I have a personal fear that slow travel is threatening to become one of those concepts and ideas that people pick up uncritically and as a result it just becomes another slogan. If this were to happen, it would be such a shame. So here is my statement about what I mean by slow travel and how LoST fits into, and supports, this.
One of the important things about slow travel is supposed to be the ‘slow’. As popularly understood, ‘slow’ relates to slowing down, recognising that fast is not better, and more generally engaging with things in more depth than is perhaps possible otherwise.
There are some important things to note about this. The first is that this is a cultural shift. Therefore it’s a shift in values, ethics, practices, ideas, thinking, organisations and so on. Something pretty fundamental in other words – the aim is to travel within a landscape rather than through it.
The second is, because it’s such a significant shift, its going to be easy to simplify it. Here is the thing to be careful of. Cultural shifts such as this, which are looking at fundamentally altered ideas, practices etc, are complex and often difficult (even if we who advocate certain ideas think they are sooo obvious…). So it’s going to take some thinking, some reflection, some re-imagining.
The third is that, having said that slow travel is important, we need to actually give some thinking space to what it might be. ‘Slow’ is not just about slowing down, or doing things slower – it’s about engaging in different ways.
The fourth is that, having given thinking space to what it mighty be, we then need to give some action space to what it might look like on the ground and how we might move towards it.
Some thoughts on slow travel
For me, there are some characteristics of slow travel that I think are its essence:
- we as travellers are reflexive and engaged. This means we have a reasonably well defined set of ideas and ethics which govern our travels, our interactions, our motivations and our experiences. This moves us away from, for example, ‘cycling’ to ‘cycling because we want to engage with…’. We are actively engaged in imagining (or, often, re-imagining) the relationship between our travels and the landscapes/cityscapes with which we engage through our travels
- because we are actively engaged with our travel, we continually refine our motivations. We don’t have a set of ideas that are unchangeable or ‘the framework’. What we have is a set of ideas that understand what we do and what we want to leave behind, so we are always learning.
- because we are always learning, and we are engaged with sustainable futures and the search for different cultural forms, we ultimately look at the ways we can bring our experiences and our ideas to a wider audience. This moves the idea of travel away from just showing images and talking with friends. It allows us to start thinking about how we can translate these experiences into more long-term foundations for sustainable futures for the landscapes and communities where we travel and also those where we don’t travel, but know need support.
These ideas move slow travel away from a passive thing such as ‘I’m doing slow travel because I’m eating at a small local restaurant’ to ‘I’m doing slow travel because I’m eating at a small local restaurant. By doing this, I’m….This is important because….We can all learn from this because….’ The first is a passive conception, the second is an action-oriented conception. It’s a well-developed set of ideas focused on the latter that we should be aiming for, and which this site is predominantly concerned.
For me, walking, cycling and paddling are great ways to do all this…