“We can’t all be Marco Polo or Freya Stark but millions of us are travellers nonetheless. The great travellers, living and dead, are in a class by themselves, unequalled professionals. We are amateurs and though we too have our moments of glory we also tire, our spirits sag, we have our moments of rancour…..but we persevere and do our best to see the world and we get around; we go everywhere. Upon our return, no one willingly listens to our travellers’ tales…..the only aspect of our travels that is guaranteed to hold an audience is disaster…that’s what they like. They can hardly wait for us to finish before they launch into stories of their own suffering in foreign lands. The fact is, we cherish our disasters….all amateur travellers have experienced horror journeys, long or short, sooner or later, one way or another. As a student of disaster, I note that we react alike to our tribulations: frayed and bitter at the time, proud afterwards. Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.
It takes real stamina to travel and it’s getting worse. Remember the old days when we had porters not hi-jackers, remember when hotels were built and finished before you got there; remember when key unions weren’t on strike at your point of departure or arrival; remember when we were given generous helpings of butter and jam for breakfast, not those little cellophane and cardboard containers, remember when the weather was reliable; remember when you didn’t have to plan your trip like a military operation and book in advance with deposit enclosed;….remember when you were a person not a sheep, herded in airports, railway stations, ski-lifts, movies, museums, restaurants, among your fellow sheep…..remember when you confidently expected everything to go well instead of thinking it a miracle if everything doesn’t go wrong?
We’re not heroic like the great travellers but all the same we amateurs are a pretty tough breed. No matter how horrendous the last journey we never give up hope for the next one, God knows why.”
–Martha Gellhorn, Travels with Myself and Another