The first time I subscribed to a community supported agriculture share, I was shocked to discover that carrots are not available year round. For the first month, everything we ate was green – lettuce, spinach, kale, mustard greens, scallions, garlic scapes. No orange vegetables. No carrots. No tomatoes.
Eating locally wasn’t just a matter of picking up food from a farm instead of a grocery store. It meant eating and cooking different things based on what was locally and seasonally available. Adapting recipes, learning that “what grows together, goes together,” waiting for tomatoes and carrots, and embracing the ethos of slow food. Cooking within local ecological and seasonal constraints instead of overriding them with tons of imported produce ultimately led to tastier meals, getting to know my farmers, and connecting to the seasons.
As a traveller who is trying to fly a lot less, I think a similar shift is required to truly embrace surface travel. We need to embrace the slow pace of surface travel, appreciate the way it lets us take in the details, and accept the fact that it changes where we can go for a day trip, a weekend adventure, or weeklong vacation. Surface travel is inevitably slow travel, which means much shorter distances or much longer time frames.
Slow travel talks about how to travel slow once we reach our destinations – stay in place, explore by foot, then bike, then public transport or car, live like the locals, talk to people, but it hasn’t fully engaged with the promise of traveling closer to home. I think we should travel slow for the whole trip, from the moment we leave our front door to the moment we come home again.
So, in that spirit, here is a little manifesto.
- We start from home.
- We stay on the ground or on the water, and we pay attention.
- We talk to strangers, get to know neighbors, and welcome immigrants and newcomers.
- There is no such thing as flyover country. We can find interesting, challenging and beautiful people, places and things anywhere if we are open to it.
- We’d rather travel a dozen miles and really engage with the territory, than travel a thousand miles and miss everything in between. We take scenic routes, detours, and the long way home.
- We develop a rich, detailed mental map of our region by going places, reading local history, biography, and literature, subscribing to local newspapers and zines, supporting local arts and culture, deepening our civic involvement, and volunteering in our communities.
- We don’t write off entire neighborhoods as too scary because the people who live there are poorer, browner, or less likely to speak English. We listen and learn from our neighbors, especially when their life experience is radically different from ours. We send our kids to school with their kids.
We need to embrace the beauty of our homes, our history, our particular corners of the planet. We need to go deeper, peel back the layers of the place we call home, get lost in it. We need to truly embrace the journey rather than flying over as much territory as possible as fast as possible to get to our “real” destination.
Do you have a slow or local travel story?