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Slow travel

Editorial: Slow travel is a term I use to describe my preferred way of seeing the world. It’s about taking the time to get to know a place and its people rather than racing from one tourist site to the next. I thought I’d invented the expression but have since learned that it is part of the Slow Movement and can be traced back to 19th century travel writers.

I was raised in a family that views travel as a necessity rather than a luxury. As a child I spent every summer going across Canada to visit family and to explore this beautiful country. As I got older, my parents were longing to explore other cultures and we were soon off to Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador.

At the time, I would have preferred travelling where my friends did – California, Hawaii or even Europe – for I was often shy and uncomfortable in these ‘foreign’ environments. Then one day it dawned on me that I actually liked going to places “unlike home”.

In university I majored in International Development and spent a semester studying at the University of Havana in Cuba. Havana is where I had my first slow travel experience for I stayed there for three months, living with a local family and seeing a Cuba I would never have known had I been a typical tourist staying at a resort. After graduating from university I spent three months volunteering in Tanzania, getting to know another place and its people. Just a few months ago I returned from doing an eight month internship in rural Guatemala, a very different experience from when I’d visited the country with my family as a teenager.

Guatemala, which is the featured destination this month, is a perfect country for slow travel. The Spanish language schools there have an outstanding reputation and learning a new language takes at least a few weeks! That could be combined with some volunteer work with one of the local charities. You could always take a break and backpack in the western highlands. This is a country where you can live and travel very cheaply if that suits you. Your home base could be charming and touristy Antigua, authentic Xela, or the backpackers haven San Pedro La Laguna.

I spent my time in Guatemala in two small villages in the western highlands and memories of that experience will forever be with me.

Jessica Sunter

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