People have travelled since the days of antiquity. Driven by the desire to learn, the opportunity to trade, and the need to survive, they ventured beyond the boundaries of their homes and villages, expanding their horizons with every excursion. Travelling has long been humankind’s primary means of learning about other cultures – to observe their art and architecture, to discover new languages, and, above all, to trade and migrate.
The Industrial Revolution allowed travel to become more accessible for the middle classes. Since then, continual transport innovation has lowered the cost still further. Compared to many of life’s other expenses, travel became cheap. Fierce industry competition drove prices down and down, to the point where cost became the single dominant factor steering consumer choice. The passenger’s actual experience has been neglected in the race to the lowest ticket price.
As a result, when we book a holiday, a work trip, or a journey to see family and friends abroad, we book the cheapest, most convenient ticket we can, and simply write off the experience of getting there as a necessary discomfort. On a short break, we can spend the first few days recovering from the journey – and the last few mentally preparing for the return leg.
The hiatus caused by Covid-19 reminded us just how valuable travel is. With planes grounded, and roads and rails falling silent, the frequency and quality of our travel experience were thrown into stark relief. As the world returns to some normality, we must reframe our values in relation to this privilege.
The future of travel must be different – more conscious and considered. Rather than solely focusing on cost and convenience, we must broaden our concept of the value of travel to encompass comfort and joy, and quality, treating it as a holistic experience, not just a means to an end.
Travel is a part of our DNA, and the world of today is incontrovertibly interconnected. But we must stop taking travel for granted. I believe the answer is to ‘travel better’; to focus once again on the experience of moving from one place to another; and to remind ourselves of those early roots in the yearning to explore the world beyond the bounds of our everyday lives. The journey should delight us as much as the destination.