Meet Juliana Dever — a professional actor who has been exploring the world for the past 25 years — visiting over 60 countries. She’s currently working with local women to develop cultural immersion tours to Central Europe, Balkans, the Baltics and the Caucasus, and shares her travel stories on her blog Clever Dever Wherever.
We talked with Juliana to learn more about her tourism projects – watch our webinar replay for the full interview.
Juliana: When people think about slow travel, a lot of times you think of staying in one place for a while and really getting into it and exploring it. But not everybody has the luxury to do that. I am from the United States where we have very limited vacation time. It costs so much money to even get out of our own country.
What I want to emphasize is that you can have a slow travel-state of mind when going somewhere for any amount of time. What that entails is how you plan ahead and how you spend your time while you’re there.
You don’t pack your schedule so full that you don’t allow the ability for the magic to happen. Don’t insulate yourself from the communities that you’re going to. Don’t go and be an observer. Get in there, try to get below the surface and become vulnerable to a destination.
Set yourself a little task so that you can actually connect with the people there because it will be such a more meaningful experience and it will be something that you’ll remember far longer than if you just checked a couple boxes and took a couple of landscape pictures and left.
Juliana: From my perspective, it can be done anywhere. You can go to some of the most over-touristed countries in the world and still find villages where they’re not actually getting a lot of people overwhelming their resources. You can have that opportunity to support those small businesses.
Juliana Dever is also leading small group cultural immersion tours in Slovenia / Source: Facebook
I like to really put a spotlight on places that don’t get a lot of that mainstream travel attention because so many of those places want to see you. It’s a benefit for those communities as long as you’re supporting that local community, if you’re finding women-owned or local businesses. I think it’s so important to try to move away from the places that are overwhelmed and give some of the tourism dollars and some of that connection to people in other areas of the world.
I take groups in a little town in the country of Georgia, called Kutaisi. When we went to the spice market last time, a woman saw us and immediately asked us where we were from. She wanted to take photos. We were supporting her business and she was thrilled to see somebody different. So it can be such a benefit to the people that are in these regions that don’t get the spotlight. They would love to have more visitors.
Juliana: In Poland we were researching local places and found a place on Google Earth of a woman that makes cheese. We decided to actually go find her and knock on her door — and we did! Turns out she was also part of the local choir and art community. And now, we’re bringing our small tour groups to this woman’s home and helping her make a living while preserving a local heritage. She is showing us how they made cheese hundreds of years ago.
Slow travel includes exploring local traditions / Source: Facebook
That is one way visitors become more connected to the place, the area, the destination. They feel more valuable and valued. And they start telling other people about those places and experiences, and it snowballs from there.
Juliana: The human experience is what is going beyond the architecture and landscapes. It’s all about us willing to dig deeper and pull out what’s really amazing about places that don’t get the spotlight. We need to go to places that need the tourism dollar, there are amazing places that want to welcome us and we must seek to connect with those human local stories and share them.
The tourism industry can put a spotlight on smaller, lesser-known places that need us more.
Juliana: Give yourself a little assignment, something to do where you need to set yourself up to talk to people because I know sometimes it can be a little intimidating or difficult. Get a chance to get to know people, to look deeper.
Especially for us, content creators, it’s vitally important to really go further and to bring the spotlight to some of these places that really rely on tourism dollars to thrive and to move as a country.
– Thanks, Juliana for the interview!
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