“Travel is only glamorous in retrospect.” Paul Theroux
In my dotage, I’m incurably drawn to travel. It’s hard to understand because these days, travel is a drag. Back when I was young, it was different. People dressed up to travel and service was everywhere. There were porters, bell hops and skycaps, eager to help you board. Travel was exciting.
These days, service is hard to find; getting on a plane requires standing in long lines, awkward screening procedures to ensure that you won’t blow up the plane and embarrassing wardrobe adjustments. By the time you reach the relative sanity of the boarding area, all sense of adventure has been drained and even if you started off dressed to kill, you now appear to have spent the night sleeping in the waiting room. And you still have to board the plane.
In the old days, you used to check your luggage leaving you with a briefcase, purse or other case to take on the plane. You boarded, found your seat and waited. Now, you stand in line to board, wait forever while your travel companions wheel steamer trunk sized luggage on board and heft it in the overhead bins. Boarding is interminable and then you have to squeeze into seats designed for underweight midgets. Heaven forbid you have the aisle and get seated before your 300 pound travel mate takes the center seat. Air travel these days gives a whole new meaning to intimacy.
Back then there were complimentary soft drinks, snacks and on long flights a meal. These days, you might get a drink but nothing else is free. Thank heaven the airports have food concessions but that just means more for you to lug on board.
So air travel isn’t what it used to be. Why do it?
For me, it is spending some time in a different world. Like I said earlier, I didn’t do much traveling in my younger years. I spent a summer in Europe when I was in graduate school and at the time imagined that I’d do much more. The realities of career and family made that impossible so now with impending decrepitude staring me in the face, my wife and I decided to go for it. We spent two weeks in Venice earlier this year to see how two old coots could manage. We didn’t take the tour and we stayed out of hotels. Renting an apartment was cheaper and we used frequent flier miles accumulated from work. It wasn’t much more expensive than staying home. The big question was would we get bored.
Come back next week for the continuation of the story.