The Local in Slow Travel
Posted by Bill Steiner – Adventures in Italy
We hope to provide rich content and variety through this blog – content that will illuminate what it is to travel “slow”, the wonderfully different travel opportunities that exist within this group, and insights from our collective travel experiences. In that spirit, read on as I connect slow travel to an emerging trend.
In my previous career as a community planner and community builder I started a comprehensive community revitalization program with several components. One of those was strengthening the local economy, which meant locally owned businesses that were uniquely connected to and concerned with the place in which they existed. It has become increasingly rare to find local businesses in the U.S. as the “benefits” of scale prevail.
With the recession, with an increasingly strong buy local movement, with limited natural resources to transfer goods over thousands of miles, local business could soon be making a comeback.
While this may be interesting from an economic standpoint, what is largely missed about a local economy is how wonderful it is as a human being to experience it, to live in it. Developing relationships with local business owners that are deep and meaningful, running into people regularly in a small store and establishing relationships with them, the cozy intimacy and personal service you get is a joy. It is a joy rarely experienced today, one that is so infrequent we don’t even know we are missing it.
Slow travel, that is, visiting a place to get to know its people, characteristics, and subtleties, provides, for us Americans, a window into what is possible if we move to a more local economy. I’ve always seen our travels to Italy as a subtle way for individuals in our groups to develop an appreciation for what can be at home.
One of the nice things about travel is that we are open, willing to try something different, see the new. We are usually more relaxed, less pressured by the deadlines that exist at home, and, as a result, can pay a little more attention to things. (This is true if we are not rushing about from town to town, site to site, trying to see it all, if we are – traveling slow.)
When traveling slow you stay in one place and begin to absorb what it is like to live there, to understand the culture, what is important. You see and experience, and, partly because you have time to reflect on it, you contrast it with how things are at home. You develop relationships and you see the amazing interpersonal exchange that is so much a part of life in European towns. You see the smiles, the joy, the closeness, the passion, the sheer exuberance in people. In many ways it is like a tonic for the tired soul.
Americans don’t know what they are missing, what they are really longing for in their frenzied life back home. Slow travel makes it apparent.
People don’t come home able to transform their communities. But they do come home changed. They make subtle little changes and they bring a new found attitude and understanding that begins to influence their lives. Here are comments from some of our travelers:
- “I will look for “well being” and laugh more often as a result of this trip.”
- “I will take home from this trip to slow down, to create a more cozy garden space at home and to save money for another trip!!”
- “I will never be the same. I feel as though there is an imprint in my soul, the very core of me. It says this is life, real life.”
- “For me, the focus on life was changed by Orvieto. It confirmed as my subconscious already knew, life is about experiences, every little one. Savor all of them.”
- “The trip brought us back to our roots as people, and helps put the ‘human’ back into human being.”
Slow Travel does change us. I believe slow travelers will lead the way in helping us emerge from this recession more attuned to the local, and living in small and subtle ways, a better, more enjoyable life!
We would love to have you join one of the members of this group to get a taste of slow travel, and what can be at home.
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Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations” to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets. Trips are held in May and September/October every year.
Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy at his blog Make Haste Slowly.
Bill, you have captured the essence of slow travel with your theme of “relationship” which really does change the way people see themselves, life and others. Thank you for bringing such a clear perspective to an emerging trend. I look forward to hearing more from you and the rest of the group.
So good to know more about you and Adventures in Italy, Bill…and to see photos of Orvieto, a place we, too, really enjoy.
Anne & Kirk
You bring such an interesting background to the theme of Slow Travel. We really have lost so much of that sense of community, that is still embraced and lived out in Europe. It’s so wonderful to experience that first-hand.