ARCHIVE: Editorial on Travel

I abhor travel. Maybe that is a little harsh but trust me when you’ve landed sideways in an air plane at O’Hare, buffeted by one of the worst hurricanes the USA has ever seen, it tends to put you off the act of travelling. I love to go places though, so I am in a Catch 22 situation. Many of us now baulk as we face the new guru catch word – carbon footprint; a catchphrase dreamt up in some PR company, to make us all feel guilty that the planet is indeed warming up, whilst human compassion, trust and love amongst fellow men and women is distinctly dropping down the temperature scale. Let’s face it, we’re stuffed.

So, how big is your carbon footprint? Is it so big that you can now actively brag to male friends about it? Is it big enough to make even China go weak at the knees? Let’s face it, this is how the whole travel problem is being pitched at us – we are being made to feel incredibly stupid and guilty but there is no real mention of the companies that are also to blame or even the governments.

Yet, our lust for travel and the throwaway lifestyle is contagious. Come on, who hasn’t amongst you told friends that you went to somewhere warm and sat by the pool for a fortnight, drinking bad wine and reading equally bad literature? And felt good about it? Openly braggedabout fucking up the country you holidayed in? And we all do it, we go to gems hidden amongst the lapping waves of some undiscovered place. These solitary hideaways where we find ourselves, find peace, discover beauty and feel at one with the world. And, a fortnight after returning home, we have told all our friends, family, colleagues, lovers and any passing stranger or old school friend what a great place we’ve just holidayed in. What do they do? They go there! The cheek. The sheer bravado! What happens then? They tell all their friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances of their pets about a great place they’ve just been too. Oh, the beaches! Oh, the people! The culture, the food, the warmth! – LOOK AT OUR TANS – and what happens then? They go! And then more people go there, then actually live there. Four years later, you meet the first person you recommended the gem to and say quite calmly and in that innocent voice, “I went back on holiday there, but I wouldn’t go again – it’s so commercial, there’s no culture left. There was even a burger bar next to a temple! The people have sold out”

What do you expect? You waved great fistfuls of dirty money in their faces. Sure, beauty is wonderful, empty tranquil beaches that stretch off to the blue horizon are great but you don’t live there all the time. You don’t realise how poor some of these countries are and how much the humble tourist has them over a barrel. Money or poverty? Money or starvation? The irony is though, that England too is becoming a tourist trap. It’s the fastest growing market in the UK at the moment. Will we adapt though to being the one’s accepting the money and bending backwards over a barrel to do it? Could we, after so many decades of package holidays, shouting for food in slow and clear English in the Costa del Sol, Lyon, Delhi, Rhodes and Paris actually welcome the same back? Package holidays are coming back to roost, and I wait with baited breath for the first Spanish Man to shout slow and clear in some greasy spoon, in Spanish of course, that he wants paella.

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