Slow, Local and Experiential Travel – our mission, mantra, ethos, and reason we launched Grantourismo on New Year’s Day 2010. This was meant to be the year we celebrate a decade of advocating slow travel, local travel and experiential travel. Well, we’re rebooting 2020 and renewing our commitment to responsible, ethical and sustainable travel.
With many countries flattening the curve, containing the pandemic, and returning to ‘a new normal’ that includes travelling, it seems like the right time to reboot the year, belatedly celebrate Grantourismo’s 10th birthday and a decade advocating slow, local and experiential travel, and renew our pledge to continue to promote sustainable, responsible and ethical travel.
The 1st January 2020 marked ten years since we launched Grantourismo and our slow, local and experiential travel quest with a year-long grand tour of the world aimed at inspiring you all to travel more slowly, locally and experientially, which for us meant to travel in ways that were more immersive, more engaging and more enriching, and ultimately, for us anyway, more meaningful and more memorable.
We’d planned to celebrate a few things back in January: that in the last ten years millions of travellers had visited Grantourismo (over a million visitors in recent months – thank you!); that slow travel, local travel and experiential travel had gone mainstream since we launched the site (yes!); and that when many people travel these days, they think about how they can travel more sustainably, more ethically and more responsibly.
A decade ago, travellers interested in slowing down, renting apartments and holiday houses to settle into places to gain an insight into how locals live, and get beneath the skin of places were in the minority. Doing street food tours, shopping the markets and learning to cook local food had not yet become the travel trends they have in recent years. How to travel sustainably, responsibly and ethically were rarely a concern for travellers.
There was a lot to celebrate. But January 2020 wasn’t the time. Now feels right. So, for the next six months, we’ll be sharing highlights from our 2010 grand tour of the world that launched the site and we’ll be sharing some of our favourites stories from the archives that you may have missed. We also have lots of new content planned.
We will also be renewing our commitment to slow, local and experiential travel, which seem like the best forms of travel for the world right now, and we’ll be renewing our pledge to promoting sustainable, responsible and ethical travel.
Slow, Local and Experiential Travel – We’re Celebrating Ten Years of Sustainable Travel
I think we can all agree that 2020 didn’t start out well and it just got worse. There were the bushfires that devastated many parts of Australia and Brazil, the climate emergency that governments around the world refused to confront, and then there was the news out of Wuhan of a coronavirus, and the subsequent global pandemic.
As many countries have now flattened the curve, are containing the coronavirus, and returning to normal or a ‘new normal’, the time feels right to start to inspire you to travel again, in ways that are ethical, responsible and sustainable. People in places impacted by the absence of visitors during the peak of the pandemic need visitors to return.
More than ever, destinations need slow travellers, local travellers and experiential travellers. These more immersive, more engaging and more enriching forms of travel that we committed to when we conceived Grantourismo have never been more relevant or more important.
Places and the people who inhabit them need visitors who respect their cities, towns, villages, countryside, and environment that they are exploring and experiencing. They need travellers who make careful decisions about when, where and how they travel, who take time to scratch beneath the surface of places rather than rushing through, and who tread lightly and take away more than they leave behind.
Of course, we appreciate that there are still countries in crisis that haven’t yet contained the pandemic – the USA, Brazil and India to name a few – which is why we will continue to encourage you to travel locally, slowly and experientially, to explore your own backyards – whether that be your towns, cities, regions, or country.
When we post stories on Australia we’ll be publishing them on Australian time, when we share stories on Southeast Asia they’ll go up on Southeast Asian time, European stories will publish on Europe time, etc, in the interest of promoting safe, ethical and responsible travel.
Slow, Local and Experiential Travel – We’re Renewing Our Commitment
When we launched Grantourismo ten and a half years ago with our mission to inspire you all to travel more slowly, locally and experientially, that mission had evolved from a number of realisations.
The germ of an idea for Grantourismo came to us back in 2003 when we were working on one of our first Lonely Planet guidebooks, on Syria and Lebanon. We had quickly become frustrated with having to rush through places to get everything done and that the focus of guidebooks was always on places and that there weren’t opportunities to write about the people we meet in those places.
