Thursday, 22 November 2007

Travelling local

There was a really good piece about Slow Travel I noted recently (Josh Kearns, on Brave New Traveler). Slow Travel isn't just about speed; it's also about taking time to appreciate the locality, and the lives of local people. Not just seeing them as 'character' for a photo, a bit of local flavour - but seeing them as potential friends, with their own desires and needs.

It's about helping a child understand how solar installations work rather than just giving him a pen or a sweetie. Or helping fix a motorbike or dig a field. Or having a long, rambling talk with someone about their lives - rather than just visiting the top three tourist attractions.

I had a little Slow Travel moment in Seville a while back. Definitely my least favourite of the three great Andalucian cities... till I walked into the Hospital de San Juan de Dios, and met a charming black-clad little old lady. (She was little, too; she didn't come up to my shoulders, and I'm only 5'4.) She showed me round, and we chatted a bit, and passed a happy quarter of an hour; and she was honestly proud of her city.  I wasn't actually Slow Travelling - I was getting some research done for an audio tour; but I made the time for it. And I remember Seville with rather more warmth than I would have done.

So if Slow Travel is really ethical travel - perhaps we should all be doing it?

I suppose Couchsurfing is one way of doing slow travel. Find a local friend. Hang out. Chat. Have a few beers. See their city through their eyes. It's just a pity Couchsurfing is so much a Club 18-30 thing - youngsters for the most part. And at just over 40, I@m really feeling my age.

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