Rather than racing from Spain to France in a week, you might find some tranquility by spending a few more days in a Spanish coastal port or a medieval French village by traveling s l o w l y.
As a tour guide I face new challenges everyday, and naturally, I prefer positive experiences over uncomfortable ones. While there may always be problems, the ability to be unflappable in the face of these is essential. Slow travel is my preferred way to see the world, but it’s not without its downsides.
Travel issues such as flight cancellations, missed trains, and medical emergencies bring the whole experience into sharper focus, especially when confined to the length of a tour. Sometimes everything that can go wrong does; restaurants suddenly shutter for an unexpected vacation, public toilets are locked, someone falls asleep on the train and misses their stop, a nearby river overflows, your favorite bakery closes, or it simply rains cats and dogs.
Without a doubt the most favorable outcome of a tour often rests with the members of the group getting along well. On a tour everyone is opening up to people they don’t know, and to places they know nothing about: not the food, the culture nor the language. Traveling with strangers can be complex: ego clashes, different travel styles and interests will increase tensions within a small group. Friends who have never traveled before can turn into foes, infecting everyone’s sense of well-being.
Above and beyond all other consideration, the well-being of a tour guide is key to the success of the tour. Long days, physical activity, and daily people management skills require a great deal of energy. In order to remain equanimous I carry a prescription for staying sane within my spiritual toolbox because if I’m happy my clients are happy too.
- Nourish patience.
- Don’t take things personally.
- Focus on solutions.
- Cultivate a good sense of humor.
- Remember everything is temporary.
Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of southwest France. She is the owner of French Country Adventures, which provides private, personally-guided, small-group, slow travel tours into Gascony, the Pays Basque, Provence and beyond. She writes a monthly blog about her life in France and is a contributor to Bonjour Paris and France Today magazines.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.