Slow travel gives you the luxury of time to experience and understand new cultures. Studies show that travel increases understanding and empathy towards other cultures. It allows us to see the connections between cultures that let us understand our similarities and differences.
In Canada we are an individualistic culture, taking pride in being self-reliant and making our own way in life. Many other cultures in Asia, Africa and South America are collective, where group thinking and decision making are shared. Both cultural groups look at the world in very different ways. Developing cultural understanding creates empathy and compassion towards people of other cultures.
Cultures around the world have developed different food recipes over the millenniums. European food staples included meat, dairy and grain that were baked and roasted using slow burning long lasting wood and coal. In Asian countries the primary food staples were delicate plants and the available fuel burned fast and hot allowing rapid cooking in woks.
From cooking foie gras at the Cordon Bleu in Paris to cooking Cao Lau with Ms. Vy in Hoi An one realizes that food is a foundation of culture. Taking cooking classes in different cultures helps me better appreciate and understand the culture we are visiting.
Understanding is also geographical. We live where we can see the Northern Lights and people come from around the world to experience them. The southeastern coast of France in the Mediterranean Sea is famous for its beautiful blue azure colour and is an important part of their lives. One day just after sunrise I was strolling along the beach when the sky, land and the sea was completely flooded in this remarkable blue colour. For a few minutes, I was completely surrounded walking through this remarkable monochrome azure world.
On the West coast of Baja California, Mexico is Magdelena Bay where Grey Whales go to give birth and nurse their calves in January and February. These wild gentle giants push their young up to human visitors to be stroked and petted. It is the most remarkable thing. You feel the intelligence and loving manner of these remarkable neighbours. The local population lives in harmony with these beautiful whales.
It is an astonishing and life changing experience. Whether living in the freezing Arctic or the steamy jungles of the Amazon, cultures have adapted and thrived in their geographical surroundings.
Throughout the world there are organizations that encourage mutual understanding between people of different cultures. Organizations like Servas that promotes peace through friendship and shared experiences. Servas is a worldwide organization with 15,000 members in 100 countries that open their doors to travellers to share experiences with each other so they can better understand the beliefs and values of people living in that region.
Locally, slow travel can lead to an understanding of Indigenous peoples and what reconciliation means. Indigenous people’s main belief is being one with the land where all living things are equal and precious. There are a number of websites in BC and Alberta that feature Indigenous experiences like paddling canoes from Sicamous to Kamloops or hiking ancient Indigenous trading trails. These slow travel experiences give you an appreciation of Indigenous activities before modern times. You have time to gain some understanding of the life lost by the Indigenous people.
Slow, thoughtful travel increases the understanding of other people. How we are the same and how we are different in so many wonderful and spectacular ways. Travelling in this way can help create
a global community that encourages peace and connectivity through mutual understanding.