Rural Explorer provides narratives for travel companies to increase the allure of local travel in Southeast Finland. The central goal of the project is to diversify the cultural travel options of the region by creating stories about local sites and destinations.
For travelers, Rural Explorer offers an opportunity to veer from the beaten path, to discover exciting locations and their history. Simultaneously, the project bolsters the identity of Southeast Finland, South Karelia, and the Kymenlaakso regions.
Some of the central activities of the Rural Explorer project have included the collecting of suitable material for the stories, editing said material to a user-friendly form, and encouraging local travel companies and organizations to utilize the stories in their products and services.
In addition to written material, the stories of Rural Explorer have also inspired the creation of videos, photography animations, graphics, and songs.
The material for the Rural Explorer stories were collected from various archives, regional publications, news articles, travel entrepreneurs, and interviews. There are 51 stories in total, a great deal of which were written by Humak lecturer Pekka Vartiainen.
Some of the stories were produced by the entrepreneurs and other actors who participated in a storytelling workshop organized by the Rural Explorer staff.
The stories have been presented on weekly newsletters, social media, and at travel seminars. Project manager Juha Iso-Aho says that the stories have worked exactly as hoped. People have been enthusiastic about the opportunity to delve into the history of the travel sites.
The stories offer a new dimension to how people experience these places. Even if a travel site is already an impressive sight, a story can provide it with a new layer of human experience. The stories also help people understand the significance of places that are not immediately appealing visually, Juha Iso-Aho says.
The Rural Explorer stories have been published as a travel guide to Southeast Finland titled River of Stories, which contains all the stories in Finnish and in English. There is also a comic book that is inspired by a bank robbery in 1920s South Karelia (in Finnish).
Besides the book releases, Rural Explorer stories are available on YouTube.
– We hope that the guide book and stories will inspire travel entrepreneurs to utilize the rich narrative tradition of their region in their services. It would also be wonderful if more travelers would continue to discover and learn about these less familiar travel sites, Juha Iso-Aho says.