Yet it was the locals we encountered who gave us the best tips, as well as glimpses into their everyday lives and insights into their cultures. The best restaurant and bar recommendations in Beirut came from chefs and bartenders, the best advice as to how to experience archaeological sites came from an archaeologist in Damascus, the best suggestions for where to see live jazz in Istanbul came from a jazz musician.
We asked our Lonely Planet editor if we could include interviews with locals to the Syria and Lebanon book, something that wasn’t done then, and asked the same again when it came to writing the first Dubai guidebook. Local interviews became a feature of all Lonely Planet guidebooks. When it came to planning Grantourismo years later, top of the content list was our series of Local Knowledge interviews with locals in each place we settled into, from historians to designers, musicians to chefs.
And from that idea would come our focus on exploring local neighbourhoods, on shopping local markets, on seeking out local food and drink, and, combined with another realisation, a series in which Terence would learn to make the quintessential local dish of each place we settled into. That’s how the Local Travel component of Grantourismo came about.
But it wasn’t until January 2006, when we packed up our Dubai apartment and took to the road for a year – which turned into nearly eight years living out of our suitcases – that we started to dream up the year-long round-the-world grand tour project that launched this site.
We’d begun a blog called Grantourismo for a European design, retail and lifestyle site called Charles and Marie, which we continued throughout 2007. We reported on the boutique hotels we stayed at, restaurants we dined at, and cool shops, cafés and bars we discovered on our travels through Europe, the Middle East and Australia.
The best bit wasn’t just meeting locals but meeting people behind the scenes – chefs in their kitchens, winemakers in their cellars, artisans in their workshops, artists in their studios, and so on – and getting an insight into their work and lives. Those encounters made us long to linger in those places and learn more, whether it was how to cook a local dish, craft a piece of jewellery, or play a musical instrument. This was how the Experiential Travel element of the project, getting hands on and learning things, was conceived.
By 2009 we were getting frustrated with the fast pace of guidebook work. Our most treasured memories of those years were the longer periods we spent in places when we got to settle into towns and cities to write up the books – from apartments in Brussels, Krakow, Parma, and Buenos Aires to a canal house in Amsterdam, an Ottoman mansion in Antalya and a seaside villa in Kas – rather than the periods checking in and out of new hotels every day.
We were well and truly beginning to suffer from serious hotel fatigue. By the time we launched Grantourismo in 2010, we calculated that we had spent around a thousand nights in hotels over four years. Back in 2009 we were dreaming of a more unhurried style of travel that enabled us to experience places at a deeper level and at a slower pace. That’s how the project would come to be rooted in Slow Travel.
One night, while back home in Australia cooking a meal in my family’s Bendigo kitchen, after years of gestation, the Grantourismo project came to us all at once over a bottle of wine and we fleshed out the proposal the next day: a year-long grand tour of the world where we’d spend a month in each of 12 different places, staying in apartments and holiday houses, learning to live like locals; we’d meet local people, learn a little of the language, shop the local markets, learn to cook local feed, and learn to do things that locals did. We’d document it all on a blog to inspire other travellers to do the same.
While we were figuring out how to fund our project, we serendipitously connected with the marketing manager of the largest holiday rental booking site at the time, HomeAwayUK. She was looking for a writer-photographer couple to do a round-the-world-in-80-days trip. We compromised. We would spend two weeks instead of a month in each place. On New Year’s Eve 2009 we launched this site with our first blog post announcing the start of the project the next day.
The goals of that global grand tour that came from those realisations became the cornerstones of Grantourismo and the year-long 2010 grand tour that turned into a life-long project that is ten (and a half) years old – so far.
Slow, local and experiential travel are at the heart of Grantourismo, even if we haven’t gone anywhere this year and our focus has been on food. We’re still going to share recipes, don’t worry – our food posts are the most popular posts on the site and have drawn many hundreds of thousands of new visitors to Grantourismo in recent months.
But over the next six months, we’re going to post on travel and places and people again, and renew our commitment to the forms of travel that inspired us to start this sight: slow, local and experiential travel. Because as far as we’re concerned, these are the future of travel.