April 21, 2010

Taken for Granted

Inspired by the travel frustrations he witnessed this past week, BBC writer Alain de Botton wrote a column titled A world without planes. In this short article he mused about a world in which airplanes were a thing of the past. In this world, everything moved at camel pace. A world in which traveling was a transformational experience.

After reading these words, I started thinking about the two different sides of this story. First, how we take so many modern conveniences – like air travel – for granted. And then, how the speed of our lives has changed the travel experience.

It is interesting how in today's world we assume we have the ability to move about the globe at any time. It is important to remember that air travel is a luxury – and one that many individuals around the world today will never be able to experience. Therefore it is good that natural disasters (such as this recent earthquake) or political events (such as the political protests that shutdown the Bangkok airport in 2008) occur to remind us we do not always need to be on the move.

The pace of modern travel has changed the travel experience. Yes, we are able to visit more destinations over our lifetimes and experience the many cultures and contrasts the world has to offer, but has something been lost along the way? Before air travel, the journey was a large part of the travel experience. Now, we can board an airplane at our home airport after dinner and be on another continent by morning. The experience of that journey for most is a less than comfortable night's sleep crammed into an economy seat and for others it is enough time to read a book from cover to cover. But, the oceans or land that pass below us – for the most part – goes unnoticed.

That said, I am thankful to have the luxury of air travel and the ability to visit to many different places around the globe. Perhaps I miss some of the sights and experiences of a slower journey, but there are two many destinations unexplored for me to opt for slower conveyance.

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