We are at a unique moment in time where we have all been made to stop travelling for a while, and whilst we are all craving to get going again, perhaps we should be taking a breath and thinking about the how, where and why? Is the mindset that Max Kellerman laments in Dirty Dancing (Trips to Europe. That’s what the kids want – 22 countries in 3 days) still prevalent or even valid. Should we be looking at taking it slow and embracing the Slow Travel movement? Personally, I think so and for more than one reason. Travelling for the sake of ticking something off a list needs to be a thing of the past! We need to press the reset button on how we view vacationing.
So what is the Slow Travel Movement? There are many different interpretations to slow travel, but for me, the Slow Travel Movement is about approaching travel meaningfully. It emphasizes travelling as sustainably as possible, for both local communities and the environment, and to properly connect with the places you are visiting – the local people, culture, food, and music. You are not simply ‘dropping in’ – the trip has to have an emotional impact and you come away having learned something. This format can be applied wherever you go regardless of the distance from home and whatever the duration of the trip (it could just be a day!) – the school my children go to in the UK call this the ‘US’ approach. When they do their ‘back to school, what I’ve done in the holidays’ report (my oldest is only just 5!), they have to approach it from being GeneroUS, AdventuroUS, IngenioUS & CurioUS. All of which can be found during travelling, especially through Slow Travel.
So now we know what the idea is about, what next?
We are lucky in the UK (and Europe), we have much more generous (and I would say necessary) vacation entitlements. For those working full-time in the UK, 5.6 weeks paid leave (or 28 days) is statutory. This makes slow travel much easier. However, that being said, I would argue that having a more meaningful experience at a slower pace would be more beneficial for everyone and can be achieved in a short amount of time. Taking my daughter’s school approach as a starting point, what questions should we be asking ourselves? Remembering we are looking at the ‘US’ in all these words – how can we achieve these things whilst travelling?
How can our travel benefit the community? Leaving the hotel aside (as although staying at a local family-run hotel is obviously the goal, many of us use our hard-earned points on staying at a hotel to make a vacation financially viable) it is worth asking yourselves the question -how can our money benefit the communities that we are staying in? Have you researched the best local restaurants (don’t forget to ask the Club Bébé Voyage community for tips), or which tours (if you wish to go on one) are run by locals? Which shops or markets should I be visiting as who does not like to go shopping when on holiday? I love going to the local markets, and visiting artisanal shops with products made by the local people. This is true for me regardless of the continent. My worst nightmare (and it has happened), is when on a tour (and I do admire the tenacity of the people running the tour, as we weren’t meant to be on one at all…..) you are ram raided into a shop full of ‘locally’ produced goods which are then sold at hugely inflated prices that benefit only the middle man.
Don’t be afraid to tread paths off the normal ‘tourist’ track. You will likely come away with a far greater understanding of the place you are visiting and might even come across some hidden gems!
With the slow travel movement, it is also about pushing your own boundaries – why not catch a train as opposed to an airplane, or why not pack your hiking boots and a proper backpack carrier for the little ones. Our photo editor Liz had some great suggestions in this article, or if you were after something a bit more sturdy, I use a LittleLife Voyager but the Osprey is meant to be incredible too! Step into the wild!
Perhaps ask yourself some deeper questions that will enrich your and your children’s experience. Leaving Europe aside, as although countries have been invading each other constantly over the centuries & the history of this is fascinating, the land has always been white European of some denomination. It is worth asking yourself; whose land will I be vacationing on? How has the stewardship of the people Indigenous to the area shaped it, what are their cultural beliefs? Step beyond the ‘top 10 sites’ to see the section in the guidebook, and ask questions! You might be surprised by what you find out.
An obvious one is to find a workshop run by a local – these are often fascinating and directly help the community that is running them.
Another way we can be ingenious is through food. Markets are fascinating places – we normally stay at places with a kitchen of some sort, even when in a hotel, as I love to explore the food of a place, not just through restaurants. Food is part of the intrinsic soul of a place, and one of my favorite things to explore!!!
I hope you will join me in this quest for knowledge and enrichment, and if you do happen to come across some amazing places when you travel – please do let us know – we would love to hear about them.
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