Editor’s Note: In 2010 Viator contributors and travel writers Lara Dunston and Terence Carter are embarking on a contemporary grand tour: 24 destinations in 12 months! They are doing this with the support of HomeAway Holiday-Rentals and, of course, Viator.com.
We are pleased to provide Lara and Terrry with unique local tours and experiences. They’ll be travelling slowly, living like locals, doing and learning things, and giving something back at each destination they visit. Along the way Lara and Terry will share their experiences at their website Grantourismo and here on the Viator Travel Blog.
For Lara and Terence, ‘grantourismo’ or ‘grand touring’ is the style of traveling they’ve been practicing since 2006, when, with a slew of guidebooks and travel articles under their belts and a year’s worth of commissions lined up, the husband-and-wife writer and photographer team embarked on a one-year travel experiment. Putting their worldly possessions into storage in Dubai, Lara and Terence took to the road to live out of their suitcases so they could bounce around the planet from project to project.
Following one-too-many offers that were all too good to refuse – from researching spas in Thailand to writing a book on Buenos Aires – the couple were still on the road four years later when Lara responded to a media alert from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals seeking travel writers for an exciting project. The rest is Grantourismo history!
To kick things off, we’ve asked Lara and Terry to inspire us to join them (even from our armchairs) on this amazing year-long journey. They’ve kindly responded with “12 Reasons You Should Come Grand Touring”…
1. We’re travelling round the world…
Just like travellers did on the original Grand Tour we’ll be taking in much of Europe – and we’ll be learning stuff, too. We’ll be painting, making music, learning languages, learning to cook local food, and trying our hand at everything from boules to badminton, flamenco to surfing – in such diverse places as Africa, Asia, North, Central and South America. We’ll also be doing tours (provided by Viator – thanks!) that help us to hit the ground running and give us an insight into the place. And along the way we’ll be writing, making still and moving pictures, and having as much fun as possible.
2. We’re exploring more authentic and enriching ways to travel
The dirty secret of guidebook writing (and we’ve written far too many) is that unless you’re writing about where you live or a place you know really well, you’re always compromised for time. Sure, no one is going to listen to travel writers moan, but we’re just glad we won’t be mice on that treadmill this year. Our aim is to slow down (see #4), learn and do things (see #1), live as much like locals as possible (that’ll be #5), and give something back to the places we visit (#9).
3. We’re swapping hotel rooms for holiday homes
We love a good hotel. We adore the luxury and attentive service of a five-star, the charm and character of a boutique place, and the chance to unwind at a laidback beach resort. But we’ve checked into over a thousand hotel rooms around the world during the last four years and staying in hotels is no way to get to know a place.
But we’re no holiday home virgins either. While working on projects in Antwerp, Brussels, Amsterdam, Krakov, Buenos Aires, Milan, Darwin, Alice Springs, Adelaide, Perth, and Palma de Mallorca, we’ve rented properties – everything from a rustic old city apartment in Palma to a breezy tropical garden villa in Darwin. And we don’t think we’ve ever stayed in a rental property where we’ve woken up in the morning and couldn’t figure out what city we’re in…
4. We’ll be taking it slowly and travelling more sustainably
Starting in February, for the next 12 months, we’ll be taking in 24 destinations, two weeks at a time. This is no “if it’s Tuesday it must Barcelona”-style jaunt.
By travelling more slowly, travellers are also travelling more sustainably because they’re contributing more to local economies. From taking the time to discover local markets and small neighbourhood businesses to shop at instead of the first tourist traps spotted on the street because you’re short of time, to choosing to buy and cook local produce instead of expensive imported products.
Not only is this kind of slow travel more sustainable, travellers are also able to get a better idea of how locals really live – and to us that’s one of the most important things about travelling…
5. We’ll be living like locals
Whether it’s the regular exchange of greetings with neighbours in the corridor or small talk each day with the owner of the corner grocery shop that develops into meaningful conversation, there’s a sense of community to be tasted from such little interactions and special insights into places and their people that can rarely be experienced when staying at a hotel. Our aim this year is going to be to identify the most ‘local’ places we can uncover, from the bars, cafés and bistros locals frequent to the markets where they do their shopping.
