Off the Road

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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Off the Road

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