Saturday 13 October 2012

Trains And Boats…Or Planes?

Julian Baggini seems to think we need to make a choice, and not just for the wellbeing of the planet, either:
The deeper issue is that how we travel reflects and shapes the way we think, and we have become a society of airheads.
Meaning we view travel as a means to an end, and this is somehow stripping away our essential humanity, or something like that…
I started thinking about this because of a recurring desire to recreate an annual childhood journey by ferry and overnight train to visit our family in northern Italy. Was it just nostalgia pulling me, or is something of real value lost at 30,000ft?
Clearly, you believe it to be the latter.
The passenger terminal at Dover docks did not provide the most promising start, having all the charm of a 1970s coach station. But once on deck, with the white cliffs fading into the distance, I had a real sense of a proper trip starting, something that the palm-sweat-inducing jolt of take-off doesn't provide.
Perhaps it’s why cruises are so popular? But I’m once again considering just why it is that so many progressives seem to look down on actual progress.
In contrast, planes simply transport you from one anonymous, homogenous edgeland to another, between airports virtually identical in their black and yellow signage and multinational franchises.
But when you absolutely positively need to get there, because Auntie Doris’s funeral starts at 12:00 and they can’t wait for you to take a slow boat to Chiner before they plant her, you might be grateful…
Consumer culture has made us too accustomed to getting only what we want, no more and no less. Experiences are atomised into their component parts, the extraneous excised in an attempt to maximise the impact of the parts we prefer, with no thought to how their context changes them. But if you only ever get what you know you already want, serendipity is denied and the richness of experience is reduced to the button-pushing delivery of crude hits of fun, excitement, novelty or reassurance, often consumed in the private bubble of home or headphone.
I think we are all capable of deciding for ourselves if the ‘richness of experience’ is a good trade off with comfort and immediacy, Julian.
It might be objected that "slow travel" is just an indulgence of the time and cash-rich.
Gosh, no! You don’t say? There’s a lot of that going around, it seems…
But you actually gain holiday time when travelling is an integral part of the experience, because you lose none to mere transit.
So many people, though, have limited ‘holiday time’. Some people don’t get holidays at all.
And yet despite all I've written, I admit I have another trip coming up and, guess what, I'm flying. I'm just another airhead, led by apparent ease and convenience away from what is more profoundly rewarding.
Or…maybe you simply need to get there on time?


Twenty_Rothmans said...

Julian Baggini should be praised. The only thing better than the Onanistic article is the flatulence in the comments.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Julia. You talk as if he is suggesting that air travel should be done away with.

He is not. He is just pointing out, that there are alternatives, and he prefers them to flying.

Get the bloody bee out of your bonnet lassie.

JuliaM said...

"The only thing better than the Onanistic article is the flatulence in the comments."

Sometimes (actually, that should be 'often') the comments are the best thing about a CiF article...

"He is just pointing out, that there are alternatives, and he prefers them to flying."

Yes, he is, but in that grating, supercilious 'Guardian' way that just sets my teeth on edge...

Andy said...

Personally I cant wait for instantaneous "Star Trek" style transporters,I find travelling(even short tube rides)a right pain.
The point of travel is surely to arrive at your destination?.