Sustainable Travel Is Taking Root

01/27/2011 04:39 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Since 1986, the Slow Food Movement has successfully been providing alternatives to Fast Food. Carlo Petrini's Slow Food motto, good, clean, and fair and accompanying ethic offered an alternative model to a world that was, at the time, mindlessly consuming enormous quantities of corn syrup and supporting agribusiness. The Slow Food Movement asked us to slow down, literally and figuratively, and be more deliberate about how we buy, prepare, eat and share our food.

Slow might have started with food, but businesses as disparate as energy to travel are moving away from the uber efficient, mechanized principles of production and consumption toward an ethic of deliberate and conscientious action. This slow movement ethic is now starting to touch not only how we travel, but also where we travel, and why. Like Slow Food, Slow Travel offers an alternative to global tourism that promotes the pleasure of travel while making commitments to sustain and protect local communities and the environment.

Slow has less to do with the pace of travel than it does with the pleasure, responsibility, and stewardship we experience when we visit local farms, main streets, and artisanal food festivals.

At the heart of Slow travel is an opportunity to take more time to go a shorter distance, connect with our neighbors and learn build community. Slow travel to small farms and Main Street shops will never see the millions of visitors of Times Square, the Vegas Strip, or Disney World (3 of the most visited tourist destinations in the U.S.), but it will offer us vacation experiences that are meaningful to us precisely because they are meaningful to the communities we visit. But are hungry travelers ready for tourism that is local and fresh?

I think they are. Skyrocketing gas prices and the growing unreliability of air travel seem to be pushing us faster and faster into the world of slow. Slow travel can offer us a chance to spend a day doing farm work, exploring the Appalachian trail, or simply to taking the bike out of the garage. It could also mean that we board trains, buses, trolleys, or ferries and explore other options for public transportation. Slow indeed!

Travel writer Justin Francis, the co-founder of, suggests that we are embarking on a "new mindset in the quest for local distinctiveness." Join me for explorations in sustainable travel, back road adventures, and local festivals where we will spend much time the world within our borders as we have spent exploring the world outside of them. What better way could there be to learn about our communities, protect our natural heritage and farmland, and celebrate cherished ways of life than to slow down and be a part of it?