I love flying, I always have.
As a kid it meant two weeks in the sun, eating salt & vinegar Lays and passion fruit Soleros; running around, bombing it in the pool and singing Avril Lavigne on karaoke night.
As an adult, not a whole lot has changed.
Sure the destinations have become a little more complex than Torremelinos and Rhodes but the mentality remains the same. Tasting the local cuisine, playing with the local kids, seeing the sights, singing Avril Lavigne and being totally open to what the day brings – no schedules, no expectations, no routine.
I still don’t understand how anyone can hate flying. You can watch films, listen to music, catch up on reading, writing, drawing, doing your taxes – whatever hobbies you have that can be done on a 10×18 inch tray table and makes little to no noise.
It’s ‘me time’ at its prime, you get waited on and cleaned up after too. You get your meals cooked for you, your drinks poured for you, a blanket to snuggle up in – and a birds eye view!
THAT SAID, if I’m travelling through a country, I want to do just that. I want to sit on a dirty cramped bus for 42hrs, pee in a hole in the ground and eat unidentified snacks from unnamed shacks. I want to share my sleeper bed with an entire family on the train and spend three hours acting out questions and answers as if I were playing charades just to find out where they re from or what they do for a living. I want to stare out of the window and see thatched roofs of bamboo houses turn into skyscrapers, temples and schools. I want to watch as cows turn into cars and the sun is replaced by the moon.
Mode of transport often comes down to time and money.
It’s easy, and probably cheap in your own currency, to fly from one side of a country to the other so you can cram in as many tourist attractions as the Lonely Planet can fit in their word count, but that’s not what travelling is about. Not really anyway.
You can opt to fly and cut your time in transit but in doing so you also cut the truth. You don’t get to meet the real people, see the real lives they live, eat the food they eat, put up with that guy snoring louder than a Bon Jovi gig on the sleeper train.
The attractions are there to pull you in, but once you get there they’re just a pile of bricks. Some are weathered, others well maintained. Some you like because they’re beautiful, interesting and have a somewhat exaggerated story behind them. Others you pretend to like because you think you should.
Thinking back to my favourite moments of this, and every other trip, the peak has never been the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower or Ankor Wat. It’s been the time I stumbled into local village in Myanmar and played football with a watermelon with local kids, the train journey in India where a local lady handed me her baby for an hour and the time in Mongolia two little girls clasped onto a hand of mine each and showed me their animals, taught me their games and showed me off to their families.
What you sacrifice in comfort you make up for in stories.
Ernest Hemingway once said “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
I couldn’t agree more.