New Year’s Day is loaded with symbolism – fresh starts and new beginnings. It’s the first day of a 365-day narrative that will form another chapter in our lives. It couldn’t be a more perfect time to launch our new website, Grantourismo, and our first Grantourismo project, a contemporary grand tour of the world.

We’re going on a grand tour!

We’re embarking upon a year long journey on which we’ll focus on slow travel, local travel and experiential travel, with the support of HomeAwayUK. We’ll be travelling around the world for a year, staying in their holiday homes and apartment rentals in places for two weeks at a time, so we can pursue our mission to make travel more meaningful and more memorable.

Grantourismo: a journey focused on Slow, Local and Experiential Travel

‘Grantourismo’ is a corruption of the Italian word for ‘grand touring’, granturismo.

For us, it best describes the experiential style of extended travel we’ve been doing since we put our things in storage in Dubai in 2006 to live out of our suitcases and take to the road indefinitely. Grand touring has become our way of life.

In every destination we’ve visited for every project we’ve done, whether it’s been a guidebook or a magazine story, we’ve tried hard to get beneath the skin of a place, to connect with as many local people as we could, to learn about the culture, to learn a bit of the language, and, when we’ve been able to stay long enough to rent a place, we’ve tried hard to learn to live like locals, and give back whenever we could.

Now, we’ve evolved that into a project: a yearlong grand tour of the world to start with, and then a lifelong project of grand touring.

How it all began: a realisation that travel was about people as much as places

The germ of an idea for Grantourismo came back in 2003 when we were researching and writing our first Lonely Planet guidebook on Syria and Lebanon. We were frustrated that the focus of the books was always on the places to go, and that there weren’t opportunities to write about the people we meet on our travels.

We asked our editor if we could include some interviews with people in the guidebook. One of the first was with an archaeologist specialising in Syria. When it came to updating our Dubai guidebook, we asked again if we could include interviews with locals, and in that book we included a whole series. Soon after it became a feature of all Lonely Planet guidebooks.

But it wasn’t until January 2006, when we packed our Dubai apartment up, put our things in storage, and took to the road for a year (which of course turned into eight years living out of our suitcases), that we started to dream up a project.

We started to write a little blog in late 2006 and throughout 2007 for Charles and Marie, called Grantourismo, where we reported on the boutique hotels we stayed at, restaurants we ate at, and cool shops, bars and cafes we discovered on our travels.

While that was fun, the best part of that job was meeting the people behind the scenes, the chefs, designers, artists, architects, musicians, and hotel owners, and getting an insight into their everyday life, their local neighbourhoods, and their local culture.

Frustratingly, those experiences made us want to stay longer and want to learn more, to learn things that would have made our experience even more enriching, like how to cook a local dish, or for Terence, a musician, how to play an instrument.

One night, while cooking a meal in the kitchen of my uncle and aunt’s home in Bendigo, we finally fleshed out the concept for Grantourismo and a grand tour project where we’d spend one month in a different place for 12 months, learning to live like locals, connecting with local people, and learning different things from that place.

Our mission: to make travel more meaningful and more memorable

While we compromised — we’ll be moving every two weeks instead of spending one month in a place — thanks to our partners, HomeAwayUK, this year we have the chance to undertake our project and realise that dream and inspire others to do the same.

We’ll be on the road for a year, on a grand tour of the world, staying in holiday rentals, and learning to live like locals.

Our goal is to travel slow and sustainably, to travel locally, and to travel experientially.

We’ll be connecting with local people as we focus on getting beneath the skin of places by concentrating our explorations on local neighbourhoods.

We’ll be travelling slowly and sustainably, spending two weeks at a time in a place. We’ll be using local businesses, spending money locally, and buying local produce and local products.

We’ll be trying to be more responsible travellers and giving back to places wherever and whenever we can.

We’ll be travelling experientially and learning about the people, places and cultures by getting hands-on and learning how to do things.

For us, these are the things that make travel more enriching, the things that make travel more meaningful and more memorable.

Expect to read more about slow travel, sustainable travel, local travel, and experiential travel here over coming weeks.

If they’re foreign concepts for some of you now, they won’t be by the end of this year.

A year of homes in different places

And this trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

We’re tired of checking in and out of hotels every couple of days. Being at our family’s home in Australia over Christmas, surrounded by cats and dogs, fresh flowers cut from the garden, and the fragrant smells of home-cooked meals emanating from the kitchen, has made us miss having our own home.

Now, we’re going to have a year of homes in different places!

We’re still going to be living out of our suitcases, but at least we’ll get a chance to unpack them every now and again – even if it’s only for two weeks at a time.

So, do you want to come along for the ride?

UPDATE: July 2011

For those who have just discovered us here, our yearlong HomeAwayUK-sponsored grand tour finished in February 2011.

We then spent a lot of our time until July 2011 doing interviews about the project and writing stories based on our experiences, from providing advice on selecting holiday rentals to sharing safari photography tips.

You can read some of those interviews, stories and guest posts here.

We’re still happy to share our experiences and the lessons we learned, so don’t hesitate to contact us via email or by leaving a comment on the site if you have an idea or story you’d like to chat about or you’d like to interview us.

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