There is no such thing as non-essential travel

Travel is essential to the human experience. Pandemics and government edicts don’t change this. Travel historically involved substantial cost and risk, but became commoditised and superficial. Travel during Covid requires a different kind of engagement. We must take it more seriously when we get our freedom back — travel is a part of our evolutionary process.

Travel always involved risk; the last 20 years were the anomaly

It is hard-wired in our nature to explore our surroundings. The wonder of flight means that there is no earthly limit — every corner of the globe can be visited, and even the edge of space itself, for a price. Indeed, the more pioneering the method of travel and the destination, the more likely that it is a price in blood as well as treasure. And yet someone will always be willing to pay it. Why take risks to go anywhere outlandish when so many wonderful safe bets exist? As George Mallory is famously supposed to have said in regard to climbing Everest, because it’s there (he duly died there).

Travel during Covid — selfish indulgence or noble defiance?

Seeing the world bereft of its usual hustle and bustle comes with a range of complex emotions, but the overriding one for me is the need to keep a pilot light going for the day when we can relight that flame again en masse. Travel these days should not be entirely self-indulgent — if done right, far from being tone-deaf in the face of a once in a century crisis, it can be about surmounting it.

What travel has become, and what will become of travel

When it does all finally end, will travel be any different, or will we simply slip back into our old, complacent ways?

Freedom ain’t worth nothing if it’s free

What 2020 has taught us, of course, is that none of this is in fact a right. It is actually an immense privilege, one which will slowly be restored to us in the next year as we defeat Covid-19 with mass vaccinations, suppression, therapeutics and perhaps a better appreciation of the correct proportion of the risk of this virus as an illness versus the risk to our society and well-being through our reaction to it. Governmental travel restrictions not just on other citizens but even their own, along with measures such as compulsory quarantine, track and trace, show that sometimes an individual’s short-term freedom must be reduced for the long-term benefit of societal freedom.

Travel is our contribution to evolution

So, when it comes to rediscovering the joy of travel, we must reach for something far more profound than the cookie-cutter experience that it has started to become. One way to do this would be to at least look beyond the check-box exercises of visiting the great sights, and instead immerse ourselves in why they became great. For the most part, it is because, over perhaps centuries of time, these places stirred something visceral within our forebears.

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Flâneur, gourmand, dilettante, francophone. Prophet, therapist, egomaniac, wandering Jew. I like to say entrepreneur too but that’s just French for unemployed.

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Michael Freedman

Flâneur, gourmand, dilettante, francophone. Prophet, therapist, egomaniac, wandering Jew. I like to say entrepreneur too but that’s just French for unemployed.