We’ll not only share these with you, but we’ll welcome your own tips. Bring them on!
6. We won’t be lying on a beach…
Not unless it’s on a surfboard for a surfing lesson of course! Like the original grand tourists, we’ll be undertaking a more experiential style of extended travel. Terence has a passion for cooking and there are still a few musical instruments he hasn’t yet
dishonoured mastered. Lara has dabbled in everything from bellydancing to badminton.
We love this kind of travel and have tried our hands at plenty of diverse activities from learning how to train elephants in Thailand to playing ‘Master Chef’ in a Michelin-starred restaurant kitchen in Mallorca.
At each place we visit, we’re also going to try to learn some of the language basics, and learn at least one skill unique to the place we’re visiting. All ideas welcome!
7. There will be lots of food…
We love to cook. We live to eat. So at each destination we visit, Terry will be choosing a local dish to master, perfecting it (hopefully!) during the stay, and attempting to get a nod of approval for his version from a local food authority.
Local dishes generally use seasonal regional products so wherever we are we’ll be cooking with those, reporting back, and also seeking your input.
8. There will be people to meet… with secrets to share
Some of our most treasured memories of travel over the past 15 years have been because of the people we’ve met. Insights into the local culture, politics, and history, as well as insider tips to the local bars and restaurants have made all our trips more enriching. Chefs, musicians, artists, politicians and local scene-makers have all been the subjects of our photography and writing, and they always come through with the best recommendations. On this yearlong trip locals are going to be integral to how we explore our destinations.
Put it this way: you’re not going to find 24 guidebooks weighing down our bags!
9. We’re giving something back
And we want to show you how you can too. Voluntourism – that is, travel that involves a volunteer experience of some kind, from teaching English to counting turtles – has been on the rise. We’d not only like to see more of it, but we want to join in too. Problem is we’re a tad busy this year and we know you are, too.
Most volunteer experiences require a commitment of six weeks, six months, even a year. But we appreciate that not everyone has that kind of time on their hands, yet they still want to contribute something to the places from which they take so much away when they travel. So we’re on a mission to find short volunteer experiences that people can do when they travel – anything from a day to a week – and we’re going to tell you how you can go about voluntouring.
10. We want some company
Travelling alone isn’t much fun, so we’ve created a space so you can come along for the ride. It’s a pretty blog called Grantourismo, where we’ll be posting frequently about our experiences, and already we’ve had some nice people dropping by to say hi.
Naturally we’ll also be Twittering along the way here. And so you don’t miss out on a single adventure, why not subscribe by email or RSS, and join our growing little community on Google Connect.
11. We’re giving away free travel stuff
Every month we’ll be running competitions on the blog and the winning entries will be posted on Grantourismo for all the world to see and read. There’ll be a travel writing contest and a photography contest that anyone can enter. There will also be a travel blogging contest that is open to those of you who have been running a travel blog for at least six months.
We’ll be releasing more details at the end of January, but every month there’ll be loads of great prizes for the winners, including cameras, iPods, travel books and CDs, ‘walking seminars’ by Context, holidays provided by HomeAway, and – da-dah! – tours courtesy of Viator.
12. We’re living our dream… we’re hoping it inspires you to do the same!
We started dreaming up this trip a couple of years ago… our original idea was to embark upon a year-long trip involving one month in each destination within which time we would attempt to learn as much of the language that we could and a number of skills unique to the place – and write a book about the experience.
Our problem was how to fund it.
The way we’ve travelled these last four years has been on commissions – for guidebooks, newspapers, and magazines – travelling to wherever we’ve been sent. But who would send us around the world on a grand tour, we wondered… The fact that HomeAway Holiday Rentals had a similar idea and was looking for writers was serendipitous. We hope the project not only inspires you to travel, but we hope it motivates you to pursue your own travel dreams.
-Lara Dunston & Terence Carter