Wandering through the streets of a city, meeting people, taking in the atmosphere and taking it slow – isn’t that the essence of travel? Rest, relax, recharge your batteries – that’s what we want when we go on holiday… but are we really doing it?

“The idea of ​​vacation is the desire to take a break and escape from the busy pace of everyday life,” says Jean-Michel Dufour, the book’s author. A year abroad He is also the founder of the travel-focused website Siège Hublot.

But he believes we need to make choices, settle somewhere, accept not seeing everything, visiting everything, do less and do it better, and take our time to live. “The purpose of a vacation is to rest. Everyone is tired, stressed and overworked, so we should prioritise quality over quantity and take the time to discover new landscapes, encounter their inhabitants, their culture and gastronomy,” he says.

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He points to the popularity of Airbnb and house and apartment rentals, which stems precisely from a desire for greater authenticity and to stay longer, sometimes in the most touristy parts of a city.

Marc-Antoine Vachon, chairman of UQAM’s tourism department, Transat, recalls that tourism was slow (Slow travel) first appeared around 1999, and the phenomenon of wanting to travel at a leisurely pace has grown in recent years.

Staying in the same place for a long time has social and environmental responsibility. We prefer active forms of transport such as cycling and walking, but it takes some travelling experience to realise the positive effects of this slow tourism.

Marc-Antoine Vachon, Transat Chair of Tourism at UQAM

Because when we start traveling, we often think it’s important to see as many places as possible. But as we gain more experience, we realize that memories are just as important as encounters. “The ageing of the population plays an important role,” he emphasizes. The older we get, the more we search for the meaning of life and the more we want to slow down and enjoy the things of life more. »

This was the case of Jean-Michel Dufour, who stayed there for a year in 2018. He settled mainly in three cities: Chiang Mai in Thailand, Mazatlán in Mexico and Da Nang in Vietnam. “There was a lot of reflection about a life that has passed too soon and questions related to 50 years. It feels very good to leave my everyday life and my comfort zone. But I understand that not everyone can afford to take this year off because of work, financial worries and children,” he says.

Many people, like author Elizabeth Gilbert, dream of going away for a year. Eat, pray, love (eat, pray, love)or even Peter Mayle, A year in Provence“I would like to try this experience again, perhaps settling in a French city for a year this time,” confides Jean-Michel Dufour.

He’s an advocate of discovering lesser-known cities that add value, because staying a little longer in a city with fewer tourists makes the experience more comfortable and authentic, he says.

In Italy, a country that suffers from overtourism, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice in high season is unpleasant. Genoa, Turin, Pavia and Verona may be better. In Spain, you can explore cities such as Valencia and Malaga. In France, Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux and Strasbourg. But not just Paris!

Jean-Michel Dufour

He lists Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, the Dutch city of Rotterdam and Hamburg in Germany as less visited countries.

Lyon has it all

Lyon is one of those cities that deserves attention. Virginie Carton, general director of ONLYLYON Tourism and Congress, wants travelers to stay longer in Lyon. Currently the average stay is 3.5 nights. She would prefer 5-6 nights. “We offer more possibilities throughout the destination,” she said in an interview. We are working in partnership with neighboring towns such as Beaujolais, which has gastronomy, culture and is known for its wine. It is a wonderful territory dotted with small villages with beautiful views and can be reached by train. »

You can also explore the entire Rhône Valley, Lake Annecy and even the Alps, adds the person who shows how Lyon, a city on a human scale, has developed responsible tourism: “Our public transport network is very efficient. We also have many safe cycle paths, the Accueil Vélo label for hotels and restaurants and the Lyon City Card, which gives you discounts at many tourist attractions and on public transport. »

Marc-Antoine Vachon points out that off-season travel is also on the rise in certain countries to avoid crowds and the intense summer heat: “This is an increasingly popular option, not least for economic reasons, but also because it allows you to experience something closer to the daily life of the inhabitants, seeking greater authenticity and interaction.”

The two initiatives by ONLYLYON Tourism and Congress demonstrate the city’s commitment to slow, responsible tourism that caters to city residents.

Greater Lyon’s “greeters” offer to spend a few hours together, sharing their favourite addresses and their favourite parts of the city. “These are Lyon residents who volunteer to give you one or two hours of their time for a free walk around the city. We have a community of around 70 volunteers who show you their little corners of Lyon and their favourite addresses. It’s a great way to meet locals,” explains Virginie Carton.

“Lyon is a responsible destination. We promote the use of water bottles. We identify on a map all the places with public fountains, cafes, restaurants, shops and museums where visitors can fill their water bottles,” explains Virginie Carton.