slowly using vacation rentals, she also recognizes that not everyone is an independent traveler. For some people, the very best way to experience some part of Europe slowly is with a small group tour.
What exactly is a Slow Travel Tour?
Our trips all share a common philosophy:
We believe in slow travel. We believe that spending a longer time in fewer places results in a richer, more fulfilling vacation. We appreciate the value of getting to know an area, town or village over a period of several days, a week, or longer. We enjoy forming relationships with local people, becoming a regular at a local café, experiencing the daily rhythm of a village or town. Settling in one place for a longer period of time also makes a vacation so much more relaxing!
We enjoy traveling with a small group. Some people prefer to travel on their own and others choose a tour in a big group on a large bus. Although we recognize why those approaches are right for many people, we think a small group tour has some real advantages. Our groups are small enough to be personal and flexible, but large enough to offer variety. Our small groups go places the large groups simply can’t go, and we provide the positive camaraderie that travelers often miss when they travel independently. And because our trips are well defined and focused, we attract groups of highly compatible people.
We know and love the areas that we visit. The villages and towns where we stay aren’t places we’ve visited just once or where someone else organized the plans. We each have personal relationships with the areas where we base our tours and friendships with local residents, formed over years of visiting there or living there ourselves. Because of our personal connections and knowledge, we offer special experiences that independent travelers can’t find on their own.
We run our own tours. We are all small, very personal businesses, not large travel companies who use contractors to run their groups. This isn’t all about money for us. We’re passionate about sharing the part of Europe that we love with other travelers. And we really care about the people who travel with us. They definitely aren’t numbers or names in a database. They become real friends.
What do you have planned for this blog?
Watch for a new post to this blog every weekend. We plan to rotate responsibility each week, so you’ll hear from each of us several times a year. We’ll talk more about our philosophy of group travel, describe typical experiences from our trips, share information about the areas that we visit, and share photos from our groups.
We welcome your comments, suggestions and questions about our trips or our blog! Hope to see you next weekend!
Kathy and Charley Wood lead The Luberon Experience, a week-long “slow tour” in the most beautiful area of Provence, France. Their popular trips are offered five weeks a year, in May and September. They recently announced an expansion of their business to offer one or two trips a year to other special places in Europe. In 2009 they are offering European Experience weeks in the Salzkammergut area of Austria and the Bavarian Alps of Germany.
Kathy and Charley describe themselves as “passionate European travelers.” Often traveling with their daughter Kelly, they have made 21 trips to Europe, including a 14 month “grand tour” in 2004 – 2005. Kathy’s now busy planning trip number 22. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.