I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say that travelling is at the heart of every travesty that has happened to humankind since the beginning of time. Slavery is the direct result of a trip overseas, I would say. A European with a ship told himself he wanted “to see the world” and the fateful Contiki tour was afoot. World War 2, I reckon, began after an innocent interchange, a harmless thought, when Hitler turned to Goebbels and said: “Ever been to France? I hear it’s nice.”
So, why do we like to travel so much? We’re like electrons darting from one spot to the next. Why can’t we be protons? Why is “there” always better than “here”? What is driving humans to be constantly on the go?
I think a major contributor to this affliction of having to travel to feel human is the language in use today. We should really revisit sayings like “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” and “Wish you were here”. Why journey for a 1,000 miles if a change of scenery is often as easy as getting up from your laptop? And why travel to a distant land only to wistfully want to change your circumstances once you’re there? If you want me by your side so badly, don’t leave. Hopping from one continent to the next does nothing for feelings of loneliness. Wish all you like, the only way to feel less lonely in the world is to be your own best friend, which is something you can achieve at home, or, at worst, commuting to a psychologist’s office once a week.
Advertising is another major trigger for the wayfarer. And this started long ago, I think. Perhaps at the same time that hunting and gathering contentedly in the same valley for generations went out of fashion. Calling it the nomadic lifestyle, for instance, made it sound like something to aspire to. The early adopters probably told others they should really get out more. Or, perhaps, more time-appropriate: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Once again, you have to ask yourself what is so bad about moss? In the right quantities, moss adds to the appearance of a stone, in my opinion. It gives it character, doesn’t it? Moss is a sign of life, if anything; an indication of the abundance that comes from not rolling around all the time. Yet, “Roll” society says. “Flatten everything in your path on your way to some undefined destination, and once you’re there, roll some more.”
People seem to want to travel to the bitter end. Is anyone today willing to give up a holiday for the greater good? How long before we realise that extensive travelling – flying especially – is the main cause of the climate crisis?
Adverse living conditions are often to blame for mass movement and you can hardly fault someone for wanting to get away from war. Nothing wrong with that. The migrant crisis is not the cause of the climate crisis. Refugees don’t fly, they take a boat. A paddle-powered one or, at best, one with a very small outboard motor. No, governments may point the finger at migrants for many things; global warming is not one of them. Space travel, on the other hand, might be jet-fuelling our demise at speeds as yet unrecorded. Here we have those who’ve been everywhere on Earth saying: “Where to next?”, and strapping in for lift-off exactly perpendicular to the force of gravity for a jaunt among the stars. Imagine the energy it takes to overcome the very force that holds everything in place. “Leave air travel to the environmentalists,” the affluent seem to be saying. “We’d like to pollute on a cosmic level.”
So, how are we going to save the planet from the travelling hordes? My solution is to ban private transport altogether. If you want to go abroad so badly, you can do so on foot. Burn some calories to get to your precious tourist destination. And the same goes for going to the shops. No more popping out for milk and bread, and taking a ton of metal with you. In fact, the ban should extend to all moving objects not made of human flesh (barring bicycles). This will of course remove the luxury of having stuff delivered to your house and also take ambulances out of commission. But have you heard of cooking at home? Have you even considered dying exactly where you are?
These might all be considered extreme thoughts, but so was flying when it was first attempted. Give it a little time and we’ll get used to staying put for hours on end. Things might get done. No traffic, no stress. Car trouble? Forget about it. No more “Are we there yet?” or “We really need to get going”. We’re here. We’ve arrived. Everything is going to be okay. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.