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On small travel

Small travel in the time of COVID has become incredibly important. Alexander Lobrano has written a beautiful piece published in The New York Times on 21 July 2021 and available here. The piece, ‘Making discovery, not distance, travel’s point’ is a celebration of travel in general, of small travel in particular and of the joy of discovering place. There is one line which sums up so much:

‘This kind of small-brush-stroke travel is intimately valuable, too, because it teaches us where we live and who we are. ‘

Enjoy this wonderful piece. You can also read some more ideas of the essence of local slow travel here and more about people and place here.

(Re) Imagining Slow Travel

It’s time to (re) imagine slow travel.

Twenty years ago I was working with various communities and agencies looking at facilitating ecotourism. I was struck by the variety of ways people would define ecotourism. It was generally accepted that it was something that would become the saviour of travel. But for some people, the ‘eco’ defined economics – hence a focus on the economic system and benefit/costs of initiatives. For others, the ‘eco’ was ecological – hence a focus on ecosystems and ecological sustainability. For yet others, the idea of making money from nature contributed to undermining the diverse ways people could actually value nature beyond the economy – ethically, culturally, as a part of a community, as part of the essence of humanity for example.

Fast forward to the present, and we see something similar happening with slow travel. Academic research consistently identifies slow travel as being used as a marketing tool, as a set of activities, as destination and as form of travel to a destination. It therefore gets used as a market segment, a means of travel, a specific destination experience and something people who call themselves slow travellers ‘do’. There are contradictions, ideas and ethical values to be better understood.

It’s time to take a breath – to remember travel is more than a series of sights, sites, experiences and places to be consumed, but as a deep engagement with place, people and ourselves.  The idea of ‘engagement’ means our focus becomes a deeper understanding of slow travel, landscapes, people and ourselves.

This gives us the opportunity to remember to travel slowly – in a deeper ethical, philosophical and reflective way.  A way that means we as travellers leave positive impacts locally, we contribute to the sustainability of the landscapes we travel through and beyond, and we have a deeper engagement not only with these places but with ourselves as travellers and as people being able to contribute to a greater good. This requires a good deal of rethinking (or re-imagining) on our behalf as travellers.

We need to imagine a form of travel which occurs within landscapes, not through them. Being able to move within landscapes rather than through them is the essence of LoST because it implies our travels are an ongoing engagement with place/places, their landscapes and their communities. This is the travel within landscapes which occurs because we are reflective travellers who want to engage.

This is the essence of LoST, and is the essence of this website.

Thoughts on connections to place

The image above is taken in the foothills of the Victorian Alps. On one level it’s an image of water and forests. Yet at a deeper level it represents important parts of my connections to place.

This place is the place I first went on a bush walk. It’s a place I have come back to time and again over the last 30 years and acts as an anchor for me. It’s a place I try to get to at least once a month when I’m home.

But it’s still more than this. The colours represent the foothills, but they also reflect the forests of northern Haryana in India, the olive groves on the Greek island where I worked, the forests of the foothills of the Indian Himalaya. And the sounds of running water connects me to multiple locations and parts of my professional and personal history. Lie in a tent in amongst this, and there are yet other connections.

Place is such an important part of our lives and our travels. Understanding place, and how we sit within it, is central to being lost travellers.