Off the Road

Travelers might be better off slowing down or even staying put

| April 5, 2007

Lately it seems as though everyone has caught the travel bug. Travel guides like the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guides have turned into media empires. Average Joes and Janes are jetting off to adventure vacations or to the latest tropical paradises. In an essay for the Wilson Quarterly, James Morris wonders what is it that compels us to leave our comfortably carved-out spaces.

'The great heroic age of travel and exploration is ended,' Morris writes. 'The planet's become a familiar sight to billions of people.' Jumbo jets are packed with people and the roads lined with migrating SUVs. Morris cites figures from the Travel Industry Association showing that travel is a $1.3 trillion industry in the United Sates alone. Exploration may be dead, but travel is alive and kicking.

People continue to fuel this massive industry because, Morris argues, they buy into the idea that 'travel is no longer a luxury.' It is ingrained in American culture as an essential activity that knows no season. Must-have experiences, like diving with whale sharks in Honduras or visiting one of the 'world's most kid-friendly volcanoes,' all play into a fantasy world that Morris decries 'is spread before us as if it were a vast playground for Americans.'

Instead of romping around our playground, Morris suggests we try staying put -- if only temporarily -- to gather our bearings and try to distinguish 'what's fantasy about the world from what's purposeful.' Instead of traveling far and wide in search of expectations, why not strive for inner peace at home, where passivity allows the body and mind to focus on what's important? It's a point, Morris writes, that was well-made centuries before today's travel boon by Blaise Pascal, who wrote that 'all the misfortunes of men come from one thing only: their not knowing how to remain at peace in a room at home.' -- Natalie Hudson

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