What’s your favourite travel destination? Is it climbing the Himalayas? How about the Grand Canyon or The Great Barrier Reef? If you prefer cities, do you go crazy for New York, or get dewy-eyed when you picture Paris? Perhaps you’re like me and you want to go somewhere different. Or maybe you just don’t like travelling.
Frankly, the idea that travel is always able to offer up endless opportunities for growth has started to strike me as totally bogus. Yet, for all the frequent disappointments of travel, it seems we can’t get enough of it. Although travel agents are no longer providing a useful service, these days anyone can become their own travel agent by using Google. Whilst the hotel business is suffering, the likes of Airbnb are turning the rules of hospitality upside down. The biggest change to airports has been the amount of low-cost airlines which have surely doubled the amount of flights, having a deleterious effect on the environment in the process. Still, you rarely hear people thinking about the planet when are they looking at how much money they can save.
These days, it’s not enough to simply travel, one must have an experience. There are now as many offers for experiences on airbnb (ranging from architecture tours to cooking classes ) as their are rooms and houses to rent.
The idea that frequent travel can broaden the mind (I am not denying the possibility) has not been challenged enough. How is the backpacker with a beard and tattoos able to become more enlightened by simply visiting a country than someone who has spent their time actually learning about a place from a book? It’s time to face an unfortunate reality: too much of travelling is wasteful, expensive, and often just boring.
Why would anyone spend hours queuing to see the pyramids, Mona Lisa, climb Mount Fuji or look at a museum when nearly all of them can be done for free online? There’s not a single place in the world that has been improved by commercial travel, and even countries that have in some way benefitted from the tourism industry have begin to have second thoughts. I know that I am supposed to feel thrilled by the idea of going to places which I must see before I die but I just don’t.
I have travelled to over 20 countries and I would only go back to a couple. I am in love with Japan (or maybe just the idea of Japan) yet I have no desire to see such a beautiful country despoiled by the selfie-taking hordes, the bloggers and the clueless adventurers in search of the next big thing. There are two things I like about travel: getting on the plane and then going back home. For me my dream travel experience would to be to travel first class, flying for hours without actually going anywhere.
There would be other travellers, but only those who understand that it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive. As luck would have it, I can now experience this if I travel to Tokyo, where First Airlines https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2018/02/23/first-airlines-japanese-virtual-reality/are offering the world’s first virtual flight, with the best things about flying (sexy flight attendants and snacks) and none of the worst (queuing, going through customs, delays and screaming children). Where can I sign up?