Slow Travel Tours recently welcomed three new members – Edge Charter, Bluone Wine and Food Tours, and Poland Culinary Vacations. They became members after a fairly long and intensive evaluation process to make sure they fit the theme – Slow Travel Tours are about traveling slow and members need to meet several criteria which you can find here, on the Slow Travel Tours home page. The very last day of 2017 is a good day to look back on how this all started in the first place – a woman had an idea, implemented it, and turned it into a phenomenon. Her name is Pauline Kenny.
In 2000, Pauline started a website called SlowTrav. She started it because she wanted to learn web design, and she was intrigued with a different way of traveling – renting apartments or homes instead of staying in hotels, and staying for a longer period in one area instead of a just night or two in a series of many locations. She called this way of travel Slow Travel – to have one base location and tour around that location in “concentric circles” – seeing what is near you, and really getting to know the area you are in. Her website was initially a hodgepodge of her own discoveries.
Pauline Kenny & Steve Cohen
Pauline wrote a tremendous amount of content for her website, and had behind the scenes website help from her husband Steve Cohen as well as web designer and travel aficionado Chris Coburn. After a short period, she started a message board, Slowtalk, to give people a place to post travel related questions. Little did I know, when I was asked to join by my friend Colleen in 2002, how this message board would alter the course of my life, and many other lives.
Over time, Pauline added moderators to help her keep the forums up-to-date with interesting content and also keep them hostility and spam free (no easy feat, I assure you.) In the first decade of its existence, hundreds of people joined the SlowTrav community, to ask questions, to help out other travelers, or a little of both. It was – and still is – a truly amazing community of people and the message board grew from travel related queries to a place you could go for cooking tips, online socializing and random non-travel related advice. Pauline also was able to collate from her members a massive amount of content – travel tips, “postcards” about various places and experiences, and other articles of note. People submitted reviews of vacation rentals, hotels and restaurants that were vetted to weed any fake ones out. SlowTrav and SlowTalk were trusted resources to use while researching and to check before booking any journey. The founding members of Slow Travel Tours were active members and the idea of running Slow Travel focused tours was thus born. You can read more about how this happened from this blog post by European Experiences Kathy Wood.
There were many great gatherings of SlowTrav community members, from small get-togethers in various locales to larger weekend-long parties in Savannah and San Diego. During these events, when you met someone in person for the first time, it felt as though you had known them forever. Lifelong friends were made.
A Slow Travel Get Together
So how did it change my life? Well, besides making a massive group of friends from coast to coast that I feel really blessed to have, I have also developed professionally from my association with SlowTrav. in 2003, I co-wrote (with another SlowTrav member, Ruth Edenbaum) a book about eating and drinking in Venice called Chow! Venice. There is absolutely no way, none, that I could have done this without the cheer leading and support of the SlowTrav community. A bunch of them even flew to San Diego when Ruth and I got our first two boxes, to have us sign them and to party with us. In addition, when I started to run GrapeHops tours in 2011, a lot of my first customers were SlowTrav members. Even to this day, I have them on my tours – some of them repeatedly. For this I am very thankful!
In 2007 Pauline sold SlowTrav to Internet Brands. At first, everything was pretty much as before (except we missed Pauline!) but over the years Internet Brands lost interest. Content became old and outdated, there were no new reviews being published, and the moderators did their best to keep the slowly stagnating message board going until Internet Brands pulled the plug on them, too. The website and message board are still there, but it is a remembrance of things past. Many of the members are in touch with each other on facebook, however, and there are still parties and get togethers.
I would not have met Kathy and Charley Wood, or any of the other fine members of Slow Travel Tours if it were not for Pauline. She is responsible for so many connections.
Kirk & Anne Woodward, Shannon Essa, & Kathy & Charley Wood
Thankfully, Pauline started another website and message board that can take the place of what we used to have on SlowTrav. It is called Slow Europe. There, you will find excellent travel information and you can ask travel questions on the Slow Europe Forums.
I know what you may be asking – you run tours, right? Why would you want to send someone to a message board to research independent travel? Its a pretty easy one to answer. I will never be able to get the message board format out from under my skin – asking travel questions on Facebook doesn’t work very well, because questions get buried quickly and also because Facebook is limited to your friends there, so one might miss out on a lot of great tips from folks you don’t know. I love “talking travel” and giving and receiving information and I know the members of Slow Europe can be counted on. Additionally, many folks who come on tours also want to travel before or after on their own, and can use helpful advice.
So, whether you are an independent traveler, or someone who likes to just show up for a tour without doing any planning but likes to do some advance reading about a place, I highly recommend you head on over to Pauline Kenny’s SlowEurope website and message board. Because, for me and for some of our other members, this is where it all started.
Thank you Pauline!
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.