As I write this, I’m sitting on the terrace of my apartment in New Delhi. The weak winter sun is leaving the terrace now, and there is a noticeable chill in the air (though not as noticeable as it was a few weeks ago – soon the heat will be back). I’ve been thinking for some reason about one of my favourite landscapes – a place of, at least to my mind, extraordinary beauty, people very committed to their area and rich biological diversity sitting side-by-side farming landscapes.
I’m in reflective mode and its taken a little time for me to understand why specifically this should be the case. I think it’s the parrots, sitting in the trees just across from my terrace. It’s not the specific species, just the fact that there are parrots in the trees. This favourite landscape of mine has lot’s of parrots – they’re one of my first memories of it, back when I was a kid travelling around with my father who would visit for his work. And now, after more than 40 years and countless visits of my own, it is very deeply etched into my memories, my work, my life and my sense of identity.
The landscape I’m thinking about is one where I’ve camped, cycled, walked, canoed, photographed, worked with communities in planning sustainable futures, and all kinds of things. I’ve been there on my own, with friends, with students, with colleagues, with family.
These connections are multi-layered. They are partly framed by my values and ethics (and in turn the landscape actually frames them), partly by memories of sights, sounds, meetings, discussions, sunrises, moon-rises, chill in the air in autumn, cold in the air in winter, heat in the air in summer and who knows what else.
For me, local slow travel is ultimately about these multiple connections to landscapes and their people. These don’t have to be (and don’t need to be) developed over X years of visiting – they can be developed through a slow trip through a landscape. What is important is we are open to these connections, these multiple points of being part of a landscape. It is a state of mind, an ethical framework, and a value-base and they come together in a landscape.
How often do we hear people implore travelers to ‘keep their mind open’ for experiences. But for me, the important thing is how we actually interpret and reflect on these experiences, not just ‘experience’ them. Without this reflection, we just superficially experience – we grab yet some more experiences and they become part of our travelling life. But they don’t have the depth of connection and interpretation that is only possible as we move towards our own approach and interpretation of local, slow travel.
So as I sit here on the terrace, a little chillier now, the parrots represent my ‘now’, but they also represent my connection to a landscape on the other side of the world. We don’t have to be in the landscape to remember it, we just need to be able to feel its connections with us. And when we feel this, that landscape has become an important part of us, and we have actively engaged with it, in our own way. And it’s a nice feeling.