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When we travel ‘slowly’ the journey becomes as important as the destination

21 February 2023

Why do we travel? Is it to learn more about other people and places? To explore new cultures and cuisines? Today, there are more ways to travel than ever before. In our fast-paced world, people are often focused on ticking destinations off a list, instead of slowing down and enjoying the journey. ‘Slow travel’ is a movement pushing back against the idea that “more” is better and “faster” is always fun.

Like the Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy in the 1980s as a way to protect local cuisine and traditional farming and cooking methods, Slow Travel underlines connection to people and places, and rejects the ‘fast life’.

Slow travel, and tourism, encourages people to take their time while exploring local heritage and history, and to keep an eye on how their travel and activities impact the local community and the environment.

Sustainable and active mobility is an important part of slow travel because it helps to reduce emissions and save energy. This could mean choosing to take the train for several hours to your destination of choice, instead of opting for a one-hour flight. Or it could mean planning a bike trip to a nearby town or heritage site, instead of renting a car.

In addition to saving energy and helping to reduce transport related emissions, travelling sustainably can also add to the travel experience: just take a look at these six train routes across some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, including the German Rhineland, the Swiss and Italian Alps, Ireland’s Golden Vale and the Tarn Valley in France. All of these trips can be taken with an Interrail pass. When you travel ‘slowly’ the journey becomes as important as the destination.

Of course, it is not always possible to choose public transport or active mobility modes to arrive at your destination. However, slow travel is also about mindset. It can be practised once you arrive at your destination - by choosing to travel sustainably to local sites and restaurants and to support local businesses - and encourages you to live in the moment, while reflecting on how and why you travel.

Some tourist destinations are starting to support ‘slow travellers’ by making it easier to make sustainable travel choices. For example, Destination nature is a programme offered to visitors of the Swiss National Park and surrounding areas. The programme creates, and promotes, travel packages with attractive public transport prices. There are also many innovative, flexible and sustainable mobility options on site to support travellers as their plans develop.

So, the next time you’re thinking about travel, ask yourself: why do I want to go here? How do I want to get there? What impact am I leaving behind? If you ask yourself these questions, then you may begin to see how slow travel can help you get the most out of your experience, while leaving less behind.

Clean, intelligent and sustainable transport solutions are needed to achieve Europe’s climate ambitions

8 February 2023

Transport is responsible for 24% of global carbon emissions and is the only economic sector in which the number of emissions continues to rise. In Europe, 77% of all transport-related emissions come from road transport. Switching to sustainable mobility solutions – such as public transport, walking and cycling - presents a key opportunity to reduce emissions, decrease pollution and improve quality of life for all.

Authorities at the local, regional, national and international levels are largely responsible for creating the proper conditions and incentives for sustainable mobility, while people have the power to make sustainable mobility choices. In order to achieve Europe’s ambitious goal to become carbon neutral by 2050, and to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, towns, cities, businesses and organisations need to focus on developing and implementing clean, intelligent and accessible transport solutions.

Alongside investments in green transport infrastructure, and the provision of a cohesive legislative framework and incentives, society needs to see decisive changes in behaviour. Currently, one third of cars sold in Europe are sports utility vehicles (SUVs). There are now 200 million SUVs around the world, which represents a 60% increase in the global car fleet since 2010, according to the IEA. A cultural shift is necessary; one that prioritises sustainable transport - including trains, trams and buses - and favours active mobility choices - like cycling and walking - which have been shown to improve physical and mental well-being.

Fortunately, many Europeans are already demonstrating their support for more sustainable transport. A recent survey conducted by the European Investment Bank shows that 64% of Europeans are willing to make the switch from cars to public transport based on environmental concerns. Eastern Europe in particular stands out for its high use of public transport.

In addition to people voicing their approval for greener transport, many towns, cities and countries offer proven innovative solutions that can be replicated in similar contexts throughout Europe. For example, Barcelona (Spain) is prioritising pedestrians with its ‘Superblocks’ plan to turn 1 out of every 3 streets in the city into a green street with more space for people to meet and interact, and to reduce traffic. By 2024, the city hopes to see 80% of trips taken by foot, bike or public transport and it is already noticing a significant reduction in air and noise pollution in existing superblocks.

In Austria, citizens are now able to purchase a ‘Klimaticket,’ which is a yearly ticket that includes all travel by bus, train, tram and other state-run transport. With this ticket, Austria hopes to reduce its CO2 emissions and make sustainable transport more accessible and affordable.

Meanwhile, across Europe, new night trains - from Brussels to Berlin, Warsaw to Prague, Zagreb to Zurich and more - offer a more sustainable alternative for those who need to travel greater distances. Citizen initiatives and businesses – like the MOBILITYACTIONs 30 Bologna and Solar City Cars - are also supporting the switch to sustainable travel by addressing city traffic and road transport.

As demonstrated by the nearly 3.000 EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK participants in 2022, many towns, cities, organisations and people are taking steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, to meet our climate ambitions, an even greater shift to sustainable transport options, such as public transport, walking and cycling, is needed. A greener Europe, and a Europe with fewer emissions and less pollution, depends on the implementation of clean, intelligent and sustainable transport solutions.

Learn more about the EUROPEANMOBILITYWEEK campaign and how towns and cities are taking action by raising awareness on sustainable mobility and introducing new permanent infrastructure.