"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Monday, 26 April 2010

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive

Train"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor," wrote the Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson in 1881. Everything that means most to us is to be found in that journey, rather than in the achievements, or the destination. Mind you, he would never have experienced the frustrations of the average plane journey these days, especially when it leaves you stranded in a foreign clime for days on end.
I wrote of aeroplanes and volcanoes and hurricanes the other day and wondered whether good may yet come out of the recent fiasco in European air travel following the Iceland volcanic ash plumes that blew across our normally crowded flight paths.
Apparently the answer is yes! Aside from the devastating and very real experiences of wedding plans ruined, business deals disrupted (does that matter so much?), vital life saving medical supplies delayed, travel insurance shocks, etc., many people have actually been able to relax into the situation or have shown huge resourcefulness in getting home. What is more, many have then said how they have appreciated the journeys by train and boat rather than above the clouds. The latter may, just may, be usually quicker, but you see so much more from the train or car (not so green!) window - or indeed from a bike!
Several years ago I cycled from Vilnius in Lithuania to Warsaw for Marie Curie Cancer Care: well not strictly true - I broke my elbow at the end of day 2 and was carried on the support bus from then on, along with a very damaged bike! As we travelled along the route we had plenty of time to see the countryside, the fields and woodlands and small hamlets;  even experienced some over generous hospitality from locals drinking at a roadside bar at one refreshment stop. Our leader was unhappy about the bottles of strong local beer that were being pressed into our hands by those more than slightly inebriated men - and this was only 11am! Myself, I was most interested in the gradual change from small family subsistence farming, from manual and horse driven implements and tethered cows, to larger fenced fields, small herds of cattle, and old tractors putting in an appearance as we came nearer to Warsaw.
We then caught a train from Warsaw to Krakow, from whence we flew home. That train journey was so interesting - as we rolled along through more beautiful scenery, seeing glimpses of rural life, snapshots of gardens and smallholdings, horse and cart carrying produce presumably to a local market. I didn't want to miss a single detail, wanted to watch out of the window throughout the journey, but people wanted to talk, to miss all this experience of a different culture in all its fascination as it flashed by. 
I love the journey. In a car I love to be able to take my time, to stop in villages, to visit churches along the way, to have a closer look at quirky things! On my bike I can see into gardens that we miss on a car journey, can see rabbits and birds at close quarters as there is no noise to frighten them away
I foresee a future where many more holidays will use overland and over-sea travel to a destination. Even have no destination - just a circular route taking in all the sights and sounds and history of a place. Perhaps we shall be forced to do more of this kind of holiday anyway - air travel is often very very far from being a green choice, and how many more runways must we build before the planners see the long term folly of further growth in air traffic?

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