Modern McTravel an exercise in escapism
You are heading for a rendezvous with an old school friend - a celebration in the destination of her choosing. You know the name of the city you’re landing in, but it’s not until the cabin crew are told to prepare for landing that you realise you do not actually know the name of the nation you are descending into.
You recall that there was a time when you would carefully select, and then devour, real paper guidebooks for months prior to an international departure. What happened?
Then you realise that there is no relevant comparison. The person that read the guidebooks was a tourist - seeking immersion in something new. The person who will need to Google the name of the nation we are landing in is an escapee – seeking extraction from something known.
So it seems travel can evolve from tourism to escapism, but that is not the only thing that would lead someone to board an international flight in such a bubble of ignorance. The other reason is that travel has been redefined. Last century you needed a guidebook to navigate the new. Now you need a damn good guidebook to have any chance of finding the new.
The mass of modern travelers are like pinballs; we bounce from a full English breakfast, to an ATM, to a Wi-Fi hotspot, to a store purveying global fashions and then roll back to our lodgings in a taxi driven by a Muslim playing the US top 40. When foreign accommodation advertises “all the comforts of home”, they really mean it.
But if at any point some part of your travel experience seems, well, foreign, you can always seek clarification from a local, in English.
This is not to deny the existence of the genuinely intrepid traveler. There are people causing peals of happy laughter as they endeavour to express themselves in the local language; travelers eating parts of animals that seem more familiar from biology than home economics; and people actually sending things called postcards home because they have travelled beyond Wi-Fi, but for the most part these people are on cable tv.
To be fair though it is not all a hymn to homogenisation. But perhaps, increasingly, the delight is in the details. On my last overseas trip the greatest travel pleasure came from flowers, fruits and frogs.
Seeing profusions of flowers too exotic, and therefore expensive, to be displayed en masse back at home. Being presented with fruits that I had never experienced before, and which could thus produce that increasingly elusive state of wonder.
And then there was the frog. Looking down in an immaculate backyard to see a frog a mere inch from my foot. How fast and smart are they anyway? I had never had cause to wonder until now.
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