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The essential site for discovering Belgium by bike

Do you know slow travel? This way of traveling is about enjoying the journey, not just the destination. On foot, by bike but also by train, the goal is to discover the landscapes that surround us. Each step becomes an integral part of the journey. This way of traveling is considered more sustainable: it is geared towards the local economy and allows you to create links with the people you meet on the road.

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If the adventure tempts many people each year, it is sometimes difficult to organize a trip of this type alone. Dries Van Ransbeeck and Manon Brulard have created Slowby, a platform that will help you organize everything. The co-founder explains the concept to us.

Slowby, what is it?

It all started with another project: Welcome To My Garden, the aim of which was to allow people to stay in other people’s gardens. After two years on this project, Dries Van Ransbeeck and Manon Brulard realized that other things could get stuck in slow travel. “Starting to travel slowly, for the first time, is quite complicated. There is a lot of information to take into account: which train to take, which route to take, where are we going to sleep, where are we going to eat, what do we want see, etc How complicated, a lot of people don’t start“, explains Manon Brulard. However, for the founders, slow travel is very important: “This makes it possible to avoid the 20% of tourist places, and to go to the 80% that could be considered as non-touristy. The goal is to create an impact on the local economy and on climate change. There are still 5% of CO2 emissions that come from tourism, which is huge. It is mainly because of the plane and the car. We must transition to more respectful tourism“, continues the co-founder.

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This is where the idea of ​​creating Slowby came from. “We organize secret bike trips, from 2 to 10 days, in Belgium“, continues the co-founder, “we create itineraries based on the interests and profiles of travelers“. Slowby, from the contraction between “slow travel” and seeing things “along the road” (understand “by” in English), aims “to bring people closer to nature, to hidden places in which we would not usually stop“, continues Manon Brulard, “we choose places that are not necessarily interesting as a destination, but which are incredible to see along the way“.

How it works ?

To go on a slow travel by bike in Belgium, just go to their website, click on the “Create your secret trip” tab, answer a few questions and you’re done. These questions relate to the interests of the traveler, the type of bicycle he has and the number of kilometers he wishes to do per day.

With all this information, Manon Brulard and Dries Van Ransbeeck create the appropriate itinerary: “We start by contextualizing the project, according to what the travelers ask for, then we create a roadbook with the points of interest that they can see on the way. We see if there are playgrounds for children, a bike shop in case of a problem, etc. To create the route, we check absolutely everything. We mix a lot of sources. We did Brussels-Tokyo by bike in 2019, we know a lot about it [rires]“.

The traveler receives a checklist with all the information to prepare for the trip. Three days before the departure date, he receives the itinerary for the first day. This first journey always begins with the station closest to the place of residence. “Then, each evening, when the traveler arrives at his ambassador, he receives the itinerary for the next day“, continues Manon Brulard. The ambassadors are some 250 gardens in Belgium in which slow travelers can stop for the night.

Is it accessible to everyone?

According to the founders, the main positive point of the project is that the route is created solely according to the desires and needs of the traveler. “It is the travelers who create their journey and we put it into action“, explains Manon Brulard, “if the traveler wants to travel 30 kilometers a day, wanting to stop to read his book near the water, we organize a really slow trip for him. Others have already asked us for 140 kilometers per day. It is adapted to what the person is looking for, and only to that. The goal being that the love for slow travel only grows [rires] and that the traveler continues to do so”. From great athletes to families looking for adventure, everyone should therefore be able to find what they are looking for, provided they have a bike.

How much does it cost, and what is the price for?

Of course, all of this has a cost. Count 35€ per adult, per day and 15€ per child, per day as well. But, for the founders, it was unthinkable not to finance projects with this money. “Slowby is based on the idea of ​​regenerative tourism. In the price, per night spent with an ambassador, €5 goes back to a positive impact fund. Concretely, at the end of the year, the ambassadors will be able to choose between three projects and reinvest their money to support one of them.“, explains the co-founder, “it is the idea that with this type of tourism, in addition to not creating a negative impact, it creates an additional positive impact“.

What future for the project?

Currently, Slowby only offers bike rides, Belgium and garden accommodation. “We want to offer indoor accommodation and offer hiking. We would also like to leave Belgium. In December and January, cycling in Belgium is complicated. In Italy, it’s quite doable but, when you don’t know it, it can be difficult to make combinations between trains and bike paths to get there. We have that expertise. So we can really help future travelers“, ends Manon Brulard.

If you want to try the adventure, go to the Slowby website.

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