Saturday, 29 July 2006

Abroad is bloody

“Don’t go abroad,” George VI is alleged to have advised, “…abroad’s bloody”.]
In a piece* published in the New York Times Jan Morris notes that:
Travel, which was once either a necessity or an adventure, has become very largely a commodity, and from all sides we are persuaded into thinking that it is a social requirement too—not even just a way of having a good time, but something that every self-respecting citizen ought to undertake, like a high-fibre diet, say, or a deodorant.

Morris, the greatest living travel writer, understands that not everyone feels the urge to see the world:
Consider the advantages of purely vicarious travel—travelling, so to speak, at home. Readers sometimes thank me for my books because, having read them, they feel they need never go to the places they describe. I sympathize entirely with their point of view, even when, as occasionally happens, it is less than kindly expressed. ''You have quelled in me all desire,'' a woman wrote to me once, ''to visit the city of Venice. I hope you're satisfied".

If you stay at home, read the best travel books, and watch TV selectively, you can have nearly all the pleasures of travel without ever having to stand in line at the check-in counter. A flick of the page, and you are off that Patagonian Express and on to that Mississippi barge—pour yourself a coffee, and there is the Snow Leopard before your eyes—a martini or two, and all the sensualities of the East will be there around you, scented and salacious in your very apartment! (Almost all, anyway.)

Great minds have been fostered entirely by staying close to home. Moses never got further than the Promised Land. Da Vinci and Beethoven never left Europe. Shakespeare hardly went anywhere at all— certainly not to Elsinore or the coast of Bohemia.

Actually there is a great deal to be said, even by a professional traveller like me, against travelling at all.

Indeed, she should know. I went overseas about twice a month for thirty years, so I've done abroad, but mostly I did not go for pleasure. The nice thing about working trips is that you are not under the terrible pressure to enjoy yourself that you feel when you are on holiday: when you’re having a good time you think “and I’m being paid as well”, and when you’re not you can tell yourself “oh well, at least I’m being paid for this misery”. Nowadays, holidays abroad I can do without.

Having said all that, tomorrow we’re off to Provence for ten days.

[*It's O.K. To Stay At Home]


Ruth said...

Bon Voyage, Tony!
Seasoned travellers like ourselves can probably avoid such miseries as were suffered last night in Dublin airport (see my last post).
Travelling is frequently hard work in itself, which holidaymakers tend to forget.

Anonymous said...

The only way to avoid such things is by staying at home.

Margaret said...

Have you read Alain de Botton's "The Art of Travel" which has other interesting anecdotes on the same lines?