What is ST? Many may wonder, not having heard this term mentioned before. It isn’t hard to explain because it is a fervid laboratory of ideas, ways of living, of being together. A movement which wants people to get walking, not only in nature, but also with and toward others, while experimenting alternative ideas and ways of being.
Tourism is one of the biggest industries on the planet, in terms of money and movement of people. Therefore in the context of sustainability and degrowth, influencing these numbers, even if only marginally, can be important to help society change.
Walking is easily one of the simplest and most practical options to support sustainability.
There are many associations and businesses which are active in trekking and excursions. But usually the reason for walking is to seek contact with nature which many people have lost in city life. There is however another important aspect which treks on offer often neglect: the meeting of others, through the time shared with whom is walking alongside you, and the exploring of local or distant peoples and cultures.
This is where Social Trekking comes in, by uniting the two needs which modern man wishes most to satisfy: human contact and re-embracing Nature.
It is a paradox that many seek to satisfy these needs in the most remote corners of the earth, among peoples who perhaps resent intrusions, or in places so fragile they would best be left alone, or which should be visited only by the most motivated and resilient traveller, and not by the casual tourist encouraged only by a voracious consumer society.
Proximity tourism, environmentally sustainable facilities and supporting local economies, these are the strengths of our proposals, and where we invest our efforts in screening and designing our journeys to be as rich of these characteristics as possible.
Our itineraries always begin from places which can be reached by public transport: train, bus or ferries. For example, to travel to Romania, we can choose to take a bus which takes workers and carers back home. Already such a trip is good preparation for the days ahead. To reach Greece, we take our place on the deck of the ferry and are already adapting to the bivouacs ahead. When possible we try to coordinate participants so that they may share a private form of transport.
Even in the choice of the facilities we seek out those who are attentive to certain values, such as organic farming or the use of local and seasonal foods, renewable energy, and who support solidarity economies.
We try to select and support facilities managed by persons who have made often courageous life choices, perhaps in counter current to the dominant model and who doggedly struggle to bring solidarity projects and sustainable development to life and who are, in general, attracted to an alternative way of community.
Two examples come to mind which we are promoting, very different but sharing a similar theme: Migrant walks and Wandering paths.
Migrant walks are proposals to walk inside our great cities to discover the wealth of the dozens of peoples who live amongst us. Wandering paths are journeys without a precise geographical itinerary and destination, but where the path is determined exclusively by the hospitality offered by friends and acquaintances as the journey takes shape. Both proposals could be considered extreme, but both are characterised by meeting and sharing.
Even choosing such facilities for only one night or even one meal leads to a meeting and enrichment of those who are passing through and those who stay but, most importantly, an opportunity has been created for a seed to be sown which will, hopefully, one day bear fruit.
We believe it is crucial to give space and visibility to all these forces, to the energies that only need a catalyst to take shape. Our Social Trekking project is taking form on our blog, where we discuss issues also unrelated to trekking. We welcome contributions to more general themes which will enliven and deepen the conversation and amplify the agents for societal change.
Walking together can truly be a small revolutionary act which can change society.