Monday, May 14, 2012

The pluses and minuses of modern travel

Plus:  You get there quickly, and this means that you can travel to places you would never have been able to travel to before.

Minuses:  You don’t get a feeling for the vast spaces you are travelling through.  You arrive, as I did a few weeks ago in Hong Kong, tired and jet-lagged, but with no sensation of having come half-way across the world through different country after different country.  With nostalgia I remember the excitement of travelling in days long gone.  First we boarded the train at Victoria, then got off at Dover and climbed a gangplank up to the channel steamer, then got down in the marvellously different atmosphere of Calais to climb into yet another, but different kind of train, which always had those magic words “Non sporgersi….”, “Do not lean out of the window” on its windows, because windows in those days opened, and we would open them and feel the grit flying in our faces as we sped through France.

And then each station we stopped at, whether it was in France, or Holland (not called the Netherlands in those days!), or Italy or Austria, had its own special character, and people looked different, unlike the clones we have all become, since we dress the same now whether we buy our clothes in Beijing or Birmingham.  Now, though, I have to remind myself which country I am in, so depressingly similar are all the airports, selling similar clothes and similar food in similar shops and restaurants.  We have become identikit nations, with identikit architecture and identikit fashions, and we travel on identikit planes, with identikit safety instructions, or along identikit roads teeming with identikit cars.

Thank goodness human beings, though, manage to remain refreshingly unique, whatever the anonymity of their surroundings

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