Over the past decade budget air travel has steadily made the business of intra-continental journeys a common or garden affair. In Europe, companies like Ryanair and Easyjet now dominate the skyways, hotly pursued by a host of imitators desperate for a slice of the evermore lucrative airline pie. With a continent to explore and a relatively cheap means of transport to be had, is it any wonder that the average Briton now opts to spend a long-weekend city break in Barcelona or Budapest, as opposed to Liverpool or London? Or chooses to go hiking in the Triglav National Park instead of the Peak District? Yet is all this gallivanting around somehow missing the point? Is it just possible that some of us are moving without really travelling?
We've all heard the story. A friend takes a gap year from work or study and tours some far-off place. He returns and describes his amazing adventure. At first you're spellbound, astonished and envious all at once.
Then you take a step back from the tale with which you've been regaled and begin to ponder what your friend has actually experienced. For a start,
he saw a lot of famous sights and visited numerous museums and bars, plazas and restaurants. He stayed in a horde of hotels and hostels, met countless new people and imbibed a plethora of cultural delights. All in all it was a unique and worthwhile experience, wasn't it? Well, that's the question at the very heart of the matter. For you can't help but think that the appeal of this veritable odyssey is all in the telling, and that your friend hasn't really travelled at all, leastways not in the meaningful sense of the word. What he saw was no less incredible for that, but what did he really take from it all, aside from a sunburn in Sydney and a hangover in Hamburg?
Of course, if you start following this line of argument some of your other friends may simply label you a sour puss and a cynic. Be quiet, they'll say, you're just jealous. However, I'm afraid they've missed the point if that's the case. Because travel plus