22/ Rant

Portentously Charles Baudelaire wrote,  

 Mais les vrais voyageurs sont ceux- seulent qui partent pour partir.  (Roughly, ‘Real travelers set foot for the hell of it.’)

I learned and quoted this no doubt with earnest and  irritating pomposity setting out in my teens.  As a young man compelled by curiosity - or desire for distraction, or both - I yenned to travel. 

-       De leurs fatalités jamais ils ne s’écartent.  (Roughly, ‘It’s in their stars.’)

My first travels away from my family were in France.  School trip. Early morning fishing boat bobbing off the coast in Biscay Bay. Gitanes and thick, black coffee. Sea sick. Much later student grape harvesting in Provence with other students and migrant workers.  Baguettes and runny cheeses. Floating on a tsunami wave of free red wine.  Earning adequate to travel for longer, a little bit further. Hitch hiking was  easy enough.  The waiting became an anecdote at the next hostel.  Andorra? Jump in. Turkey?  No problem.  I’ve seen hitch hikers here in Ireland.  But can’t imagine it’s at all straightforward, or safe, these days.  Legal speed limit on the boreens of Ireland is 80kph. 0 to 60 in 5 seconds flat.

Different epoch, different perspectives.   Questionable to condone such wandering.  Probably always has been.  But travel has become still more troublesome, too obviously a commodity now.  Bought and sold.  Experiencing the unknown, confronting unforeseen challenges, getting to know unfamiliar cultures, ways of life and behaviours. Now all seem to be consumed as marketed goods at accelerating speed.  

Eco holidays. Extreme holidays. Holidays to get over holidays. Our own devil-may-care, insouciance costing the planet too much. As Ivan Illich pointed out long ago there are upper limits after all.  Global resources are finite no matter how ingeniously we exploit them.  Our default, as Stephen Hawking* conjectures, to save our species, traveling on to other worlds, when we have used this one up.  

Mars? Welcome aboard. Jupiter?

Director of Research, Cambridge University Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, UK

Useful Resource:

• Ivan Illich, 'Tools for Conviviality' (Harper & Row, 1973)

Newspaper clipping.  Spot yours truly. (Hint: I'm third from left).


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