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COP26: Brigid Benson on how we travel

  05 Nov '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

North Coast Journey by Brigid Benson is the essential guide to the north coast of Scotland, inviting the reader off the beaten track to secret beaches, dreamy islands and magnificent mountains. Brigid’s philosophy is to slow down and savour this beautiful part of Scotland rather than rushing to ‘do’ the North Coast 500 in a matter of days. This philosophy links in with the themes of the COP26 climate conference taking place in Glasgow, where the delegates are today discussing public empowerment. While the onus is on governments and corporations to make travel more sustainable, individual actions by travelling with greater intention and a view to sustainability is also key. Brigid has recorded a message discussing her ideas about how we travel as part of our series of author content around COP26. Both the audio and text is available to enjoy below.

Brigid Benson on How We Travel

In my books and my writing, I share and celebrate my experiences of inspirational places and people that I have come to know well with the intention  of encouraging others to discover this magic for themselves.

Journeys are a fundamental part of our human experience, and it seems to me that when we travel well – with care, curiosity, and respect  -we gather a harvest of wonderful memories that become a precious treasure house in our heart.

Yet in modern life we don’t always choose traveling well, tempted instead to cram and rush, persuaded perhaps to do Edinburgh in a weekend, to do the Outer Hebrides in a week or perhaps even do the St Kilda archipelago in a day.

And so we whizz around, clocking up miles and merely skimming the surface as we go.

This ‘doing’ of places is held up sometimes as an achievement but in my experience, moving through the world like that robs us of so much.

When we hurtle from destination to destination, we might well have a zillion snaps and hours of footage to show for it, but do we feel nourished, inspired and perhaps even transformed by our experience?

Do we pause to consider the impact on our beautiful planet?

It seems to me that the way we think about a place and the way we choose to visit a place determines what we will discover.

The 13th century Persian poet and mystic, Rumi wrote, ‘Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.’ That’s a big ask. 

Yet when we travel with the intention of slowing down, we can experience the most awesome adventures. When we take the time to engage with local people and venture off the well-worn path we discover the magic of the unsung and the unexpected.

Meeting local people is always a highlight for me. Seeing a place through their eyes is amazing, the good things, the challenges, their hopes, their stories, and history, it feels a wonderful way to connect and so many times, quite out of the blue, I am completely spoiled by generous invitations and random acts of kindness and I feel so much gratitude for that.

Rumi reminds us that every place on the planet is not merely a location to be ticked off a list, it is individual and the way we choose to experience it is a precious opportunity to learn something more about ourselves too.

In modern life, many of us have fallen out of rhythm and connection with nature. We risk feeling more empty, more detached, and more disorientated than ever. Opening to being in a place, rather than doing a place, is sensuous, rewarding and life affirming.

The place enters us.

We feed our spirit when we notice the fragrance of salty seaweedy seashore air, the depth of herbs and spices that flavour a region’s special dishes, the sound of the ocean when the tide is turning, dark nights of huge starry skies, the intimate touch of rock, water, sand, petals, bark, leaves and so much more on our skin.

When we choose to experience our travels in a slow and more open way we are reminded powerfully of our deep belonging in the world. So how we travel matters profoundly and it is my hope that my writing and my books inspire slower, deeper and more life affirming connections with people and places around us.

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