Bob Wallace reminds us of the joyful things that travel brings
Having read a New Zealand Herald Travel column that told us "what to loathe about travel" I thought it timely to strike back.
In fairness, the loathe list was leavened with some tips on how to prepare for the less-appealing aspects of travel. But surely the weight of experiences tilts much more to the "what to love about travel" side of the scales.
Not necessarily in ranking order, here are just some from the "travel loves" lexicon:
Meeting new people
Every trip you are likely to go on, you will almost certainly meet new and interesting people. Those with special qualities will probably become longer-term friends who stay in touch well beyond the first Christmas greetings exchange. Others will at least be pleasant travel companions to talk with for the duration of the journey, day tour, cruise, or whatever.
We had a special experience with the owners of a historic B&B in a small Suffolk town in the UK. They went out of their way to look out for us, providing transportation to and from a village restaurant about 7km away so we didn't have to worry about having a drink; on another evening including us in their private barbecue with a local friend; and making sure we had all the washing we needed done before moving on. Unsurprisingly, we remain in contact.
Experiencing new planes, boats, trains
The first time I flew on a jet airliner, a Pan American Boeing 707, I remember the handy seat-back booklet that the airline felt it wise to provide. Extolling the virtues of jet propulsion it said, among other things, not to worry about the wings flexing in flight — they were designed to do just that. It also mentioned not being perturbed by the glow of the jet exhaust at night — that was also normal.
The first flight in a 747 jumbo was just as exciting. After the single-aisled 707 and 727 there seemed to be such a great space between one side of the fuselage and the other. Just how did all that weight get lifted off the ground and fly, we wondered? The 747 has since been overtaken in my favourites list by another jumbo, the Airbus A380, but alas now due to be phased out over time.
And my most memorable flight experience happens to have been in another aircraft that was destined for the breakers, the supersonic Anglo-French Concorde. Narrow-gutted it might have been but what a buzz when the after-burners cut in and pushed the needle-nosed projectile through the sound barrier as the digital speed clock on the bulkhead flicked past Mach 1 — not to mention seeing the distinct curvature of the earth from the deep, deep blue sky at 60,000 feet.
The modern difficulties of sneaking into hotel swimming pools
Boats and trains? Lots of them, but at least a few standouts — a sizeable hydrofoil ferry that climbed up off its hulls and crested the waves from Bergen to Stavanger in Norway; plus both a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, then Osaka, and the equally rapid Eurostar from London to Brussels.
Learning and hearing new languages
The golden rule here: Try to get your head around at least greetings and thanks, and how to seek directions if you can. If nothing else, it is polite to try and sometimes just doing that brings rewards. Especially in Europe, it is not at all unusual to be able to use a smattering of more than one language to communicate successfully. However, country by country, do at least try some basics in the primary language. Even a bit of Swahili can go a long way in Tanzania.
But do also be prepared to fail. There was a time in an Amsterdam cafe when I thought I would order my food in Dutch. First attempt, blank reaction; second attempt, the same, third attempt — response from the cafe owner, in flawless English: "Can you speak English please."
Visiting new countries, cities, sights
This is a given. What is there not to love about new experiences abroad? Sure, sometimes you have to look past the warts. And the more you are able to research before you get there, the more you are likely to get back in return when you actually get to explore. If you just haven't been able to swot or haven't been able to find the sort of information you wanted, hook into a local walking tour. They are becoming increasingly popular, and sometimes that is because they can be free, led by local volunteers who are keen to show off their cities, churches, arts, markets, cafes, culture; even shopping malls.
Out of nearly 100 countries, there is really only one that I'm not interested in going back to sometime. And that is not at all because it lacks some sight-seeing attractions (it has plenty), but rather the way the country runs. Having said that, I know many travellers who love the place and will happily return any time.
The good things about flying
Apart from time-saving, there are at least three good reasons to enjoy flying:
• Catching up on movies that you always wanted to see but didn't get to when they were on in your town or city.
• Trying new wines; ones that you wouldn't normally have at home (and while over-indulgence is certainly not recommended, they are put there for you to drink).
• Taking time out — free or not, don't use the onboard Wi-Fi unless really necessary.
So what is there to love about travel? We have just scratched the surface — there is plenty more.