Travel’s Changing Face
A part of me wants to sit at home, to read books, to walk down the road enjoying the trees, the geese, the deer, or even work in the garden. Another part of me longs to see more of the world, to see the hills of Florence, walk the dusty streets of Cairo, to laze upon the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, to ski in Stockholm.
I did not always want to travel. When I was a boy, I hated being cooped up in a car. Any trip seemed like eternity. I did not understand distances and I could not picture where we were going. I understood that it was 60 feet to first base (at little league distances), I could cast about twenty feet, and the prettiest girl in school was about four feet tall. I understood these distances. But how far was four hours, or six hours (that was a lot of trips around the base paths)? I knew where the best patch of forest was and where the deepest part of the river was. And the best vacation came during summer when the field days came to town. I did not need anything more, or want it.
I changed my mind about traveling when I was seventeen. My friends were going to Ireland with the International Club and I did not want to be left behind. Even though I wasn’t sure about foreign countries, I did not want to be the only one not going.
I still find it awesome that such poor intentions resulted in such a desperate passion. In that, I am much like other travelers I have met. One taste of traveling, and the longing to go again will always come back.
It used to be that traveling overseas was a luxury. Only the affluent could afford it. It was almost a symbol of status, a rite of passage for those in higher circles. But the internet and a burgeoning current of society that valued travel changed that.
So many sites offer travel discounts, cheap airfare, and lush accommodations. It is so easy to see a hundred destinations, the sights of that particular city or geographical area, the hotels, all of which get you interested in traveling there. And then it is easy to book them with a click of a button.
I remember traveling when you had to call a hundred hostels just find one that had a spare cot, learn Spanish and German just to find out the best place to eat or how to get to that famous UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traveling became easy and affordable and the wealth of pictures and video of exotic locales and charming hosts propelled people into the skies and across the seas. It was not uncommon to meet someone who was an avid traveler and more often than not could regale you with tales of their experience in Prague or Beijing just like you had experienced (and sometimes nothing like you experienced).
Gas prices have affected that culture. So did September 11th and the radical changes that took place in air travel in the proceeding days. Flights were cancelled, airlines collapsed, pilots began retiring, security and efficiency became more important than the experience.
Remember when air travel was considered an experience itself?
Unfortunately, these days, if you do book a flight, even one within the United States, there are bound to be delays. Quarters are cramped (too often you know exactly what the person next to you ate for breakfast and get into that strange bear mating ritual when they have to use the bathroom as you half-stand and they squiggle past you right when the plane hits a pocket of turbulence and before you know it you’re both sitting in the same seat) and there is now an extra charge for bringing on luggage.
These inconveniences will not deter the most determined of travelers or those like me who have it in our blood. But it might deter a brand new generation of travelers—people who have the desire hidden inside and do not know it.
© Seth Crossman