(an extract from my travel journals)
“There are three basic rules of travelling. Travel on the ground. Travel alone. Keep notes. That’s it.” - Paul Theroux
The more I thought about the idea of travelling on the ground, the more I got attached (OCD translation: obsessed) with the idea. So naturally I indulged my neuroticism and stocked up on railway books. Now, I’m a very susceptible person at the best of times. I was once voted by my friends, the most likely to join a cult. If I was being kind, I’d let myself believe that this was due to my open minded nature but it’s most definitely my naivety. And to add to this (or because of this) I’m as fickle as the wind. I’ve done 360 U turns on philosophical theories more times this year than you’ve had Zoom calls. I bring this up now to try and excuse myself for the following. After reading ‘the great railway bazaar’ among other pro-train travel propaganda I quickly developed a snobbery to all other types of travel. Namely, flying.
I find it laughable how abruptly and undeservingly a new snobbery can form. I hadn’t so much as bought a train ticket and there I was basking in sanctimony. And as much as this does make me want to punch myself in the face a little (a lot), I must try not to give myself too much of a hard time. I’ve had friends who have gone from devouring 3 Big Macs in one sitting to becoming a plant based preacher then back to the Big Macs in a 6 month period. I don’t blame them either. I think this is just the time that we live in. A quick skim of Matt Haig’s Twitter and suddenly we’re all mental health experts. A David Attenborough documentary binge and we’re all eco-warrior conservationists. A grand design or 50 and we’re all architects. We have become indistinguishable caricatures of the times. And then you add social media to the mixing pot, you’ve got a recipe for ego soup. A place to display and polish our new badges. Social media has given us, as well as many other terrible things, a false sense of self. Not only do we preach unsolicited nonsense, we think we have seen and done it all. And the sad truth is, we have seen a lot. Instagram takes so far around the planet, we think we’re columbus. Twitter gives us just enough one liner ammunition to turn us into back seat politicians. Giving us the synopsis without having to read the book. They succeed in selling us the dream whilst simultaneously spoiling the dream. Taking the magic out of experiences. It’s all completely surface stuff of course, dig a little deeper and we’re no more in the know than Donald Trump but it’s enough to give us a false sense of achievement. So the quest for a deeper truth is perpetuating. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’m quick to lap up anything that offers an original perspective. And even quicker to shake myself of my previous more ordinary, less enlightened, less learned self.